My dad is so smart, his friends call him ‘Google’, bragged one boy. Even as they get a little older, most kids still typically regard dads as heroes (yes, I know that there are exceptions) and rightly look up to them. All the more reason for dads to take that role-modelling seriously and capitalise on the influence for good.
My grandfather used to tell me that when he was ten, he thought his dad knew everything and he knew nothing. When he was fifteen, though, his dad knew nothing and he knew everything. At twenty, his dad might have known a bit after all, but by twenty-five, it was amazing to discover how smart he’d become in ten years!
Maybe that still applies, but the key is probably for us dads to be real and open and to actually communicate that we don’t pretend to know everything. The vulnerability doesn’t mean backing down as authority figures, but it does mean building bridges into our kids’ lives when they don’t always have the maturity to communicate with the same capacity as adults. Every kid needs a father figure to provide the complement to the strengths that women bring and even in the absence of dads, there can be great male father-figures involved in their lives to balance the kinds of inputs that they need to receive.
Us dads are not God, though, and we do not know everything even though our desire for control can sometimes see us trending this way (“Dad, why did they build the Great Wall of China?” “For the rabbits son….”!). For kids to see that we are not perfect and that they don’t have to be either allows the journey of discovery to be shared and the relationship to be transparent, as long as the boundaries remain clear and firm. But pushing against those needs great communication to be happening in order to overcome the conflict that inevitably arises in relationships between fathers and their children.
Maybe we could all take a step back at times and reassess what is and isn’t working, getting an objective third party involved where needed. After all, it’s a dad and not his kid who is the parent in the relationship.