Tom Gloger as Dad

Rose and I have two daugh­ters, born in 1979 and 1981.  Like many new fathers, I thought I wanted a son.  The Good Lord knew better, and has been con­vinc­ing me of that fact ever since.

Above all else, love your spouse, love your child­ren, and take time for them even when you want to take it all for your­self.  This is an essen­tial part toward build­ing a solid foun­da­tion that will help your rela­tion­ships sur­vive the dif­fi­cult years, making life bet­ter for all of you.  So, if you think about it that way, tak­ing time for them is tak­ing time for your­self.  You will also each need some time apart, but not too much.  Some one-on-one time is good too.

One of the prob­lems of being a par­ent is that by the time you’re qual­i­fied for the job, it’s nearly over.  Click here to see a few ideas that have made com­mon activ­ities a lit­tle easier for our fam­ily.

Here, in roughly age-related order, are a few more things I’ve had to learn along the way, some of them more than once.  I hope they help you, too.

  1. Are you a father-to-be?  Before each child arrives, make sure you know not just the names you have cho­sen, but how they are to be spelled.  This was one of the things I had to learn twice.  Megan was sup­posed to be Meaghan and Debra was sup­posed to be Deborah.
  2. Pregnancy is a difficult time, and from what I’ve heard, it can be even harder on the mother.  So, try to make it as easy as you can for your wife.  Oh, and don’t go think­ing that when the baby finally arrives and the preg­nancy is over, that things will get back to nor­mal.  Sorry!  Nor­malcy is now going to take two or three times as long, and there ain’t no way you can make it go faster unless maybe you help.
  3. Sooner or later, you’re liable to be called upon to change a dia­per.  Buck up there, son!  In the im­mor­tal words of John Wayne (or was it Gary Cooper?) “It’s a dirty job, but some­body’s got to do it.”  Or maybe it was “Some­times a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”  Or, like comic book hero Rip Haywire, use your ima­gina­tion.  In any case, look on it as an oppor­tun­ity to prove you’ve got what it takes to tackle a dirty job.  Oh yeah, and be pre­pared for that extra pee that comes when the cold air hits their little what­cha­ma­callit.
  4. Those unpleasant messes that bab­ies occa­sion­ally make are gen­er­ally invo­lun­tary, so getting angry at them or scold­ing them for it is out-of-line.  Let them know you love them any­way.
  5. Not all the noises a baby makes are crying.  Some are what Rose’s Aunt Mary called “sing­ing.”  Lis­ten, you can hear the dif­fer­ence.
  6. Never get angry at a child for crying.  For babies, that’s their only means of com­muni­ca­tion.  For the rest, it only makes things worse.  It takes time to stop cry­ing.  Or have you for­got­ten?
  7. The “Terrible Twos” are a child’s way of saying “Look, Mommy, I can say ‘no’ all by myself.”  It’s part of master­ing life’s skills, and they need to learn when it’s approp­ri­ate.  And some­times it is.
  8. The “Terrible Threes” are a child’s way of saying “Look, Mommy, I can change my mind all by myself.”  Same as above.
    Perhaps the most valu­able result of all edu­ca­tion is the abil­ity to make your­self do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.  It is the first les­son that ought to be learned, and how­ever early a man’s train­ing begins, it is pro­bably the last lesson that he learns thor­oughly.   Thomas Henry Huxley
  9. During childhood diseases, don’t over­look dis­trac­tion as a pain relie­ver.  When my old­est came down with chick­en­pox, we count­ered the itchi­ness with video tapes of car­toons, until she was well enough to sit up and play Mono­poly.®  (Guess who got the “You took sec­ond place in a beauty pageant” card?)  We still have the rule that if any one of us gets sick, he or she can request a movie.
    Stor­ies told aloud also work.
  10. When a child is old enough to will­fully dis­obey (but not old enough to rea­son with) make sure they know you’re never too tired to get up out of your chair and do some­thing about it if they per­sist.  With mine, after a cou­ple times, usu­ally all I had to do was start to lean for­ward and they’d con­cede the point.  Once or twice, I had to actu­ally stand up.  Be sure you’re not con­fus­ing a dis­o­bedi­ence with a sim­ple dif­fer­ence of opin­ion.  Kids have good ideas too.  Let them know when they do, it will make life bet­ter for all of you.
  11. Telling a child not to do some­thing, e.g. “Don’t play with matches,” may only plant in their mind an idea of some­thing to do some time when it can be done with­out par­en­tal super­vision on hand.  Bet­ter to say “If you play with matches, you could burn down the house with all your toys inside.” 
    I seem to recall hear­ing some­where that the por­tion of a boy’s brain that causes him to think through to the con­se­quences of his actions doesn’t develop until he’s about 18 or so.  Sounds about right.
  12. Take time to play with your kids, even if it’s only sim­ple games.
  13. Nothing spoils a nice quiet eve­ning like sud­denly announc­ing to the kids that it is bed time.  Keep an eye on the clock, and when it’s five min­utes to bed­time, let them know it’s five min­utes to bed­time.  This gives them a chance to fin­ish what they are doing, a fact you can point out when bed­time arrives.
  14. While your kids are still young, Father’s Day is not a day when you get to do what you want to do.  It is a day when you are called upon to go places and do things with your kids - and it is bet­ter all-around if you choose things they like to do.
  15. Recog­nize that nearly every­one gets cranky when they’re hun­gry, even kids.  On long trips or other extended times away from home, make sure every­one gets enough to eat.
  16. It’s a waste of money to take a todd­ler to a Theme Park if they’d be just as happy in the For­est Pre­serve with a bag of stale bread and a flock of ducks.  Theme Parks are for later, when they have peers to impress.
  17. To a preschooler, Kiddie Land is just as good as Six Flags.
  18. If a little kid says they see some­thing, no mat­ter how illogi­cal it may sound, check it out before you say they don’t.  Any child over the age of five pro­bably knows some­thing you don’t, even though it may not be very much.
  19. Read to your kids.  One of the greatest bar­gains in the United States is the Pub­lic Lib­rary. Get a Lib­rary Card early, so you’ll have access to lots of books.  But on the other hand, you should also be pre­pared to have to read Trixie, the Cir­cus Puppy for the 218th time.
  20. When your kids reach the age when they become aware of the things that can really mess up their lives, drink­ing, smok­ing, drugs, etc., but before they are tempted to try them, make sure they under­stand that these things can mess up their lives.  If you’re doing some of these things, and have­n’t been able con­trol it, at least explain to them what “habit-forming” means.  If, later on, they do take up these hab­its, and defend them­selves with “But you do it,” con­sider reply­ing with “You’re how old, and you still think your par­ents are per­fect?”  Chan­ces are, they already know you aren’t.
    The years of peak men­tal activity are undoubt­edly between the ages of four and eigh­teen.  At four we know all the ques­tions, at eigh­teen all the ans­wers.
  21. Your kids will, at least once, try to play one par­ent against the other.  After all, what is grow­ing up but a cons­tant quest to find out what works and what does­n’t?  Don’t let this tac­tic suc­ceed, or it will become a major prob­lem!  If your wife has made a deci­sion you think is unrea­son­ably strict, back her up in front of the kids.  You and she can then dis­cuss the mat­ter pri­vately, and if you can both agree on a more leni­ent deci­sion, jointly announce it to the kids.  It’s easier to grant per­mis­sion than to take it back.
  22. Give your kid some age-appro­pri­ate chores to do with­out pay.  They need to know that it takes work to main­tain a fam­ily and they should con­trib­ute toward that.
  23. Some people don’t believe in thank­ing their kids for doing their chores.  After all, they’re just doing their job, right?  I look at it this way: Do you cheer when your favo­rite ath­lete scores for the team?  Why?  After all, they’re just doing their job.
  24. At some time or other, even if you’re doing it right, your child will prob­ably say you are the worst par­ent(s) in the world.
  25. Somewhere around the age of nine, kids often become pas­sio­nate about some­thing, e.g. writ­ing, art, sports, sci­ence, music, what­ever.  When you see it, if it’s a good thing, gently encour­age it, for this pas­sion may last the rest of their lives, and may even deter­mine their ideal career choice. 
  26. Kids above the age of ten are tackl­ing the task of try­ing to fig­ure out the world.  They need some place where they can be by them­selves to think, with clear-cut rules about what they may not do there.  Ours were “No can­dles.  No food you don’t fin­ish right away.”  We should have included “Bring back your dirty dishes when you’re done.”
  27. Choose your bat­tles care­fully.  In our case, the clothes our kids and their friends were wear­ing wasn’t as import­ant as their strength of cha­rac­ter.  Styles had changed since we grew up, and a black lea­ther jacket didn’t mean what it did when we were that age.
  28. Some Junior High age kids are going to be as impos­si­ble to live with as they are able to, and sometimes more so.  Be prepared for this, remain firm, keep cool, (one of you has to) and be thank­ful they’re going through this now, not later.
  29. Just because an eighth grader says they want some­thing, does­n’t mean they are still going to want it by the time you actu­ally get it for them.
  30. At some point, your kid may say “Don’t you trust me?”  Real­ize there’s a big dif­fer­ence between trust­ing their inten­tions and trust­ing their judg­ment.  Sooner or later, though, you’re going to have to trust both.  When are you going to start?
    A friend once told me how, after he had con­fronted his 18-year-old daughter for activ­ities incon­sis­tent with her Christ­ian faith, he asked her what he could have done to help her.  Her reply was:
    • Keep on ask­ing me the hard ques­tions that make me squirm, even if I’m mad at you.
    • Encour­age me to have account­abil­ity.
  31. Just about the time you think your High-Schooler is doing great, they’ll go and do some­thing really stu­pid.  (Don’t we all?)  Let them know you love them any­way.
  32. When your kids become adults, real­ize they are mak­ing their own deci­sions now, and don’t blame your­self if they make poor ones.  Let them know you love them any­way.
  33. Every age your child will go through has bene­fits and joys for you, the par­ent.  Look for them.  Enjoy them.
I have been build­ing this list grad­ually, and used to think at some point it was going to end, but from what I under­stand, and from what I’ve seen, no mat­ter how old one gets, one still watches ones grown-up child­ren, hop­ing for signs of improve­ment.  At least, I know my mother did.

My kids have reached the point where I think it’s safe to say they have turned out OK.  We don’t see them as often as we’d like, but when we do, a good time is gen­er­ally had by all.  We now under­stand why our par­ents kept want­ing us to visit.  Just about the time they become int­er­est­ing . . .

To the extent to which I can take any credit for it, I’m proud of my kids.  For all that is beyond that, I am pro­foundly grate­ful.

I recently realized this web page was incom­plete.  It should also include the things I didn’t learn until they were older.

  1. Kids old enough to help around the house should be required to help around the house.  It’s some­thing you do be­cause you’re part of the fam­ily. 
  2. Just because you find a trin­ket on the play­ground, it doesn’t mean it is yours to keep.  The school has a lost and found, and the trin­ket will be yours only if no one else claims it.  Trin­kets may have a low cash value, but you never know about their sen­ti­men­tal value to their owner.
  3. Credit card com­pan­ies will lure you in by giv­ing you a credit limit far higher than you can deal with.  On your state­ment, there is a sec­tion tell­ing how many years it will take to pay off the cur­rent bal­ance by mak­ing only mini­mum pay­ments.  Add that num­ber to your age to see how old you will be when you’re paid up.  And that’s only if you NEVER BUY ANY­THING ELSE UNTIL THEN.
I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list too.
Some clips from my collection of quotes:

We are always too busy for our child­ren; we never give them the time or inter­est they deserve.  We lav­ish gifts upon them; but the most pre­cious gift, our per­sonal asso­cia­tion, which means so much to them, we give grudg­ingly.   Mark Twain

Who of us is mature enough for off­spring before the off­spring them­selves arrive?  The value of mar­riage is not that adults pro­duce child­ren, but that child­ren pro­duce adults.   Peter De Vries

Children are natural mim­ics who act like their par­ents des­pite every effort to teach them good man­ners.

Boys are nature’s raw material.   Saki

A child enters your home and for the next twenty years makes so much noise that you can hardly stand it.  Then the child departs, leaving the house so silent that you think you are going mad.   John Andrew Holmes

Children are messengers we send to a time we’ll never see.

As the father of two daughters, I can only spec­u­late on the fol­low­ing:
The man with six kids will be happ­ier than the man with six mil­lion dol­lars because the man with six mill­ion dol­lars always wants more.   William Feather

Naturally, I must include some­thing from the Bible:
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your child­ren to wrath: but bring them up in the nur­ture and admo­ni­tion of the Lord.”   Ephesians 6:4 (KJV)

I don’t know how you see it, but to me “pro­voke ... to wrath” means just get­ting them angry for no good rea­son.  Yes, your kids will be angry with you from time to time, even if you are doing the right thing for them.  (See “worst par­ent(s) in the world,” above.)  But it is so easy to do it wrong.

There’s just something about getting into an arg­u­ment: Some­times we get so focused on winn­ing the fight that we just try to win by inflict­ing pain on our adver­sary, even if we have to lie to do so.  If you do this with your kids, you may win the fight, but you can also lose their res­pect, some­thing you will need later on.

And if you catch yourself lying, stop, admit you were exag­ge­rat­ing, (or what­ever) apo­lo­gize, and stick to the truth.  It’s import­ant for kids to know that they aren’t the only ones who have to sub­mit to a higher author­ity.

Last edited 4/27/20