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 1/31/20