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.
  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 1/4/20