I am a 40-something father to a vibrant, lovely daughter. I gave up office work and tried my hand at freelance writing so I can be a full-time dad. Most times, my day-to-day existence is guided by the The Serenity Prayer.
Who influences your parenting style?
I always believe that I am my own style; but as the years progress, I realised that much of how I deal with my daughter was influenced by how my father raised me.
My father rarely offered any advice, but I learned a lot from him – the most important thing I didn't understand until later in my adult life. He was never the instructor, telling me what to do or how to do stuff… instead, he taught me by example, showing me how to do things. He lived his life and just allowed me to watch and learn.
And that's how I am raising my daughter – letting her live her life. Allowing her to discover on her own what works and what doesn't, while always by her side to pick her up when she falls.
How do you develop a close relationship with your daughter?
TRUST and learning to let go, allowing her to “pedal her own bicycle”.
What is the best piece of parenting advice or guidance you have ever received?
I never saw my father eat a meal or have coffee while standing up or watching TV or while doing something, anything. Whenever we're together, he would always invite me: “Sit down. This is going to be a great meal.” or “Grab that stool over there and have coffee with me.” To which, he would add: Since you have to eat (or drink coffee), you might as well enjoy it.
Always the multitasker – trying to do several things at one go, I never understood the full meaning of the lesson he was trying to impart to me. You see, I started working for the government at 17. By 1998 and nearing 30, I was all but ready to burn out! Nothing I did that time seemed to pan out for me. I was at the point where no matter how much I strive, I was heading nowhere. I cannot seem to find fulfillment in what I do. Frustrated, I paid my father a visit one time – I don't know, looking for emotional unloading maybe. Still fidgeting, I heard his droning voice command me: Grab a seat and let's have coffee. Without question, I did.
Over coffee, he reveled me with stories about his “heydays”, switching from serious narratives to witty anecdotes, even outright hilarious tales. Seeing me at ease, he quipped: Now, you can think about what it is you want to do with your life.
I get it now. He was teaching me to slow down, take time to think, to relax, even if it's for just a few minutes to enjoy a good cup of coffee (or a meal), even if it's a quick one, while sitting at the table. Never hurry to make decisions. Haste makes waste.
Life is just too short to waste time worrying about the little things that don't really affect the big picture. This also applies very well in parenting. Often, we tend to overreact at the slightest of troubles involving our kids. Little do we know, that how we react to them impacts them in no small matter. If we communicate well with our little ones, parenting becomes a little less tedious.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in parenting? How do you deal with them?
HONESTY. Making her to ALWAYS tell me the truth. Although all her “lies” are little, harmless ones – like most kids do – I still want to teach her the importance of being truthful all the time.
My daughter is quite the storyteller – especially when some shenanigans are involved. For instance, when she lost or broke something, she won’t tell me outright. Instead, I have to really, really fish the information out of her. And when I finally catch her on a lie, she’d break down and cry, reasoning that she was only “trying to hide the truth from me because she knew I would yell and get mad at her”, which is partly true.
So, to remedy that, I always assure her that no matter how bad she think she’s done, I promise not to yell or be mad at her… BUT, I never promised that she won’t be punished.
The strategy seem to work, and it’s good exercise for my patience, too.
As a parent, what is the one thing that you want to do better or be better at?
I won’t be ashamed to admit that I am a paranoid parent. Don’t blame me. I see it in the news everyday – abductions, bullying, abuses, disease. But I do not want to be overprotective of her. I’d still want her to live and discover life on her own and on her own terms.
Whenever possible, I let her watch some evening news, news documentaries and features – all under my supervision and guidance. I want her to realise this early that the world is beautiful but not without danger and problems. I want to raise her awareness of what is around her.
As a parent, I want to be a better example to her.
What advice do you have for parents who have kids of the same age?
This will be a short one: Let your kids live their lives on their own without putting too much pressure on them to be “the first among equals”. Allow them to grow and mature at their own pace. Do not rush things for them. Value their accomplishments no matter how small. Acknowledge their weaknesses, failures and shortcomings, and work with them in overcoming them. Teach them to always be happy.
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Proud father of two lovely kids, who at times pushed me to seriously consider editing out the word “lovely” from this sentence. (I am not alone in this.)