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Friday, 13 September 2013

My “Illiterate” Neighbour

Tips on Fatherhood

I’m not certain whether or not living in a typical Jamaican housing scheme has more advantages than disadvantages. I suppose that depends on the angle from which you look at any specific situation. Here’s one situation that I find particularly useful though. It concerns one of my neighbours who is said to be a functional illiterate. He lives with his family, and is a father. Now because of the close proximity of our houses I tend to overhear some of his conversation. I don’t usually pay attention to these conversations… except when he’s talking with his son who is under 5 years old.

“Hello,” he’d say to his young son in a most friendly and playful tone, “I love you.” Other times he’d pitch in this line, “Daddy loves…” and he’d call his son’s name. Just this morning I heard him saying “Good morning (and he called his son’s name).”

“Wow,” I’d say every time I hear him talk like that, “what if every dad spoke, especially to their sons, in that manner?” And they say he’s illiterate! (I don’t really believe them).

Jeff Sass, a father and seasoned entertainment and technology executive, shares thoughts on Dadomatic, a blog/forum where dads share thoughts and ideas about parenting. He shares on the topic,
“5 Tips On Fatherhood Your Dad Never Told You.”

1. Listen. Despite our dominant position of authority as “the parent,” it is NOT always about us. Stop and LISTEN to your kids once in a while. I often catch myself taking over the conversation, so I am trying to make a more conscious attempt to let THEM do the talking for a change. Regardless of the subject matter, if it is important enough for them to want to tell you, it is important enough for us to be interested. Whether they are telling you about the frog they stepped on, their favorite flavor of chewing gum or describing an elaborate classroom math equation you will never understand, listen and be INTERESTED. Our kids crave and value our interest in their lives and activities far more than we realize.

2. Share. Share your adult life with your kids. Times are tough and we are all working really hard to make ends meet and provide for our families. If you work a lot and spend a lot of time on your job, share it with your kids. Tell them what you are doing at work and why. Tell them what you like about your job and what you don’t. Bring your work to kids day is a good idea.

3. Be Ridiculous. You can NEVER embarrass yourself infront of your kids. Anything silly you do will be enjoyed and remembered by your kids. The sillier the better. Inhibitions are not an excuse. If you cower at the thought of Karaoke, you should be proud to sing off key for your kids(and do so often). If you are a polished fashionable type you should be daring and dress in mismatched rags once in a while to make your kids smile. Shopping with your kids? Startle them and talk in complete gibberish to the cashier (and wink knowingly to your kids) as the cashier looks at you as a crazy person and calls for their manager (then, laugh with your kids and of course pay for the goods). These are some of the moments your kids will remember forever, so as long as nobody can get hurt, if you have a secret urge to be “wild and crazy,” go for it!

4. Teach. Anything and everything. Anything you do, if your kids are present, it is an opportunity to teach them. If you are fixing a light-switch (or engaged in any other household chore) if they come by don’t send them away as if they are a bother because “daddy is busy.” Instead, take a moment and show them what you are doing. An annoying chore like fixing a switch can turn into a quick and fun lesson on electricity.

5. Say “I LOVE YOU” – a lot! These three words are invincible. They are tougher than Teflon or Titanium, stronger than Stainless Steel and more durable than a Diamond. The words “I LOVE YOU” can never be worn down or overused. Plus, they are as satisfying and rewarding to say as to hear, and the more you say it, the more you will hear it. The “L” word is awesome, but don’t just say it, MEAN IT!