The middle of June is a time for reflection and looking forward for me. Our twins’ birthday, Father’s Day, and my own birthday all come within two short weeks, leaving several days to not only look back at the past year, but think about what the next will bring as well. This year, with the boys’ first birthday and my second Father’s Day – the first was after three days of being a father last year – I looked back at what the first year of parenthood had brought me, and took some time to consider what I wanted to accomplish in the next year as a father. Especially now that we’re past the survival mode of the first year of parenting, I wanted to set some goals and figure out how I plan to raise the boys.
I grew up with a phenomenal family. Sure some things were questionable at the time like my series of odd summer jobs or the weekly trips to Walmart, but our house was one of love and passions. Passions for things like good food. Passion for traveling to new and exciting places. Passion for animals and nature. These passions taught me to love these things and value them highly in my own life, shaping who I have become. Not only did my father inspire these values in my life, he was also very hands on with teaching, from scholarly pursuits like reading me the Greek Mythology at an early age, and quizzing me on history lessons, to showing me how to build toys like Legos, Tinker Toys, and even basic electronics. I even got a spark for computer programming from him, leading me to enter that field as a career. I want to inspire similar values in my children.
Perhaps the most important lesson I can teach my children is to treat each other and others with love and respect. The boys already seem to love each other deeply as evidenced by the hugs and huge smiles they greet each other with in the mornings. They also love both of us, their parents, unconditionally, but I want to foster a deeper love than just the one for the person providing their next meal. Creating an atmosphere of love and respect in the house is difficult because it isn’t something that can be done and checked off. It needs to be an ingrained part of the atmosphere of our home and practiced daily.
As part of this, I’m aiming to improve my ability to keep my temper. I tend to jump to quickness or snappiness at times, especially when tired. When they boys are in an especially bad tantrum with ceaseless screeching, the nerves can fray easily and I get angry. In order to maintain a happy and healthy family dynamic, I need to push myself to stay calmer longer and think about reactions. After all, everything the boys see me do is likely to be mirrored by them at some point.
Another goal that has become very important to me is fitness and health. As a kid, my family often took hikes and walks, but never focused specifically on sports or exercise. It wasn’t an unhealthy childhood, especially with soccer as a kid and several years of intense marching band in high school, but it wasn’t particularly active beyond those activities either. My parents tried, I gave up on hockey lessons early and never showed interest in organized sports. I want the boys to see the love I have for running and how it drives me to compete with myself to constantly improve. They don’t need to become runners, but I want them to have chances to participate in team sports too. Just not baseball, that’s too boring, or football, that’s too dangerous.
I also want to be a father who encourages love for nature, the great outdoors, and animals. Having a family dog we all love – the boys have started crawling to him to pet him and try to feed him – definitely helps. Showing the boys respect for all animals, even the creepy crawly kind shows that everything has a place and that nature needs a balance. I also want to get them out into nature more often, especially on walks in our local parks and possibly some travel to National Parks. Especially when they get older, I want to do some camping with them and share the limited skills I retained from a few years in cub scouts and from several family camping trips. Spending a night under the stars with dinner cooked on a fire we build from fish we caught during the day sounds pretty perfect to me.
It isn’t just the natural sciences I want to imbue the boys with, it’s also the higher tech ones. While I want to wait to introduce them to screens and technology until they are much older – I’ve seen too many screen addicted infants and toddlers who can’t stand not having a screen – I do want to encourage them to be inspired by science and technology as well. Some of this will come from their toys over the next couple of years. They have no shortage of educational toys that teach mathematics and basic science concepts. The rest will come later. Instilling a curiosity for nature through our time outdoors and with animals will also translate to curiosity about how the world works and the physical sciences. They’ll also definitely get toys designed to encourage engineering and science like robotics and programming when they get older. They have both already begun to show signs of curiosity about how their toys and household items work. They both play games of seeing what combination of toys and flooring banging together make the most sound.
As it has been such an important part of my life to me, I want travel to be a big part of my children’s lives as well. We’ve already taken them on overnight road trips and are took them internationally this summer to see Norway. Travel was a huge thing for my family growing up, both of my parents worked in the travel industry and we took frequent trips across the country and to Europe through my formative years. Doing so built a passion for travel, seeing new places, experiencing different cultures and respecting them, and love for unique experiences and food. I want to be a father who encourages the same and provides the same opportunities for my kids. I want to raise worldly children who respect and tolerate different cultures and points of view, as well as push themselves to try new things and learn from their experiences. Getting outside of the daily routine and comfort zone by traveling is a sure fire way to do so.
Lastly, I want to be a hands on father who demonstrates patience, caring, love, and affection. I want to raise children that aren’t afraid to show their emotions and love to each other, their family, and children they may eventually have. My family isn’t super touchy-feels nor do I expect to be, but I do want them to feel comfortable with affection, both being showed it and showing it. I also want to show patience in how I deal with stress, encouraging them to do the same. I also want them to see that real men can be tender and loving, and that they clean the house, do dishes, and contribute just as much as mom. I also want to be hands on when teaching them and playing with them, showing them how the world works and how to do things. Many of my fond memories from childhood are putting together toys with my father, and I want them to have the same. We’ll definitely go to Space Camp together too like my dad and I did.
Though my journey with my children has really just begun, it isn’t too early to figure out the type of dad I want to be. I want to raise my children with a hands on dad who shows them what a good husband, father, and partner a man should be. I want them to grow up valuing fitness and travel, and especially to have a desire to try new things and learn from new experiences. I want to support them in their endeavors by being present and hands on while leaving them enough space to grow on their own. I hope there is time and opportunity to do all of these with them so that they can grow to become the men I think the world needs right now.