How was Father’s Day 2008? I had a good time with my family. Not only was it Father’s Day, it was my birthday too. Check out the card that I got from Johannes.
In the last 2.5 years, Johannes has taught me a lot on how to be a better dad. I have gained so much insight that I wish I knew when Ramona and I had him. In the spirit of being a good project manager, I would like to share some lessons learned or 7 valuable tips for all the new fathers out there:
- Never underestimate their intellect.Kids are much smarter than you think. When Johannes was a few months old, I would rush to his side for every whimper, shriek and crying sound he makes. Later on, I realized that he’s just doing it to get my attention. So, I ended up getting a video monitor for his room so whenever he makes any sound, I can check if this is a legitimate cry for help or he is just playing me.Also, STOP with the baby talk. You are not helping your child at all. They can understand everything you say. Hoping that my son will be bilingual, I speak to Johannes in Mandarin Chinese as best as I can and he responds and talks to me in Chinese as well. Not anymore. He decided to speak purely in English. Well, I make it a point not to respond if he talks to me in English. Guess what, when I don’t respond or answer him, he will talk to me the second time around in Chinese.They are much smarter than we think.
- Master the art of distraction.This morning, Johannes, woke up and decided that he wanted to watch the Wiggles right away. I told him that he has to have breakfast first, as you have suspected, he didn’t agree. He kept insisting that Wiggles was far more important. Instead of fighting and arguing with him, which always leads to somebody crying (usually, it’s not me), I suggested we toast the bread and spread cheese on it. It got him excited. He helped put the bread onto the toaster and waited for the bread to be toasted. And then helped spread cheese on the bread. Finally, I asked if we can try it – he said yes. So I had him finish his cheese sandwich without saying that he should have breakfast.You will encounter this a lot. Your child would want to have things his/her way ALL the time. Instead of battling over it or just giving up, be creative. Distract and divert them to something that will catch their attention.
- Be a father, not a friend.Some of you might not agree with me, but hear me out; Your child will have a lot of friends but he will only have you as a father. Being a father means that you have to instill in them sound values and sometimes, the way to do this is to discipline your child. Obviously the type of discipline you do should be appropriate to the situation. It is crucial to do this when they are young. As they say, laying good foundation is done in the early stages. The same is true in raising a child. It’s much harder to correct their ways when they are older.They might hate you for disciplining them as they are growing up, but rest assured, you’ll be their best bud when they’re all grown up.
- Have fun with your child.Go crazy. Do silly things with your child. Sing. Dance. Jump. The memories you make while having fun with your child will last a lifetime.Here’s a sample of Johannes and I having fun.
- Equip them so you don’t have to spend too much for college.I got the shock of my life when I calculated Johannes tuition when he goes to college. Roughly around $280,000 for an average 4 year education. My goodness! Obviously I started saving as I can by signing him up with the Virginia 529 plan. But that will only cover a fraction of it.Another way around it I thought is to equip him well enough so he can get some kind of scholarship. I figured since I don’t have the best athletic skills to train him to be the next collegiate baseball, football or basketball superstar, I decided to teach him essential academic skills.One thing I do regularly since he was about a few months old is sing him a lullabye when I put him to sleep. What’s so special about that? Well, using the melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, I changed the lyrics to the multiplication table. So it goes something like “2 times 1 equals 2, 2 times 2 equals 4 …”. I would sing from 2×1=2 all the way to 9×10=90. You know what, today, he has most of the 2 table memorized and sings it with me. To him it might just be a song he memorized, but it will be so invaluable when he starts school and learns mathematics.College aside, my point is that we should be proactive and take the lead in nurturing the educational development of our children. We cannot just rely on them being educated from watching Barney, Dora the Explorer or when they go to school.
Call me a geek but we’ll see who has the last laugh.
- Capture shared memories with e-mail.In spite of being able to take digital photos or videos of my son, a lot of times, I would like to share and tell him what we did and how much I enjoyed it. The problem is that he won’t fully grasp the things I tell him and both of us won’t remember it a few years down the road.So I figured the best way to preserve these special memories and be able to remind him about it is via e-mail. I created an e-mail account for him in GMail and on a regular basis, I would just email him. In fact, I informed my immediate family what his e-mail address is so they can e-mail him too. When I send him an e-mail (usually with my phone), mostly it’s just a quick note telling him about the experience we had together but sometimes, I attach photos, video clips and audio clips as well. Hopefully when he is old enough he can read these and appreciate the memories he shared with his family.
- Be the role model.About a month ago, Johannes started to point his finger at me and say “Don’t!” with a stern look. I realized that he was mimicking his mom whenever she scolds him. As most of you will find out, children starting at 1 year old will emulate every single thing that they can. The question is, who are they emulating? Is it the morning cartoon characters they see on TV, or the kids at daycare, maybe Jack Bauer on the TV show “24” who violently saves the day as you watch him with your child weekly.In a study by the University of California in Santa Barbara, it found that “Children reared in fatherless homes are more than twice as likely to become male adolescent delinquents or teen mothers”. This is very alarming.It goes to prove how critical the role of a father is in today’s society. It is important for you to set the right example by saying what’s appropriate (yes, no cussing), doing what’s right (say thank you, sorry and please), and most importantly, not just paying a lip service. If you tell your child junk food is not good, make sure you don’t consume junk food as well.
In his 2008 Father’s Day speech, Barack Obama sums it up nicely: “We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. It’s the courage to raise one.”