I have traded in my man card for a dad card. I traded up, and it is the best trade I ever made! All through my life I have enjoyed the stereotypical “guy” activities. I like playing and watching sports, hunting, fishing, woodworking, home repair, things with engines, building and destroying things. The list goes on. These items have defined much of my life, and helped shape me into who I am today.
When Melissa and I decided to start a family I was faced with the same decision of any father-to-be: would I be willing to sacrifice some of my “me time” activities in order to take on the fatherly ones? I knew from the beginning that I was.
After our first daughter was born I realized that perhaps the changes were more significant than I expected. Did I regret the decision? Absolutely not. With the addition of daughters two and three, even more changes came. The person I used to know as myself was becoming something different, and according to most people, something better.
Have I given up all the pastimes I enjoy? No. I have scaled back the amount of time I spend on some, and altered the way I approach others. There are some things that I have given up completely, but very few.
The effect on each activity has been driven by my desire to spend time around my family. The things I am able to involve the kids in are those that I still do. The things I don’t do much anymore can wait until the kids have grown and gone, which will come all too fast.
Finding ways to involve the kids in the activities is sometimes simple. For instance, instead of watching sports on television I am now more likely to listen to the game on the radio while playing with the kids. My ears can hear the calls while every other part of me is playing Pretty, Pretty Princess, Polly Pockets, Barbie, Princess Monopoly, or something else young girls enjoy. Hearing the announcer’s enthusiasm level raise tells me something exciting is going on. My focus shifts slightly; I listen more intently to see what happened. Then it is back to the kids. If there is a big play I want to watch I can always go online later and watch the replay.
Other times, finding a way to involve the girls takes some time and effort. Woodworking is something that is not easy to do without giving it your full attention. Power tools and a lack of attention are not a good combination. Getting the kids involved in this has taken years of small steps. At first it was having them pound nails into a scrap of wood while I worked on a project alongside them.
As they have grown, I have taught them how to use many of my tools. It is a matter of teaching them as much as they want to learn and can safely handle. I won’t let my six year old run the table saw (or any power tools for that matter). I have taught my older two daughters how to use many of the tools in the garage, though. They have made several projects over the years.
In fact, a few weeks ago our oldest daughter, Abbie, decided she wanted to refinish her dresser and update the hardware. She did almost all the work herself. From drilling new holes for the pulls to filling the old ones, gluing and filling the cracks, sanding, prepping, and painting, she did it all. Time and effort on my part has created another activity I can participate in with my kids, but not at their expense.
The introduction of new activities has not been a one way street, either. As the kids find new interests, I follow along. I love to see them excited about something and I try my best to be involved in the things they enjoy. Being interested in what the girls like reassures them that I care about them, and that what they do is important to me.
A few years ago I thought Shirley Temple was an actress (or a beverage). Thanks to me girls, I now know it is a tap dance step, too. I am also pretty sure I am the most knowledgeable guy at work when it comes to Disney princesses.
The changes in my life have turned me into a person that sometimes has nothing to add to the conversations at work. Do I feel deprived? Am I missing something by not being current on my machismo topics? Absolutely not! I am busy making memories with my kids that will last far longer. I am building relationships that matter, and setting an example of what it means to be an involved parent. Those are items that will serve my children as they grow and mature. My man card can make a return once the kids are grown and gone. That is, until I have granddaughters.