When it comes to being a father, I would like to believe that my performance with both of our children over the years has proven to be absolutely perfect, that I’m unfailingly attentive, infinitely patient, endlessly understanding and wise beyond measure — the father of all fathers, a future hall of famer.
But none of that is true. More often I’ve turned out to be selfish, distracted, temperamental and just plain dense. And that’s on a good day.
Take that time I yelled at our children over nothing whatsoever. No, not that time, the other time. Still, I’ve practiced fatherhood for 33 years. And, as fathers go, I’m no dream. Then again, I’m probably no nightmare, either. So, I offer some hard-earned advice for other fathers:
Pay attention. You get bonus points for eye contact, thoughtful nodding and echoing back what your children say. They always know whether you’re zeroed in or zoned out.
Stop interrupting. See “Pay attention.”
Give your kids some space. Anywhere from six inches to 30 feet is the recommended distance. Your children will find the extra breathing room a relief from in-your-face conversations.
Watch your tone. To avoid sounding harsh and condescending, consider taking voice lessons or even practice scales. Something along the lines of a B-flat could do the trick.
Share less about yourself. By the time your children reach a certain age, they will know as much about you — your childhood, your political opinions, your philosophy about the three-point shot — as they would ever care to know. So clam up every once in a while.
Stop trying to be Mom. You have to face it: You’re doomed to a lifelong tenure as the runner-up parent. No sense even competing. So, just stop it.
Conduct an audit next Father’s Day to see how these tips pan out. With any luck, you’ll learn from your mistakes, and somehow manage to raise children who see some use in having you around — and who, better still, turn out to be decent people who make you proud every day of your life.
Bob Brody, an executive and essayist in Forest Hills, is author of the new memoir “Playing Catch with Strangers: A Family Guy (Reluctantly) Comes of Age.”