by Leon Scott Baxter
When I was growing up, I thought my dad was a freak.
He wore strange clothes, said weird things, and listened to horrible music. In fact, he used to sit on the living room floor wearing giant headphones listening to his vinyls.
Every now and then he’d unplug the headphones and let his music fill the house (I didn’t like these moments): Elton John, Simon & Garfunkle, and Cat Stevens.
I couldn’t stand this music…because it was his music. I boycotted any songs, all artists that my father enjoyed, because I wanted to disassociate myself with his out-of-date, old hat, lyricists.
Twenty years later, when I was all about getting those eleven CDs for a penny (remember those promos?), I’d choose my Sugar Ray and Lenny Kravitz, but I’d find myself always throwing in some kind of out-of-date, old hat Elton John or Cat Stevens-like artists. Why? Because although my dad really was a freak, he did have good taste in music.
Sometimes it takes time for kids to appreciate their fathers and what they do. I guess it’s a form of delayed gratification.
If you want to be the dad that your adult children will appreciate, here are six easy ways to get ‘er done.
1. Avoid Courtesy Smiles
If your kid just ain’t cutting it, don’t pretend he is. My daughter loves basketball, but she’s not great yet (saying she’s good might even be a stretch, but I love the girl). One day she asked, “Papa, do you think I’ll ever play in the WNBA?”
Sure, I could have smiled and fibbed, “Of course, you’ll definitely play pro basketball,” but it’s crucial we keep our children grounded…without breaking their hearts. So, I replied, “If you want to be in the WNBA, you’ll have to practice a lot more.”
Keeping it real, while offering a way to keep the door open to their dream is ideal. And, kids know when we’re buttering them up, anyway. Young people perform better when adults express sincere expectations for them.
2. Beat ‘Em At Checkers
Too many dads let their kids beat them at checkers, Chutes and Ladders or tennis. They feel it would break their little one’s heart if she lost to Dear Old Dad. Wrong! She will be so thankful one day that you didn’t.
Because I was a fast runner in school, I would challenge my mom to races, and she never let me win. She’d always beat me by a stride or two. It didn’t damage my psyche. On the contrary, it gave me something to shoot for. As I got swifter, Mom would run faster, still barely beating me.
I still remember the day. I was twelve-years old, and I beat my mom in a foot race. Ecstatic, I asked her, “Did you let me win?”
“No, you won fair and square.” That triumph meant something to me. By my mom not letting me win, I learned resilience. I learned how to lose, and I learned to appreciate a true victory.