Dads of the Roundtable, Part 2: What We Wish We Knew

This post was originally published on my PhDadBlog.

Happy Father’s Day Week!

Thanks for joining us for part 2 of the Dads of the Roundtable! If you missed the first part describing what this is all about and where all the dads introduced themselves, please go check it out by clicking here.

The next two parts are from the same question. Thomas’s answer, in particular, led to a thoughtful and fruitful side-topic discussion on the question of disciplining, which will be the focus of tomorrow’s entry.

Question 2:
If you could have the answer to one question that would help fundamentally change the way you parent, what would it be?

MUNIB: I think a big one for me would be something like, “How will this seemingly small decision I’m making as a parent affect my child 20 years from now?” I feel like so much of the challenge of being a parent is this perpetual uncertainty over the long-term effect of my every decision. If I tell him he’s had enough cookies for one day, and he has an extreme meltdown asking for more, it’s hard for me ignore the possibility that such intense emotions will stay with him for a long time to come.

VAHID SMITH: This is a tough question. I feel that parenting is such a constant act that I can’t worry too much about “what ifs.” Of course you need to plan and reflect on how you parent but there are too many aspects of parenting to narrow it down. I guess that is my parenting philosophy. Love, care and respect your children while constantly planning and reflecting on your decisions as a parent.

JON: I agree Vahid, this is a tough question, and it can be easy to focus too much on the “what ifs”. I remember growing up, my dad taught me how to drive in a muddy field behind our house. On purpose, he would have me throw the car into a skid, just so he could teach me how to maintain control without over-correcting. Just a few months after I had my driver’s license, I was driving home late at night when a tire blew out on my truck. Before I knew it, I was fish-tailing across three lanes of traffic. In that moment, I remembered what my dad taught me about not over-correcting, and I was able to get the truck under control. Since then, I’ve constantly asked myself, “What if he didn’t teach me what to do? What if I had rolled the car? What if?” By the same token, I’ve asked myself a similar question, what if I don’t teach my kids what they need to know? And it’s impossible to do everything — I just have to focus on what my wife and I decide are the most important things for our family, and hope that my children are prepared for whatever challenges life throws their way.

JASON: This is a great question, I knew the answer right away. If some divine mythical entity appeared in front of me and told me “Jason, I exist”. I guess I would indoctrinate my kid in whatever this entity was representing. Until then, I will teach my son to think for himself, and not subscribe to any group think or dogmatic behavior. 🙂

CHASE: I would like to know exactly what percentage of their personality is mine. We’re made up of our grandparents DNA, despite the thought we’re made of 50% from each parent. Certain aspects of our selves may have been hidden in our parents, and brought to the fore by the genetic combination of our paternal grandfather and maternal grandfather, two people who may have never met, or whom we may have never met, either. It’s a funny thing, genetics, which makes our children into wholly unique people, rather than just extensions of ourselves or their mothers. If I knew how much of them is exactly like me, I could communicate and educate them more effectively, rather than starting from scratch with someone who amounts to a genetic stranger.

VAHID N’DOBE: For me there isn’t any one question that will fundamentally change anything. There are always important questions and they’re all part of the big puzzle and each one of them could potentially change everything. Having the answer to one question is trying to over simplify what is arguably one of the most challenging puzzles. I grew up in an African culture where parenting is handled very different, and I’m a firm believer that our experiences in life have a tremendous influence on the way we act as parents. Another, thing that I always keep in mind is that, there isn’t just one right way to do anything, there are usually many right ways to doing it based on the different personalities involved and environmental experiences. I think this is why parenting seems to be very daunting to most of us because we’re so used to having things simplified like a manual or road map. Realizing that it’s not as simple as using a manual, what I try to do is to address things as they come without over analyzing the “what ifs” as long as I am within the framework of my good conscience.

KYLE WRATHER: At this point, I have to say finding a perfect answer to ‘how to balance time’ would be very handy. Academic and graduate student life often doesn’t work on consistent schedules, while childhood seems to often be based in routine and reconciling those two is a constant challenge for both myself and my spouse. Moreover, it’s very easy to use parenting as a form of procrastination – I can’t imagine anyone has ever said ‘I wish I hadn’t spent that time with my kid’ – but yet finding a balance between the two continues to be a learning process for me. Previous professors have told me that graduate school is a great time to have children because it forces you to keep a more rigorous schedule, and I certainly have seen that happen, but at the same time I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I have the balance between parent time and school time perfectly set.

Thanks for reading! Come back tomorrow for Part 3: Disciplining!

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