Man-to-Man: Learning to be a confident, loving father
Vail CO, Colorado
I have a beautiful, healthy four-year-old son. And although I should be beside myself with joy, what I’m feeling is a lot of pain. I just don’t know what I’m doing sometimes. I struggle to find the right way to react to him, to teach him, and even to have fun with him. I feel like an awful father, which shouldn’t be a big surprise because my own father was not great and left me and my mom when I was just four myself. How can I get through this and be the dad I want to be?
Dad in Pain
When you don’t know how to run a software program, you take a class or read a book and you learn. When you’re assembling a piece of furniture, you don’t just start hammering and nailing. You read the instructions and you take it step by step. So what does a guy do to learn how to be a confident, loving and strong father? It’s not so easy to figure out, as you’ve experienced.
Without a good role model, it may be more difficult for us to trust our paternal instincts. But let me assure you, that father that you want to be, it’s inside of you. You just don’t know it yet.
There are some books available that may help you to connect your head with your instincts. Go to the library or bookstore and start reading. But perhaps the most effective way to learn how to father, is to get the fathering you never had. It’s not too late.
At the West Coast Men’s Center, we teach men to father each other so that these dads can go home and be the fathers they want and need to be for their kids.
You’re not the only guy around who had a lousy father and you’re certainly not the only young dad who’s frustrated and feeling ill-equipped and overwhelmed.
Reach out to other men. Join a men’s group. Ask for help and, I assure you, you’ll get it. As you bring the wisdom you receive from the men home to your son, you’ll slowly but assuredly become that better dad. Be patient and don’t quit. You’re son is counting on you.
I’m 20 and a college student. It’s always been hard for me to fit in with the other guys. I’ve tried to “be the man” with them when we hang out in bars. But it’s just not me. The other guys seem to have such a great time. Meanwhile, I go back to my apartment feeling crappy and lonely. What can I do to fit in and to have a good time with these guys?
Dear Bummed Out,
As alone as you feel, you’re not alone with your feelings. They may not let on, but a lot of the guys you see “enjoying themselves,” may not be having the blast you imagine. The truth is, these young men grow up to be older men, like the guys I work with at the men’s center, who have always “played the game,” but never developed a true sense of who they were as men. Now they feel lost.
As you get older, it becomes much more challenging to change your habits and to be the man you always wanted to be. That’s why you are a lucky man. This is the best time for you to build these muscles.
Rather than comparing yourself to others, start taking the time to figure out what the man you want to be looks like. You see, inside, you’re already that man. It’s just that the noise from peer pressure, marketing, TV and movies, makes it hard for you to hear that voice within. It’s time to start listening to that voice, so you can start trusting that voice. That voice is you!
There’s nothing wrong with you. You just don’t like to do some of the things the other guys are doing. Fine. What do you want to do? And what’s in the way of you doing it? I suspect, whatever the obstacles, they’re more imagined than real. It takes courage to be the man you want to be. Now’s the time for you to experiment and to take some risks. The rewards will be outstanding.