Somewhere, I have no idea where, it became fashionable to tell a clearly upset child that “you’re ok”. It seems innocent enough, especially when you consider that through adult eyes, many child “injuries” look fairly innocuous.
A lot of this space has been devoted to talking about the dad process for my five year old, never stops talking, possibly “too much” personality, five year old daughter Olivia. Why not? She walks, she talks (did I mention it’s a lot?). There’s a lot of material to work through.
Jacob, now seven months old, still communicates only through crying, smiling, and laughing. Yesterday, he did say “babababababababa” to me for over an hour, which I can only deduce was a fascinating story about his day.
In both cases, I’ve had to consider that as official DeSantis Dad, I am likely going to be the most influential male figure in their lives. So what do I want to teach them about what it means to be a man, or to interact with men? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
Men are sources of love and comfort
What I just typed is either blatantly obvious or somehow controversial. I think everybody should fight for what they believe in. I believe the world would be a much better place if fathers put more energy into loving and comforting their families.
I’ve put almost too much effort into building a secure base with Olivia. It’s to the point that even at age five, she expresses some embarrassment at my public love proclamations. For Jake, I made a conscious effort to from the very beginning be loving and comforting.
Kate was just away for a weekend, and we had several “snuggle parties” where I sat with the two little kids on my lap, hugging and just enjoying each others company. I think having a secure base of love and comfort from a father gives kids confidence and resilience.
Daddies are rough and tumble
Kids like a little bit of rough play, especially with their fathers, I’ve found. I’m physically about 1.5 times the size of Kate, and somewhat more resilient to being picked or punched inadvertently by a little kid. I’ve got a little more power for throwing a child up in the air.
Also honestly, there are few things that are better for my own mental health then a little bit of rough play with the kids. Just yesterday Jake got sheer joy out of trying to crawl over the top of me. If I could figure out how to package babies smiling and laughing as a mental health treatment I would.
Olivia has learned from a young age that other people have to respect her space. She tells us- “I need some space”. She tells the same to friends. Her most common complaint at school is typically about some a boy not respecting her personal space. She even made one cry by the tone and volume of her voice when he got too close too often.
I hope she keeps that boundary strong. The news and history tell us that men have not traditionally done a great job respecting other people’s personal space. I want to teach Jake to be a different kind of man, that there is strength in that respect
Boys do cry
I’m aware that accessing my own emotions is a challenge to this day. Years of personal life experience, which I cannot separate from the “boys don’t cry”, has created a lot of barriers for me.
I’ve decided against passing on to my two kids that somehow, this detachment is somehow what makes me “manly”. I don’t agree with that sentiment. When Jake cries, I don’t tell him “you’re ok”, a pretty typical response for a crying baby. I tell him “I know”.
We can’t communicate about what’s going on just yet, but I want to prepare to have the conversation where I acknowledge his feelings instead of trying to shove past them immediately. Maybe I can help him to have a different experience of being a man than me.
Farts are funny
One thing I will not allow Big Feminism to convince me of is that farts are not funny. Normal human flatulence is hilarious, and once you give in to that you have an endless, naturally occurring, sustainable sense of humor to draw upon.
Laughing at farts is what connects me to my ancestry, my people and all my forefathers. I want to pass down that connection to my own children, so that they can pass it down to theres. So that one day, when I’m very old, I can sit by the fire on a cold winter day and laugh at a fart with four generations of DeSantis folk.
We all have a dream.
Yesterday, Olivia and I went to a birthday party in New York City. Before that, we went to gymnastics. Between all the travel and activities, we spent nearly the entire day together. Olivia has been, since she could form words, a constant talker. So a full day with her is like a month’s worth of conversations with your average friend.
There is a strong brand of media out there existing to prey on that parental anxiety. It makes us worry about things we do to varying degrees. I’ve made a joke in our family for every time we don’t follow the “best practices” of parenting to a T. I laugh and say “well, I guess she/he’s not getting into Harvard”.