Fatherhood to me is as much about learning as it is teaching. One of the things I try to teach my child is that he can do things if only he tries. When I hear my son say, “I can’t” I cringe. It’s not that I know he can’t do it but it’s the fear that he might think that about himself for his whole life. I believe the only true failure in life that he will ever have is not trying and eventually the regrets of things he should have done.
When I was growing up can’t was a taboo word in my house. I was taught that I could never say it unless I first thought of all the reasons why I couldn’t do something. I never understood that philosophy until much later in life. As a child, my parents did the best they knew how but they failed in practicing what they were trying to teach me.
Children will model themselves after what they see, hear and feel and I was no different. Just because I was able to say I could did not mean that I would try to do new things. I found myself often sitting on the sidelines because I was too afraid of failure. Being a social worker though taught me a few things I failed to learn as a child. Children will often say what they can’t do without fear or thought.
I can’t do that because it’s too hard.
When a child would tell me, I can’t do something because it was too hard, I knew they were actually asking for guidance. It was their way of telling me as adult to stop whatever I was doing and spend time with them. Time is a precious thing and it is up to us to realize, as our children get older, they won’t need us as often. At a moment’s notice, we need to seriously think if what it is we are doing could wait until later and instead spend some quality time with our kids.
I can’t tell the truth because I would get in trouble.
Children were often afraid to speak to me and tell me things thus they could not tell the truth in fear of reprisal. It is the nature of a child to be protective of what they know, no matter how bad it might make their lives. They were afraid that if they started to speak to me I could take them away and their life’s would be left worse off. It was up to me to reassure them that they were safe and I wanted them to remain okay long after I was gone. All I had to do was to give them a safe place to talk openly and honestly.
I can’t be friends with them they are different than me.
When a child becomes old enough to start comparing the world around them through words, such as bigger and smaller, they often realize the world is full of different things. They watch us as adults and see how we react to others around us. If we speak negatively about other people, so will they. We have to be able to teach that all people are different and all of us are worth knowing.
I can’t listen to adults all they do is care about themselves
Parents will argue and speak out of anger. It is during our outbursts we often say things we don’t mean. If we are not listening to our child we should always remember there is someone in the world who will listen for us. The next time they come to us, with tears streaming down their face, we need to listen. It is time for us to remember they did not ask to be here and they are innocent. We brought them into the world and we have to take care of them by giving them as much of our attention as humanly possible.
Children have so much to give us. They are totally capable of giving us gifts that are better that anything we will ever give them. They were able to give me lessons that I should have learned in childhood. It is because of them I try even harder, as a father, to listen to my son before acting out. Now, If I hear him starting to say the words, I can’t, I take it as an opportunity to teach him he can. I believe the more times he practices saying those two simple words the more likely he will be a better man. After all, I can, is a much better motto to live by.