To Be A Dad

January 21, 2010

I talk a lot about relationships with spouses and girlfriends, but it’s time to talk about the most important relationship you can have as a man: the one you have with your kids.

This isn’t going to be one of those “oh, my dad was horrible and that’s why I turned out to be the way I am” kind of speeches. I don’t blame my old man for anything in my life. He lived to work and his success on his job was how he gauged his success in life in general. Even today if you ask him what’s going on, he’ll talk about work. It remains his life call…but I still turned out fine.

That being said, when I had kids of my own I did decide I would be a different father from the one I grew up with. When the choice comes between work and family, family wins every single time it’s possible.

And so, because absolutely no one asked, here is what it means to me to be a dad:

You are shaping and forming the future.

With every family moment you spend playing a game instead of watching one on television, you are forming a bond with your child. That child will see you and watch you and–if you give them a reason to–will admire you and want to be like you. Hey, when  they hit those  tumultuous teen years you’re going to need all the help you can get. Investing when they’re young means you are a role model in their life and someone  they grow to respect for information…not the guy who comes home from work and yells at them to get away from the front of the television set so you can see the game.

I’ve heard  a lot of parents talk about how horrible their kids became when they were teens, but then I’ve heard just as many dads talk about some family get together they’re doing this weekend with the kids. It isn’t hard to figure out who spends regular time with the kids and who lives their own life without them in mind.

Remember, every moment you spend with them today shapes the future. It may not always be the most convenient thing to do when you’ve just had a long day at work, but take advantage of the opportunity to throw a baseball, attend an imaginary tea party, or get  hopelessly slaughtered in a video game by a 9 year old. These are moments you are investing that will pay off in the future.

You are the role model…now act like it.

I have never understood how a parent can stand there holding a cigarette in their hand and tell their kids not to smoke. I don’t follow how fat parents can make fun of their kids for being overweight. Whether you believe it or not, your children look to you as their role models. They may hear what you tell them, but your actions will dictate theirs.

Become the person you want your children to imitate. Don’t just talk a good game.

Your words have power…use them wisely.

I’ll bet you can still remember vividly some cruel remark made to you as a child. Maybe it was you were ugly, or fat, or stupid, or lazy, or something like that. Whatever it was, you remember it.  It may have been said in anger, or in passing, or just in jest, but years later you remember it. Maybe it made you a better person as you strove to prove them wrong, but more likely it haunted you over the years.

The kids will make you angry from time to time. They may really do something  stupid every once in a while, but never, ever, ever, under any circumstances allow your anger to get the better of you. Keep your mouth shut! Walk away, do whatever, but don’t let your words get away from you.

That’s not to say you let the kids get away with everything. If they do something stupid, call them on it–just don’t call them stupid. Criticize the behavior, discuss options, spank them if need be. Just remember that your  words in that moment will forever be remembered.

I have a friend who is 50, and still vividly remembers the day he got his license at age 16. He left his house just minutes after getting his license and drove off to see his girlfriend, driving there on his own for the first time. Along the way, he had a wreck running his car off the road and seriously damaging the transmission. Here was this terrified teenager who called his dad from a pay phone and waited anxiously by his car as his father drove to where he was.

The father arrived and immediately asked if he was ok. My friend said yes, but that the car was ruined and he was sorry. What happened next has stayed with him over 30 years later, and I’ve heard him tell this story to folks numerous times. His father said, “As long as you’re all right. Where  were you going? Well, take my car and I’ll stay here until the wrecker arrives. You be careful and have a good  time.  We’ll talk about this later when you get home.” My friend received mercy when he didn’t deserve it, and his father even allowed him to go on to see his girlfriend (rather foolishly you might think, but  it was a cool thing to do).  His dad never yelled at him or anything; they just worked out how long it would take the kid to pay off the repair bill.

I’ve heard that story a number of times and have a lot of respect for that guy today. He has kids of his own (all teenagers) and last year one of his daughters wrecked their family car while learning to drive. He told me he remembered the mercy his  father showed him, and even though he was steaming inside for what had happened, he kept it in and just held his daughter while she cried and shook, and  told her it was all going to be all right.

That’s the legacy of  a good father. When your child grows up and decades later still remembers the life lesson you taught through an act of undeserved mercy instead of blasting them away with words, you have succeeded. When that same child uses you as their role model when parenting their own  children, you are more than a success…you are a legend.


Arguments Women Start

January 12, 2010

Most men don’t enjoy conflict in a relationship. Oh, we all love the make-up sex that follows a good fight, but it’s getting there that’s the problem. That being the case, most men avoid starting a fight with their woman. Unfortunately, there are those times when it becomes unavoidable.

Ladies, there are times you cause fights. It’s true and you know it. It’s not our ignorance that does it every time (though we men mess up quite often), sometimes it’s your stubborn attitude. Here are some examples of fights you ladies inadvertantly cause:

1 – “You never compliment me anymore!”

You’ve got to love this one. The  woman spends hours getting ready to go out. She’s dressed to the hilt in something sexy and her hair is perfect. She comes out, her man is amazed. He tells her so and she says thank you. That’s a perfect scenario.

Real life though is different. While we men do love it when our woman is dressed up and looking hot, we also can find those simple days incredibly sexy as well. For instance, a woman  with her hair down and no make up can be incredibly hot to her man if she’s wearing shorts and a t-shirt. We look at you and see “sexy!”, you look at you and see “messy”. We tell you how hot you look and how we’d love to rip those comfy clothes off you and show you, and you say, “No, I’m not! I look awful!”. Once is ok and understandable, but when it happens every time we pay you a compliment, soon we get tired of it and stop bothering.

Ladies, you need to realize that you’re going to look sexy to your man at times when you don’t necessarily feel sexy. But if you call them a liar every time they tell you how hot you look, soon they aren’t going to bother telling you. Then when you get all dressed up and know you look good, you’ll get ticked because he hasn’t said anything.

The solution is simple: when he tells you he thinks you’re hot, smile demurely and kiss him. If you can’t say “thank you”, then at the very least don’t call him a liar.

2 – “All you ever think about is sex!”

Yep, that’s true. You look hot, we want you. We wake up first thing in the morning and the equipment is already working, we want you. We’re otherwise bored, we want you. We slip into the shower with you, it becomes obvious rather quickly. We fix you dinner and clean up afterward…you get the picture.

That’s how we’re  wired. Yes, you can fix it by nagging until the desire for you is gone…but notice I said the desire “for you”. That sex drive is still going to be there and if you’re not going to help us, you can be sure there’s someone else out there who will.

If you don’t want to do it every night, that’s fine. Just make  sure your husband knows there is some point in time in the week ahead that’s his. First thing Saturday morning while the kids are still asleep, or Friday night going to bed early, or something. As long as he knows it’s coming, he won’t reach that point of desperation where his every action soon becomes a clumsy attempt at seduction.

3 – “Why can’t you be more like…”

This is so stupid it should be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing to me how many times I hear a wife compare her husband to someone else to their face. There are indeed  other ways to challenge your man’s  masculinity (pointing and laughing immediately comes to mind), but very few can have such a horrible reverse effect as this one.

Susan’s husband is perfect, we get it. He buys her flowers, he puts  the kids to bed so she can relax on the couch before bedtime, and he never forgets an anniversary or holiday. You don’t have to tell us these things. What you don’t know, however, is what Susan’s husband is telling us from his viewpoint. Susan recognizes these things he does for her, and she “rewards” him for the extra effort. Yes, it all boils down to sex again.

Putting it bluntly, if you looked  like Susan and did half the freaky things she does after the kids are put to bed, we’d treat you like he does. Think about it.

And finally…

4 – “You never listen to me!”

Possibly true. Did your conversation start with “Let me tell you something…”? Then yes, we tuned you out. Did you time the beginning of the conversation with the last half of a championship game? Then yes, we tuned you out. Did you begin the conversation just as our head hit the pillow to go to sleep after a long day? Then yes, we tuned you out. Is this the same story you’ve told before in extreme detail? Yep, we tuned you out.

Ask a man how his day went, he’ll say, “Fine.” Ask a woman how her day went, and it starts with “Well, when I got up this morning…” and goes from there. As a matter of fact, her recount of the day almost happens in real time, taking as long to tell it as it did to live it.

Ladies, we love you, but cut it short sometimes…or time the beginning of the conversation better. Start at the beginning of dinner and we’ll be more inclined to listen. How about when we’re driving somewhere? Turn down the radio (only as long as nothing classic is playing that demands  to be rocked to) and talk. Learn to time the conversations to when it’s convenient for both of us and we’ll listen.

And if all else fails, this one is guaranteed: Begin the conversation by taking off your shirt while you’re talking. When it hits the floor, stop and ask your hubby  “What did I just say?” If he can repeat it, move on to your pants and do the same while continuing the story. If he doesn’t have a clue what you said, slip the  shirt back on and say, “Too bad” and walk away. You will only have to do this once to ingrain this behavior of listening into your man. Soon he’ll be racing down the hall when he thinks he heard you talking. We’re easy to train if you use the right tools!


Affairs of the Heart

January 7, 2010

Note: This post is rather lengthy and short on humor, but  I wanted to deal with the issue. I’ll try to be  shorter and funny next time around, I promise.

Let’s play a game: Let’s say you were faced with the choice of two equally-wonderful women to marry. They were both gorgeous, fun, and great in so many ways. You chose one, married her, and suddenly found out you might have made a mistake in the physical area simply because she’s not the lover you were envisioning (though in every other part of the relationship she’s perfect).

Let’s make this a little more difficult to work on. Now let’s suppose you find out the other girl you could have chosen was everything you’veloving-couple-in-bed-lg-new ever wanted in a lover (because of things about her “desires” she told someone else and you found out about) while you are in a less-than-stellar physical relationship.

Finally, let’s say you find yourself with the opportunity one day to actually move on the unrequited feelings you have toward this girl. What would you do? Here is your opportunity to explore what you know will be the single-greatest sexual relationship in your life with a woman you were technically supposed to be with if you’d just chosen her over the woman you did choose. Could that really be considered cheating, since she was supposed to be yours anyway?

An affair is one of those things that instantly polarizes any conversation. Some people are for them, while the rest are against. Anyone who has ever been the victim of an affair hates them and thinks everyone who gets into one is a scum-sucking dirtbag. On the other hand, people who get involved in affairs usually feel justified in doing so because their spouse did something to drive them into another’s arms.

So what’s a boy to do? Do you spend every day you see this “other woman” just dreaming about what it would be like to see her beneath you, looking into her eyes at the moment of passion’s height for both of you…or do you just forget it and resign yourself to a life of vanilla when cookies-n-cream is right there?

The scenario I described at the beginning happened to a close friend of mine. We discussed the woman he was marrying while still talking about the other girl he had in his life that wanted him equally as much. He chose, got married, and came back from his honeymoon without “that smile” I had seen on so many other men who’d just had a week of wild romping. Instead, he just had this bored look in his eyes. He told me how he’d thought it was going to be amazing “everywhere in the cabin” week, when it was just a lot of “same old same old”.

Then one yearhiking-up-skirt-lg-new later the other girl came back into his life.

Every time they met, she gave him this hug that held on so tightly he told me he felt she was holding him like a life preserver. She wore things she knew he would like. He found out about her bra size from another woman at the office who was buying her gifts for her birthday (I have no idea how that stacked up since I’m not an expert on sizes…) and couldn’t get the image out of his mind.

It kind of came to a head one night when he was making love to his wife and realized he was actually about to yell out this other woman’s name because fantasizing about being with her was the only way he could make intimacy with his wife exciting anymore. He talked to me about it, almost at the point of tears. It was crazy! He loved his wife and she was his best friend, but she wasn’t his best lover and he knew it was only a matter of time before this other woman and he were together–even if it was just for one night.

So what was there to do? Besides what would it hurt to have a little snog on the side, right?

Wrong.

If you’re going to consider an affair, then there are many things to keep in mind. My first wife cheated on me several times over before I finally told her to get out and married an infinitely better woman, so this next part will come from someone who experienced the bitter betrayal of an affair, but at the same time I’m going to try and look at it objectively from both sides.

First of all, an affair destroys all trust in your relationship…sometimes forever.

When you let someone into your bed, you are in essence giving them the most intimate part of yourself. This is something you feel should be treasured by the other person. When they have an affair, it feels like they took your gift and stomped it into the ground while laughing at you. From that point on, every phone call, email, visitor, or “late night at the office” is going to come under intense scrutiny and could result in an argument. After all, you told them you were working late before when you were actually bumping the boards, so why should they trust you now?

An affair cheapens you in the eyes of your spouse.

While a husband might proudly display pictures of his wife to friends and co-workers when she’s his and his alone, if she has an affair he no longer mentions her. Why? She’s community property. Try not to get upset at this, but the husband sees her as nothing more than a cheap whore.

Then again, the wife does the same. The husband’s “I love you” means nothing to her, since he was saying that the whole time he was leaving the house and pounding Miss What’s-Her-Name. There is nothing you can say or do that  will change that feeling. Only time can (sometimes) heal the wound.

An affair can  strengthen your marriage…but most likely it will end it.

Oh, I’ve heard the talk about how couples come back stronger than ever after an affair. I’ve seen the testimonials on TV talk shows and watch as the held each other’s hands tightly while talking about how strong their love is now. But they are the exception to the rule.

The  simple  fact is that most marriages never recover from an affair.  The vast majority of the time, they end up calling it quits  soon after. Why? Because the pain of a physical relationship hurts more than you can know.

Try this exercise and see if you still feel an affair wouldn’t be a deal-breaker: When you are making love to your spouse/significant other, there are particular moves they use that you probably love. They make certain sounds when you  hit that perfect spot with them. They sometimes whisper things to you while you are together that  is  intimate and for your ears only.  Now  imagine them doing the exact same things, whispering those sweet words, and making those same gestures to someone else. Imagine another man on top of your wife, or another woman on top of your husband as your spouse makes those same facial expressions of pure pleasure experiencing the passion.

Hurts, doesn’t it?

Still think you could just say, “Ok” and move on?

How about the next time you two make love? If you do manage to hold on through the rough patch, then the next time you decide to become intimate you’ll spend the whole time thinking, “Is this how he touched her? Was he better than me? Is she thinking about him right now?” It all becomes a deal-killer that makes it almost impossible to recover from. You have to have loads of self-confidence to make it work.

And finally…

An affair doesn’t just destroy your reputation…it destroys your spouse’s as well.

People may say, “Oh, there’s Mike. I heard he had an affair with that girl from the health club and got caught!” But they also follow up with, “Yeah, Cindy was really hurt. Guess she wasn’t good enough to keep him happy in the sack, eh?”

Folks will offer their condolences, but the whole time they’ll wonder what you did wrong. After all, a happy man doesn’t wander, right? Let’s think about  that for a second: Tiger Woods married a blond supermodel. I can’t really picture more  physical perfection than that. And yet he diddled with lots of other women. Was his wife just not that good in bed? Can’t say. Some men and women are just cheaters by nature and don’t need a reason. Still, before they were having the affair you could look at them as a couple and think he was a lucky man. Now, people wonder what their home life was like and what she did wrong.

So what’s the solution? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t have an affair. If you’re at the point in your relationship where you’re seriously considering a “harmless fling” with a co-worker, either get counseling together to improve your marriage or just walk away. Even if you don’t love them now, that spouse meant something to you at one time or another. Out of respect for who they were then and what they meant to you, just walk away.