Somehow This Was Forgotten In Parenting Class

By Jeremy G. SChneider, MFT

I have been sick (yeah, sick enough not even to write) and knew I was starting to feel better when for the first time in a week, a post began to write itself in my head last night. Lately, I have been thinking more and more about the benefits of being a parent – especially a father – because so many men only hear about the negative effects of becoming a father without hearing the positive ones, the little moments that make being a parents so special. Unfortunately, the last couple of nights we experienced one of those moments of parenting that makes it so difficult. We listened to Lucas cough and cough and cough.

He has been fighting the tail end of a cold for several weeks it seems like. If it wasn’t for the cough, he seems perfectly healthy – no fever, no congestion, no aches and pains. He has been running around and having a great time – except for the cough that won’t go away. Frustratingly, in the past couple of days the cough has gotten worse – even though he still seems to feel fine. But it means he has been having a lot of trouble sleeping. This for a boy who doesn’t, under the best of circumstances, like sleeping in the first place.

We’ve been drugging him up at night the best we can; we’ve been giving him prescribed cough syrup with decongestant. But his cough has been getting worse at night and, of course, if he has trouble sleeping, we have trouble sleeping. The lack of sleep also worries us that he could get more sick and is also causing Dorit to have less sleep, making her more susceptible to catching something herself. The constant cough also means we are nebbying (nebulizing) him 3-4 times a day, which is no fun for any of us.

Last night, his coughing woke him up again and after I had given him more cough syrup and some Benadryl, Gem and I laid in bed listening to him cough.

“Poor little boy.”

The thing is, he has been such a trooper about the whole thing. He hasn’t fought us on taking any of the medicine or all of the nebbys. He isn’t even complaining about the fact that he is coughing so much. I am certain his throat is starting to hurt because his cough is ripping it up, yet he is not complaining. He has been going about his day the best he can and trying to get as much sleep as his cough will let him. One night earlier this week, he was coughing so bad, I went in to check on him, but he was completely asleep. He was coughing but somehow it hadn’t woken him up.

Hack hack.

“Maybe I should lie down with him,” Gem suggested.

But when we’re in the room with him, he gets distracted and doesn’t sleep as well. She knows that. I know that. But we’re desperate to do something, anything, that feels like it would help him.

Lying in bed, listening to your child cough and cough, hack and hack, knowing he needs sleep, knowing his sister across the room needs sleep, knowing we’ve done everything we can for him and we just have to wait for the medicine to kick in enough to knock him out, is one of the most helpless and frustrating feelings known to humankind.

I know it is so difficult for us parents because we love our children so much and that is such a wonderful thing about becoming a parent – realizing that you can have so much love for someone so small while your love only seems to grow as they do.

But there are moments, like last night listening to him struggle with trying to go to sleep while coughing, that the powerful love we feel foments into frustration and helplessness.

I think that is something all non-parents can probably wait to find out on their own.

You Are the Foundation for All Who Come After You

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

Many fathers are breaking new ground by becoming more active, more involved in their family – especially with their children. Previous generations defined fatherhood more in terms of providing the economic necessities families need. But this generation, more than any other, has determined that their role as a father does not end with providing economic security, but continues to building a strong bond with their children.  Unfortunately, so many of these fathers don’t have role models, don’t have a blueprint to follow in terms of what being involved in the lives of their children actually looks like.

January is National Mentor Month and that seems a perfect time to make sure all of these trailblazing fathers understand that while they may not have a role model for the kind of father and man they want to be, they are transforming themselves into the role models they never had. Today’s involved fathers, in their quest to be a better father, to better meet the needs of their own children, are ensuring that their children will never be without a wonderful fatherhood mentor.

Most dads know they want to give more than they received. They want to see their children more than their fathers saw of them. They want to feel more than their fathers felt with their family. They want to know their children. They want to witness their child’s firsts – first crawl, first word, first step, first throw, first hug, first everything. They want to be there to soothe when their child is upset. They want to help ease their fears and also make them laugh. They want to be more than just the disciplinarian – they want to play and have fun. They want to be a central part of their children’s lives and not just a play a supporting role. They want to be more than just a one-dimensional parent. They want to develop a three-dimensional relationship with their children. The trail this generation of fathers is blazing will make it so much easier for their own children to follow.

This blazing a new trail can take enormous effort. It involves pushing ourselves past our own limits, past our own fears so as not to inflict or impose those fears, those limits on our own children. It involves surpassing the model of fatherhood we grew up with, learning what we wanted but didn’t have and what we had that we want to pass on to our own children. This process of growth can be an incredible process, a process that is challenging, daunting, but phenomenally rewarding.

Every step we take in our personal growth as people, and as parents, gives our children a head start. The growth in ourselves we’ve worked so hard to achieve actually becomes part of our children’s foundation, giving them one less obstacle to overcome. If we men begin to break the “tradition” of distance, then our sons will have an easier time being involved with their children. If we men break the “tradition” of lack of emotion from fathers, we make it easier for our sons to grow up believing it is healthy and important to experience their emotions. We also  make it easier for our daughters to find a man she can be truly emotionally intimate with. Every foot of path we clear on this new trail – even if we only partially clear it – creates an easier path for our children.

Because it’s not just about being a good father, about being a good mentor or role model.

Our children define so much of themselves based on who we are. Our sons build their definition of manhood based on us, on what we do, on how we are, on who we are and how they see us. The healthier they see us and relate with us, the healthier they will be, the better chance they will have at having strong, healthy relationships throughout their lives.

But our daughters also define manhood based on who we are, on how we act, on what we do. They develop their ideal partner based on their emotional (and sometimes even physical) profile of us.  Their sense of self, their self-esteem is so intimately wrapped up in our relationship with them. And, of course, their ability to attract and be attracted to healthy men is based on how they view us, on their relationship with us. If we have taught our daughters they are special, unique, beautiful and intelligent, they will expect men to treat them that way. If we don’t…

National mentoring month is a good time to congratulate all of you trailblazing dads, to remind you of the incredible work you are doing to not only improve your life, but to improve the generations that will follow you in this world. You are the foundation for all that comes after you and that foundation looks pretty strong from where I’m standing.