By David D. Speer
Recently, my family was at a birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza in Ahwatukee. I was watching my son and his cousins run around, happy as children tend to be with pizza and games. It was while I was watching them that a few things occurred to me. These things are, in my opinion, things that all parents could and probably should have in common. With that in mind, here is some fatherly advice from an Arizona father:
- Hug your kids. Often. For no reason at all. Sometimes they just need it and will never turn you down. In fact, hug anyone you love whenever you have a chance. Life is short.
- Say, “I love you” as often as you can. In fact, make it the first thing your kids hear in the morning and last before sleep. Say “I love you” plenty in between, too. If we fill this world with children who know they are loved, perhaps this world will become a better place.
- Let ‘em play. They will only be able to do this for a finite amount of time and these memories of playing will be the foundation of great memories.
- Play with them whenever you can, too.
- Chocolate milk was made for blowing bubbles into.
- Don’t swear. At least don’t swear in front of your kids. If they hear you swear be prepared for possibly two things: 1) They are going to ask you what it means and 2) They may repeat it. In either case it is not a conversation you want to have.
- Don’t get mad when the kids do something wrong and please don’t correct them in a way to embarrass them. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people yell at their kids just because they can. Its just awful to see and they may treat your grandchildren in this fashion someday.
- Mom and Dad equals the name of God to children. Be a benevolent one.
- Kids will go out of their way for your acceptance and to try to make you proud. If they don’t find it, they will look for someone who will accept them. Be very careful here.
- Kids are usually quick to forgive and, therefore, you should be too. Don’t be afraid of saying “I’m sorry.” just because you’re a parent.
- Kids are usually smart. In fact, they will surprise you if given the chance. However, don’t get hung up on math scores and academics. We all have individual talents and individual smart-ness. Kids are no exception. If they are struggling with their grades its ok. They ALL have a talent somewhere. Help them find it.
- Teach them to say things like, “Please” and “Thank you”. They don’t cost a thing and are a simple way to be polite. Mr. Rogers was on to something with this.
- Kids grow up fast. Before you know it, they go from asking for milk to asking to borrow the car. Cherish the little things that make them unique.
- Take copious amounts of pictures while they are growing up. You can thank me for that one when they move out.
- Never ask, “What’s wrong with you?” or “How many times do I have to tell you?” when you are mad. If they answer “Nothing!” or “Forty-two more times!” they gave you your answer. If you need to, take a few moments to compose yourself before dispensing discipline.
- Be a friend when they need it and they need it more than you’d think. Be a parent when they need it too. I have found that the correct balance of parent and friend makes an amazing parent.
- Leave home for a least a weekend once a year. Longer and more often if you can. Vacations are where the most memories of youth and strong family bonds tend to be made.
- If you live in Arizona, get them a pool or take them to one and let them swim, all summer long.
- You are going to make mistakes. Sometimes, big ones. Its ok. Admit it and move forward. Its when you hang on to those mistakes that things go south. Being human is allowed.
- Stay off your phone (or other device) when your kids are around. They need to know they are more important then that text or whatever you think is more important. Trust me, they notice when you are not paying attention to them.
- This one is for grandparents: You have waited your whole life for grandchildren, so make sure you are available for your grandchildren. The memories they have of you when they are older will resonate their entire lives. Make the most out of the small window that time has given.
- Growing up is tough, but we can make it fun and little easier if we try.
There were some other things that hit me too. Not necessarily related to parenting, but I feel you should know:
- Whipped cream has no business on cake and is NOT frosting, so stop trying to pass it off as such. Frosting is Frosting.
- If you stand to pee, lift the seat. Or, at least wipe it after. To do otherwise is just lazy and gross.
- If you haven’t called your mom today, pick up the phone and call her! Right now.
- Don’t try to control things too much. You just can’t.
- Delete Facebook, Instagram and other social media. IT IS A HUGE WASTE OF YOUR TIME. It also wastes the time of people closest to you. This is probably a form of addiction, though, so slowly ween yourself off.
- No one can tell you the meaning of life but you. It is different for everyone and tends to change over time.
- Say “Hello” when you pass someone on the street, in the hallway or at work. You never know if you are going to make a new friend or make the other person’s day.
- Call someone from high school every year.
- Visit all 50 states at least once (bring the kids).
- Visit Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and South America at least once.
- Put down that silly vapor pen. Those things will probably kill you, too.
- When someone says, “To be honest” my first thought is that they probably tell lies most of the time.
- Most things that seem important now probably won’t be in 10 years. (remember Walkman, Discman?)
- Try something new and possibly thrilling. You’ll be glad you did.
David D. Speer is a husband, father of three, high school teacher, athletic coach, small business owner and aspiring author. He has a Master’s in Business Admin and a BA in Secondary Ed and a BA in History. He has lived in Phoenix most of his life, but has also lived in Colorado and Washington.
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