Parenthood delivers a great number of changes to your life. Your man cave becomes a nursery, you no longer go for that quick beer after work and you can never eat a biscuit without having to share it. These things you can prepare for, but what you can’t prepare for are the multiple personas and roles that embody a parent. Even as someone who considers ‘dad’ as being an adjective rather than a noun, it continues to be one of the more challenging aspects of parenthood. What can’t be overstated though is the importance balancing these roles has on our children’s development. For me, a little awareness has really helped me along the way on this crazy journey. I have 2 children a 6 year old boy and a 21 month old girl and in this piece I would like to share my thoughts on some of the roles I have identified and how my approach differs between the two with the aim of helping some of the other dads out there.
Our main role and duty is of course to be a carer for our kids. A bit of an obvious statement, but it’s worth emphasising as all the other personas we adopt are fundamentally rooted in this responsibility. In the first months, this is in a literal sense: we feed, clean, wind, cuddle, put to bed. We are a carer and that’s about all there is to it. Admittedly, when you are in the maelstrom of having a new born for the first time it feels like this period lasts forever (not helped by the endless nights!) but take heart, I promise that things do change and as they do, so too do our parenting roles.
With each stage of their development I am finding that I am adopting more roles to support my kids as they grow. For instance, as they become magnificent sponges of information, the role of educator comes to the fore. An interesting point on this is the very different approaches I have taken with each of my kids. For instance, as my daughter grows and becomes more aware of the world around her, my educator persona has been very different to the one I adopted with my son, I am A LOT more relaxed about her development than I was about his. I put an awful lot of time into trying to teach my son to walk as I was concerned that he was a late walker in comparison to most children his age. It really did become quite a point of anxiety for me and my wife but he pulled himself up and found his feet at 20 months. When he did it didn’t matter that he was one of the last ones to do it, all the anxiety I had from thinking that I wasn’t teaching him properly dissolved. The important part was the fact was that he did do it and I have remembered this lesson when it comes to being the educator. I can go over words, colours and farm animals with my daughter but patience is the key here as she will get things in her own time, as long as I give her mine.
Speaking of patience, as our little angels grow and become more inquisitive so too does boundary pushing (as most parents will testify!). The subsequent response is the development of another role, the disciplinarian. This does fall under the umbrella of educator as, to put in simple terms, we are teaching our kids right from wrong. For me, this is the role I have the most trouble with. There are as many advocates of permissive (or ‘gentle’) parenting as there are authoritarian and so it would be arrogant of me to posit an opinion as to which is best and that is perhaps a debate for another day due to the complexity of the topic. However, in a discussion of parental roles, being a disciplinarian is something you must be from time to time. I find myself flitting between the two extremes and I will be honest a lot of the time I get it wrong. The pain of standing on Lego doesn’t necessarily warrant an angry shout and 5-minute lecture to a 6-year-old as to why they should tidy up!
I would like to finish by mentioning the most important role I feel I have as a parent, one which draws from the other two; being a role model. In a recent blog post I discussed how my father wasn’t the best role model I could have had and my parenting style is primarily defined by aiming to be the antithesis of him. As a result, being the right sort of role model to my kids is a massive thing for me. I have been lucky that despite my experiences, I have had 3 very positive male role models in my life, my older brother, my brother in law and my late father in law. All three of them provided (and in the case of my bros, still do) wonderful examples of what it takes to be a dad: be selfless, be funny, be kind, be strong and most importantly, just be there.
Andy Kapadia is a University Administrator from Leicester. He also writes blogs on parenting and sport and hosts a podcast under his alter ego Aggy Fox. The Aggy Fox Podcast is available on SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/andrew-kapadia twitter: @aggyfoxpodcast