I still thought it was “paper or plastic?” but John Badalament has set me straight in his new book,
The Modern Dad’s Dilemma: How to stay connected with your kids in a rapidly changing world.
The dilemma for many, if not all, modern dads, as Badalament sees it, is how to be a great dad and still fulfill the requirements of jobs that require us to be “on” or at least “on-line” seven days a week.
In The Modern Dads Dilemma, John Badalament uses a series of real people and their real stories to illustrate the challenges of being a connected dad. Every dad will find pieces of themselves in these varied portraits, and in some, you’ll be very glad you’re not walking in their shoes. In others, you’ll wonder if that might be you in a few short years when your little boy or girl becomes your big teenager.
Beyond the portraits however, is the real strength of Badalament’s book. Anyone who has read The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People will be very familiar with the types of tools Badalament suggests for dads to stay present and connected with their kids. I have to admit that my first reaction was to bristle at bringing management techniques to parenting. But when I talked to John, he told me of the many dads who ask for these tools for fear of losing the moment to the constantly vibrating Blackberry or phone. Modern dads need a literal “to-do” list to keep them up-to-date with what is happening at home because it’s hard to shift back to homelife after being absorbed in work for 10 to 12 hours per day.
In the book, John also asks dads to go back and try to understand their own childhoods and relationships with their fathers. This exercise can help them choose which things to bring into their own fathering experience.
I particularly liked the section in Modern Dads Dilemma on creating “dad rituals,” especially because I think it lends itself very well to the ways dads parent. Dads can be very ritualistic (Sunday morning walk to the bakery, Saturday afternoon trip to the hardware store, early evening game of “Horse” before dinner) without feeling that they are in a rut. Dads also seem to be more easily able to take kids on errands without becoming overly focused on the task at hand. We seem to be more willing to be distracted by the interests of kids. Call it dad ADD, but especially on weekends, dads are often able to veer off course to try some new experience with their kids. In GreatDad.com, we often advise dads to just do the stuff that come naturally and include the kids in that. You’ll find yourself a better and more involved parent if you don’t try to force fit experiences because of what you think kids should be doing.
The Modern Dad’s Dilemma should be read by any dad, or mom, who is trying to find ways to achieve that ever-difficult notion of “living in the moment.” Parenting is one pursuit where “tomorrow” and “some day” really have very little value in our own self-rationalizations. All you have is today, and hopefully, John’s book will help some of us focus on our kids just a bit more and make our time with them that much more valuable.