Article Summary:Lessons in fatherhood learned from a glass of beer.
It was blisteringly hot last Saturday. As I took that first sip of a cold quality beer I knew it was sure to ease my thirst. However, I never expected that in that same frosted mug were also lessons on how to be a better Dad.
Often as fathers we find parental inspiration in the most unlikely of places. For Mark Borowski it was at the poker table, (see last month's article "Poker Skills to Parenting Thrills"). For me, further insight into my parenting skills came to me just last week while attending a seminar on beer & BBQ'ing. Perhaps it was the samples of fine micro-brews, or spending time in the company of other Dad's, but as our speaker discussed the secrets of brewing a premium beer, my mind began to draw comparisons to parenting.
I learned that when it comes to making beer, everyone starts out with roughly the same raw ingredients-barley, hops, yeast, and water. Why then is there such a difference between a bottle of "buck a beer" and a quality brew? The answer lies comes down to many factors, including time & quality, and process.
Great beer takes time. Commercial brew masters will tell you that while you can turn out a beer in just a few weeks, if you want to greatly increase the quality, you need more time--quality time.
The same is true when building relationships with our kids. While we can "get by" only fitting in an hour here and there with them during our week, the more time we are willing to spend with our kids--playing, reading, talking, listening, learning things together--will result in a much richer quality relationship. Great Dads know that each moment spent actively engaged with their children is an investment in future relationships.
There is no substitute for quality. In 1493 Duke George the Rich of Bayers-Landshut enacted an order which was extended to the whole of Bavaria in 1516. This is known as the Bavarian Purity Law. Like the brewer's oath, it states that nothing may be added to beer other than barley, hops and water. To this day, the rules of the Purity Law are followed by many breweries around the world, resulting in beer of exceptional quality. However, many commercial breweries detour from these standards, trading off quality for cost savings. One example involves substituting large quantities of expensive malted barley with inexpensive corn syrup. While the resulting product is still palatable to many, beer experts can tell you there is a noticeable difference in quality to a premium full-barley version.
As Dads it's easy to substitute quality time for just "time". The key is in giving your undivided attention. Whether it is exploring a frog pond, making pizza, or reading stories together before bed, your kids should know you are theirs and theirs alone. By being "present in the moment" during play or discussions, you show them how important they are to you. Avoid being an "unconscious parent"--doing one thing but thinking of another. Be there in body as well as in mind and spirit.
Process is important. You can give five different brewers the same ingredients, and the results could be staggeringly different. One might produce a quality ale, the other a light lager, still another something completely undrinkable.
In addition to what you might already be doing as a Dad, consider the following ...
Create family rituals. Family movie/games night? Weekend or holiday traditions? Consider starting a family scrapbook and/or photo album. Together you can decide which items (photos, souvenirs, etc.) should go in it, and the captions or comments to be written. Not only does this create a family keepsake, recording a portion of your family life and history, but it allows you to recall moments in your lives - laughing, joking and reliving the good times all over again - together. After all, the best souvenirs are the memories that we make.
Work to make ordinary things fun. Who says washing dishes, cleaning up, or walking to the store for milk has to be boring. By turning things into games, or using your imagination, the unexciting everyday jobs that make up a large part of our lives can be made interesting, or at least more bearable. Life is what we make of it--and much of that is dependent on the attitude from which we approach it.
Let your kids get to know the real you. Sure, they know "Dad", but what about the other parts of your personality? As is appropriate for their ages, begin sharing your thoughts and dreams with them. Let them know that you too get scared sometimes, or wonder what the future will hold. Tell them about when you were a boy, and some of the good and not-so-good times and experience you had growing up. Do they know your passions? If, for instance, you love the outdoors and art, then share these by going on hikes, canoeing, and exploring art galleries with your kids. Add new dimensions to familiar activities as you re-experience them through your children's eyes.
If all you ever drink is the same economy brand of beer, you may never know what you are missing when it comes to some of the finer beers out there. Without comparison, you are likely quite happy on a steady diet of a lesser quality product. Will it hurt you or affect your potential? Not likely. But as parents if we choose to consistently deliver a lower quality product will that affect our children's potential? Absolutely!
This weekend, why not treat yourself and your kids to something special. Make plans upgrade both your beer and your parenting. Try something new. One warning though ... once you've experienced the good stuff, you'll never be satisfied with low quality product again ... and the same goes for your beer. Cheers!
Rob Stringer is an award-winning educator, speaker and author who coaches parents with his upbeat approach to learning, and parenting. Rob is currently working on his first book, Parenting with Intention, and has launched a free monthly newsletter by the same name. Visit ParentingWithIntention.ca to subscribe, access resources, or learn more about PWI's parent coaching services. Learn how to begin each day as if it were on purpose... and parent with intention.