I wish I wrote this piece as a timely feature to celebrate father’s day that was two days ago. But my commitments towards my family over the weekend, did not allow me to do that. Now before you roll your eyes and say “excuses, excuses” let me warn you that I am a parent of a 11 year old who is getting adept at rolling eyes and so when I was reading the book, ” ALL Pro Dad” by Mark Merrill, his first reaction was, you’ve guessed it right, he playfully rolled his eyes.
I must admit that when i recieved the book in the mail, which had a headline ” Seven essential skills to be a hero to your kids” I was a bit, skeptical, after all, Parenting is a bit of an intuitiveas went through with what Mark Merrill had to say, I concede that he got it right. Somewhere along the line, as Dads, we surrendered our leadership or status as role models, to others. Today’s kids have TV characters, movie stars, sportstars, or in some cases business leaders as heroes. The media places these successful people on a pedestal and the phenomena of hero worship often borders on cultish following. While I am all for people inspiring us on a daily basis, the role of a Dad must be central to a child’s growth and worldview.
Mark Merrill is a familiar name in the world of football and parenting. this book is a good book with some foundational principles that call all dads to basics. The foreword written by Tony Dungy talks about how is book is essentially about two qualities – love and leadership. And I suspect ( my own understanding) that if you do one without the other, you’ll have a lopsided experience of raising a child. If you go completely with the love paradigm, you’ll have pampered and smothered the child with affection. On the otherhand, if you rule with an iron fist ( as is likely to happen in Occidental cultures) the child is raised without the softer, gentler aspects of fatherhood. Tough Love is a balance of influencing a strong willed kid, without breaking down the child.
The seven principles make easy reading. Much like a Football coach’s playbook, each chapter follows an M. Know your Make up, Know your Mind-set,Know your Motive, Know your Method, Know your Model, Know your Message and Know the Master. While I concede that there is no, “One size fit all” approach to parenting, each chapter had something that got me scratching my head. For instance in the chapter ” Know your Mindset” he talks about Love. While this word is by far, the most nebulous word, which could have a gazillion connotations, he distills it to two words – Patience and Kindness. As type A folks, most Dads can agree that it can be a challenge to be patient and kind to our own children all the time. How does one show kindness when you need to literally drag them or drive them into the bathroom as the clock ticks away? How does one show patience when you recieve a “love letter” from school? (Loveletter is a euphemism our family uses for any communication from school, usually unflattering). I learnt from this book that being a great dad is not about fulfulling my ego trips but to serve my child, selflessly. Quite an ideal to aspire but probably the only one that works. Written in sporty metaphors and adrenaline pumping navy SEALs language, this book appeals to young men who sincerely desire to train themselves to be a good dad. But that would call for a lifetime of commitment to the mission. It may mean tearing myself from the cricket matches on TV ( that seem to go on all year long) or my toys, my gadgets, my expectations and focus on giving myself.
So this father’s day, instead of basking in the glory due to me ( for atleast one day in the year) I asked my son, what is the one thing that you’d like me to change as Dad? He gave four answers but top of the list was” I wish you spend less time on your laptop” We spent most of the day, chasing each other around the house, playing chess and have wrestling bouts. I wish I could do it all year, or till the time he grows up.
While the book ” ALL PRO Dad” touts itself as a game winning playbook for every father. My take is that every dad should spend some time, writing out a gameplan for each child. When you write something down, and show it your child, you are commiting yourself to that child, each day, each year, for a life time.