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Fatherhood: What does it mean?

By Maureen Penko

I thought it would be best to write about this topic by reviewing some history. Fatherhood, has evolved from when it was first thought of in 1908 and made official in 1910. We celebrate 100 years of recognizing fathers who over time become grandfathers. The role of the father know as DAD was never as present for the children or recognized as was the role of the mother. During the war fathers went off to fight for their country and by the 90's the role of fatherhood was portrayed as wise, and in charge of the family. Roles were traditional. Now the role has changed.

Fatherhood is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as a lifelong relationship. So, with this in mind how we set the model and what verbal and nonverbal messages a father or grandfather might share is important.

I know that in my clinic practice I often see both parents coming for the appointment. When we work on speech and language development strategies with the parents, fathers do have an important role in helping their child communicate. Today millennial fathers definitely have a household partnership including being providers of emotional care and financial support.

Currently the role of the grandparent has emerged as one of active support for their grandchildren. Now, my role is to help them learn the specific communication strategies that would help their grandchildren learn vocabulary and develop language skills according to their developmental age. So, what they communicate and how they engage the child is important.

Over time I have come to appreciate how many things my father shared with me while being firm. My memories are of singing together, going to the movies, learning to swim, being brave, playing tennis, banking and using my manners. Dads teach their children so many skills which they in turn, go on to teach their children. In all of this there is contextual vocabulary that is learnt and used.

Think about your communication role - all those words and ideas are used by you in a variety of special moments with your child.......

  • Use emotion words such as love, care, happy, fun, scared, worried, as well as reassurance words.
  • Play all the fun physical games you loved and be silly. Use a lot of verbs and focus on the pronunciation.
  • Watch movies together and talk about them, expand the imagination and develop sentences.
  • Listen to your child's words build understanding.
  • Show and use words about respect and manners, social communication.
  • Share your heritage and values.
  • Teach your child the word responsibility and model it as well.
  • Explore a book together, read with expression and share the experience.

To give me a father's perspective about communication I thought I would ask a few "father" friends to share some of their thoughts on the subject. Here is what they had to say:

What do Fathers/ Grandfathers say to their "children"?

  • The simple and most important thing I say is that they are important and loved.
  • I'm not sure fathers say different things than mothers. I suspect mothers and fathers use similar language.
  • I read a line in the Globe and Mail and it has stuck with me "in the eyes of grandparents, we should have a world of Einstein's". We all think our grandchild is the smartest and off course the cutest.

What did it mean to you becoming a Father/ Grandfather?

  • Becoming a father is a learning experience - you learn to put someone else ahead of you. You learn tolerance, patience and what love means. You realize that your child puts their absolute trust in you.
  • We now had someone in our lives more important than ourselves. Reading about parenting did not sound enticing, but I find that I love every second of it.
  • It meant my life was forever changing in a very positive way. I've realized more and more how much I value the times as a family.
  • Our granddaughter, has taught me a few things including enthusiasm and the shear excitement in the eyes of a child of the things we take for granted. Such as noticing a cloud in the sky, and going for an ice cream cone.

What role do you feel is important to share with your Children/ Grandchildren as they grow?

  • My role of grandfather is quite different from that of father. While discipline is important, it is important that children get to "relax" with their grandparents and get a sense of comfort in being with them.
  • I want to show my son how to be kind to others, generous, and to be hard working and goal oriented.
  • As my child gets older it will become more and more important to I share who I am. My responsibility is to parent first, but also sharing with them and teaching them the qualities and beliefs.

What do your Children/Grandchildren love doing with you?

  • We read, play games that are fun and also a learning experience. Cooking and baking where they get to measure ingredients, mix the batter, get messy and watch them bake and eating them.
  • My son loves physical activity, which includes chase, hide and seek, and tickles. When he is tired, he likes cuddles, and this is a special time for both of us.
  • Having imaginary tea and cookies playing with dinosaur figurines as she pronounces every name, or taking all the chairs in the kitchen and lining them up and crawling under them! Wait there's more: singing the hokey pokey.

So, in closing know that Fatherhood is a gift for you and your child. Even if you weren't sure how to engage your child, remember to have fun, praise your child, and the moments you share will be remembered by both. Happy Fatherhood Day.

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