Monday, 20 June 2011 00:00
With Father’s Day celebration, it’s no surprise that your dear old dad is on your mind. But if you’re also looking forward to the day when you can give your significant other a Father’s Day card, too, you might want to evaluate his parenting potential. What can you tell now about whether he’ll be a great father down the line? Check out these telling traits.
1. He treats his mother well. What kind of family man will he be? First look at his relationship with his mom. Does he respect her? Laugh with her easily? Enjoy visiting her? Help out with chores or errands? “If the answer is yes, all of this means she did a good job raising him, he naturally likes women, and will like the mom you will become,” says Wendy Allen, Ph.D., a psychotherapist specializing in couples and marriage therapy in Santa Barbara, CA. In fact, respect in general — to other family members, to kids, and to you — should be at the top of the “what to look for” list.
2. He’s selfless. What’s the number one thing you learn when you become a parent? You never come first anymore! So if you’re with a guy who thinks he’s the center of the universe, beware. For Jackie Baker, a Valdosta, GA, mother of one, it was easy to see she wasn’t dating an egomaniac when she found out that he’d spent much of his time caring for his 17-years-younger sister. “One of his major responsibilities was to take care of her in the afternoon when he came home from school,” she says. “He didn’t really go on dates or get to hang out with his friends. I thought, any teenage boy who is willing to give up his time for his sister is a great man. Even to this day he helps out with his sister’s homework whenever he can. I knew when I saw him taking such an interest in his family that he was going to be a wonderful father.”
3. He’s not easily grossed out. Surprise! Kids are messy. There are dirty diapers, vomit — and dirty diapers and vomit happening at the same time. Being a parent means getting comfortable with the eewwww factor. Good fathers are the ones “who jump in to clean up a gross mess and help out when someone else isn’t feeling well,” says Dianne Couris, an author and parenting coach in Oldsmar, FL, and president of Family Choices & Solutions, Inc. Christine Louise Hohlbaum, a mother of two, found this out years ago while on a tumultuous, three-hour ferry boat ride around the Greek Islands. Hohlbaum got seasick five times. “Each time, my then-boyfriend would take my barf bag to the front of the boat to retrieve another one,” she says. “As we pulled into the dock, I knew this man would make a great father. Childbirth and parenting would be a snap for a guy who can carry puke across the Mediterranean without blinking an eye.”
4. He’s a great uncle. “Nephews and nieces are the stepping stones to your own kids,” says Allen. “Does he call them on their birthdays? Does he make dates where he actually has to show up and take them to the movies or an amusement park?” Varina Caton, a Wilmington, DE, mother of two, witnessed such dedicated affection with her future husband and his nieces and nephews. “He would have his nieces and nephews fly out to stay with us,” she says. “He has always made a point of staying in contact with them. He sent some of them to summer camp because their Mom was unable to come up with the money. He has mentored them as they have matured, introducing money management (for obvious reasons!), job skills, people skills and most importantly setting goals. Because of his involvement with his sibling’s offspring I knew he would make a great dad, and he has!”
5. He doesn’t mind taking direction from his partner. “If a man resents being told what to do, then working with him on his children’s schedule and responsibilities could get tense,” Couris says. “Running a family schedule is usually [the mother’s role] and the father typically needs direction.” How can you tell if he’ll respond well to family life? Notice how he takes to your suggestions (“I think you should pack more than one pair of underwear for our week at the beach”) and how he reacts to your plans (“Don’t forget: Thursday is my uncle’s 73rd birthday and we’re all going to dinner”). If you get a positive reaction, you’re onto something!
6. He likes ketchup. And he understands the importance of blowing the paper cover off of a straw and seeing if it can reach across the table. In other words, he has a playful sense of fun, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Those could be the most telling sign of all. You’ve got to have a sense of humor to get through life with kids.
Now, here are a couple of signs maybe he’s not destined to be the world’s best dad:
1. He can’t go with the flow. A good dad needs to be flexible, easygoing and not easily flustered. Having a kid means that dinners will get canceled, and vacations will be marred by bouts of the flu. If he’s the type who sweats the small stuff and can’t easily adapt to change, he may be in for a tough time as a dad. “I dated one guy who planned every weekend as if it was a military operation, and he totally blew a gasket if there was any fluctuation from his plans,” recalls Elizabeth Bach of Westfield, NJ. “He wasn’t so into the idea of having kids anyway, and I thought that was a good thing — he’d probably be one uptight, inflexible dad!”
2. He doesn’t pitch in around the house. “Any man who considers himself above anything… is going to have trouble serving his or her majesty: the baby,” Allen says.
(Erika Rasmusson Janes is a New York–based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Redbook, Modern Bride and Good Housekeeping.)
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