What Kind of Father Will I Be?

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So what was your father like?

For better or worse, the experience we had with our own fathers forms the basis for our own performance. A stepfather, coach, or others can have a positive impact, but for most, the legacy of our fathers is where we start. In all cases, it is something to build on.

Our experiences differ dramatically. Some dads were great; some were not there at all.

Generally, our own fathers were excluded from the delivery room, waited a week to take mom and baby home, and rarely changed a diaper. Mother-in-law came to help out, dad returned to work with celebratory cigars, and he commenced in a parenting role confined to paychecks, discipline, and playing catch.

Many of us were left with the feeling that something was missing. The roles of breadwinner/disciplinarian were thankless tasks and a recipe for distant relationships and sometimes disengagement.

Rookies at Boot Camp talk of their desire to be there for their children and to establish an emotional bond that was missing in relationships with their own fathers. Some veterans report that they aspire to be as good as their own dads, who despite career requirements, took them camping or fishing, played ball, read to them or just talked. Just knowing their dad cared seemed to count the most.

Even the worst father left us something valuable: a strong motivation to give our child what we missed. Boot Camp's dads have expressed the desire to "do right by my kids," hug them, listen to their problems, protect them, help them grow, and help them take on the challenges they will face in life. It is clear that the more we missed out as children, the more passion we bring to this job called fatherhood.

Societal changes have opened broad opportunities for real relationships between fathers and children, and today's dads are delighted. Little can compare to your baby falling asleep in your arms, comforting a daughter scared by a nightmare, or a son's delight over knocking down the block tower you built. No matter what happens in the rest of one's life, a dad can always be special to his children. (You will have to trust us on this one also.)

The veterans' advice, the staple of Boot Camp, brings these issues down to a very practical level by describing what they have learned as new fathers themselves. The messages are very consistent: get involved from the beginning; support mom as much as possible, no matter the circumstances; and be patient with your baby, your mate, and yourself. These are truly words of wisdom for any man wanting a solid start on the road to becoming a dad.

After watching the veterans care for their babies for several hours and hearing their thoughts and experiences, the rookies leave thinking "I can do this too." We want to help you to develop this feeling as well, because we know you can do this job.
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