Different kinds of parent

Based on observation, thoughts and a little idealism

There is an amazing park near our house.    A good park makes me feel like I’m living in some Utopian society or at the very least like society is moving along in a positive direction.  A bad park though is a bleak and depressing place.  It makes you wonder what is wrong with the world that they can’t provide a nice playground area for children.  Fortunately I live in an area that has gone to the trouble to provide a good park.  I go to this park with my daughter regularly and enjoy people watching.  Since this is a nice park is seems to bring out the best in people.  By in large I see very happy families.

I live in Japan which is famous for its absent fathers so it really warms my heart whenever I see fathers spending time with their family.  It’s interesting to see the different types of father.  There is the father that has a one year old child and brings a soccer ball along.  The father who stands back and watches stopping the child every now and then if they are doing something dangerous.  Another father is playing with their kids.  Another one is there helping the children navigate the playground equipment.  Then there is the father on his mobile phone the whole time.  There are probably more but these are what I’ve observed at the park.

The soccer ball bringing father is the most curious one for me.  Maybe at home the infant goes crazy for the soccer ball so the father brings it along.  I guess I should clarify the situation.  There are two types of soccer ball bringing father.   One brings a soccer ball and other stuff and instead of being in the playground  are out on the ground.  That soccer ball bringing father has crossed over to the playing with their kid father.  So what about the soccer ball bringing father who isn’t playing with his kid?  For a long time I wondered why would they bring a soccer ball.  Then I realised that they aren’t bring the ball for the child.  It’s for them.  You can see these fathers doing ball tricks in the park while the child runs around doing something else with the mum.   No one seems to actually be watching these ball tricks.  The father is apparently just there at the park.  I have a number of theories about this father.  The first theory is that the father is being given some rest time.  A bit of unwind time to just chill and rehash his old hobby.  My second theory is that he was always in a soccer club growing up and doesn’t really know how to play with a child.  My third theory is that this father is overwhelmed and has no idea how to be a dad.

The get in there and plays with the kids father and the playground navigating father are two aspects of the same style.  These fathers are obviously motivated to interact with their children.  Perhaps it’s to show them the world or perhaps it’s just because they find it fun.  Maybe its just because there sure that’s what they are meant to do at the park.  The plays with their kids father is the most enjoyable for me to watch.  These fathers are clearly having fun.  You can see them pant and sweat.  You know that they are exhausted but the smile on their face is almost as big as the smile on their kids face.  This is the happy family ideal you see in commercials and TV shows.  This is the style of parenting I most idealise and aspire to.  Perhaps I’m a victim of mass media or perhaps I’m just the type of person to get in there and do it.

The stand back and watches father is the strangest to me.  Probably because it is the opposite to my style.  I wonder how they do it.  How do you become the parent that just sits back and has the children play?  I’m not asking in a critical way.  I’m genuinely curious.  My wife recently pointed out that I’m a 100% attention dad.  When I’m with my daughter I’m with her the whole time.  There is no break.  It’s exhausting and makes me wonder how do parents become the watchers while the kids do their own thing.  Perhaps that is the key.  Perhaps just watching is enough.  I actually tried to ease off the amount of attention I give my daughter.  I found that she could handle it some days but other days she’d just be grumpy wondering why her biggest toy wasn’t playing with her.  I just find standing back and watching boring.  Seeing these parents impresses me though. Their are obvious advantages to it for both sides.  The child learns to play by themselves, an extremely important lesson, and the parents can rest.  I wonder though at the cost.  How do those children see that father?  Do they see him at all?  Is it the same as being an absent father or is standing there enough.  Do they remember that as dad taking me to the park and think of their dad fondly?  Watching the interaction with one watcher dad and his child I noticed that he would say “No, that’s dangerous.” and the child would immediately say “No, It’s not.” and go ahead and do it.  So does this way lead to a more independent child?  Perhaps it just means that dad is going to have a tough time when the kids are teenagers.  Bringing it back to my way, am I raising a dependent child? One who won’t be able to just entertain herself.  I guess we are always trying to get the best outcome for our child playing fortune teller but making it up as we go.

The mobile phone dad is the least attractive to me.  The dad that isn’t really there.  Is this the same as the watcher dad though?  If just being there is enough to leave a pleasant and positive feeling towards the dad then perhaps this is perfectly justified.  Perhaps this is the busy dad that is making time for his child but can’t escape work.  Far more preferable to the dad that can’t make it to the park.  The one that makes the phone calls at home while the mum and child go off to the park.

In conclusion, there are many parenting models.  This isn’t an academic paper so I certainly haven’t talked about all the models or even presented it in an unbiased manner.  You may naturally fall into a model based on your own personality.  Really though I suggest to parents to think about the type of parent they want to be.  Discuss it with your partner.  Find out what each of you think parenting means.  Hopefully your ideas match.  Parents are instrumental in a child’s development.  It’s important to think about how you are influencing them and what you can do to feel at the end of the day you did a good job.

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