Encouraging Closeness with Dad
It’s tough and painful for me to admit.
My heart aches at times just thinking about it.
But when my kids were younger, I didn’t encourage the relationship between my kids and their father as much as I should have.
I was with them all day, so they naturally gravitated more to me.
And I liked that. Those words are hard to type.
As a young mom, I had deep, long-held insecurities and a need for value that my children filled. I didn’t even consciously know this — not until years later. But the result was the same: I encouraged my kids’ attachment to me in way that was unhealthy.
Because I was with them all day, and we were so connected, I usually thought I knew better than he did about what was best for them. Sometimes that was true, sometimes not.
I wanted to pick and choose when I allowed my husband to exert his role as leader and dad.
When my daughter hit middle school, I saw the fruit of this. And it was rotten. She and I hit a very rocky patch in our relationship. She would have been so much better off during this time if I done more to cultivate a rock-solid united mom-dad partnership.
God opened my eyes. I knew something had to change.
I asked my husband for forgiveness and told him I was going to quit trying to always run the parenting show.
This was not an easy process for me. It meant I had to give up some control. I had to let go of my ego and my way of doing things sometimes.
And I drew closer to God than ever before as I asked him to help me develop a new way of responding and a new way of viewing my worth. It could not be rooted in my kids’ opinions of me anymore. It wasn’t healthy for them or me.
So how did I turn things around (and this is still an ongoing process, by the way)?
1. I quit always trying to take the lead — even when I didn’t always agree with his method. This was so important, but incredibly difficult. And I know that it’s not a popular thought. Kids are better served when Dad assumes the leadership role in the family. I know that depending on the situation, this is not always possible. Dad may be out of the picture or not willing to take the lead. However, when it works that way, everyone benefits.
Does this mean that we don’t voice our opinions or that we have to consult him before every one of the 500 parenting decisions we make throughout the day? Clearly, no. But on the really important stuff, we should. I also had to step back and not jump in to respond to every conflict or misbehavior with the kids. I had to give him a chance to respond.
And if he wasn’t handling a situation exactly the way I would handle it (which is perfect every time, of course!), then I had to learn to keep my mouth shut. If I had genuine, valid concerns about his method/approach, I would talk to him about it calmly (not accusingly) behind closed doors.
When kids would come to me with significant questions or disputes, I’d often respond by saying something like, “That’s something I need to talk to your dad about first. Then we’ll give you an answer.”
2. Encourage him to have one-on-one time with the kids. I spent and spend so much time with the kids. Taking them to school and activities. My husband did and does, too, but I encourage him to take even more of these opportunities.
Right now, my daughter is learning to drive. My husband is taking advantage of this time with our daughter. He’ll take her out for a “lesson” and will sometimes pair it with dinner or going out for a snack. It’s these everyday, shared experiences that build closeness.
3. Pray that God would build those relationships. I’m so glad that God has the power to “restore the years the locusts have eaten.” He can repair, restore and create bonds, even if we have made big mistakes along the way. I’ve seen Him do this in ways that I can’t, over and over again. As we being encouraging that relationship, the Holy Spirit works through our efforts. We just have to take the first step. It does get easier and more natural each time we do it.
We are so capable and important in our kids lives, moms. They need us.
But they need Dad, too.
And sometimes we just have to step back a little to encourage them to get closer.