With five kids of my own, I’m no rookie dad. But…
I AM a rookie dad when it comes to raising a teenager!
And last week, I had one of those “Dad Fail” moments with my 13-year-old son. I’ll share with you what happened so you can learn from my mistake.
As you may recall, last week was blistering hot. And on the hottest day of the week, in the middle of the day at 100 degrees, it came time to harvest our hay. (What were we thinking?!?)
Now, this process requires several guys grabbing 50-60 pound square bales off the back of a hay baler as it’s being pulled behind a tractor, and stacking them 7 rows high, all while trying to keep your balance on a moving hay wagon in sweltering heat.
My son was really looking forward to helping out, (what was he thinking?!?), but… I messed up.
Instead of inviting my son to jump up on the wagon with us as we got started, myself and a friend of mine jumped on and headed off into the pasture.
I had IGNORED my son!
And by ignoring him, I communicated a mouthful to him:
“Dad doesn’t think you have what it takes to help out with this.”
“You’re not man enough.”
“Dad doesn’t think highly of you.”
“Dad rejects you.”
Ouch. Nothing hurts worse than for a teenage son to feel that way from his dad, the one person divinely given as his role model to learn masculinity during this transition stage of his life.
And so, my son drove back to the house on his four-wheeler, dejected and angry at his dad and spewing his emotions all over the rest of the family.
It wasn’t until we had the first hay wagon full that my wife informed me of what happened. Wives are good at that you know! 🙂
I was totally oblivious. (Way to go, Mr. Family Dad!)
BUT… fortunately, we still had a second hay wagon to fill up. And this time, I told my son, “Can you help us on this one? We could really use your help.”
I was graciously given a second chance.
It turned out to be a long grueling day in the heat, but when it was all said and done, I think my son will remember this “rite of passage” time with his dad.
If you have a teenage son, or soon to be, look for those opportunities where he can flex his muscles, get dirty, and accomplish something “manly.” Better yet, have him do it alongside you. Do an outdoor project, work on a vehicle together, tackle something out in nature, do something physically challenging.
They are great father/son bonding experiences, your son will remember those times with his dad, and most importantly, you are communicating your acceptance and respect for him.
Joey Watkins is the father of 3 children (with the fourth one on the way)! He and his wife Judy live in Atlanta, GA. As founder of FamilyDads.com, Joey’s vision is to help fathers of all ages discover their “father power,” which is the level of influence, or importance they have in the lives and destinies of their children, and to effectively lead, love, serve, and bless their family.