Transformation of being a father

Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) continues with APtly Said’s celebration of fathers through the theme of “Fathers’ Inspiring Reflections,” June 19-21. We value and honor you, Dads, for all your love, dedication, and involvement in your children’s lives — you inspire us!

Father Daughter HandSometimes I start thinking about the man I used to be before having kids, and I always get so amazed at how much I have changed during this short period of time.

Considering that I am 33 years old, being a father for 3 years means that I have much more non-father time of life experience. However, I can tell with certainty that these last 3 years have been the most transformative years of my life.

When my first son arrived to this world, I didn’t know much about fatherhood — just like most other fresh fathers. Fatherhood invited me to become aware of my own sensitivity — and I said yes to it. I jumped into this giant pool of uncertainties called fatherhood, and while I was swimming there, I got in touch with my own sensitivity.

I was observing my child’s needs and feelings, and I started responding to them — which allowed me to build a loving bond with my son. In the meantime, I was learning so much about myself and my own feelings. I stopped hiding them and started exploring them, listening to myself and getting to explore and know a whole new person.

It didn’t stop there!

I realized this transformation was also affecting my relationships with other people, mainly because I was finally seeing their feelings as well. I have grown to understand what empathy is and that completely changed how I relate to my partner, friends, family, and everybody around me.

A couple years later, my second son was born — just to remind me that love isn’t something you split, but something that gets multiplied. It’s a reminder that one of the things I love the most about being a father is how such small and young beings can teach you the most valuable lessons about life.

So, if you ask me what being a father means to me, I would say it’s jumping into a life experience that will transform you for the better — into a more sensible human being.

Thiago Queiroz, father of 2 boys and an API Leader for API Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, offers his support for parents with his YouTube videos about Attachment Parenting, including positive discipline, Nonviolent Communication, and fatherhood.

In this video, Thiago discusses temper tantrums and how parents help their children deal with strong emotions.

 

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/Adrian,Canada

I am a present father

thiago queiroz 1Attachment Parenting (AP) helps me every day to be a present father.

I am the father of 2 little boys: Dante, almost 3, and Gael, a 6-month-old baby. Right after my first son was born, I discovered Attachment Parenting. It made so much sense to me that it inspired me to not only become an API Leader and create an API Support Group here in Brazil — API Rio — but also to write and speak about Attachment Parenting.

Personally, the greatest thing about Attachment Parenting is that it helped me to find my way in my own parenthood. AP helped to show me how I could be the father I wanted to be. AP guided me to where I could find my place as an active and conscious father — an attached father.

I obviously can’t give birth or breastfeed, but I can foster the secure attachment I want to build with my sons through a whole lot of other actions. I can listen to my child’s cry and take his needs seriously, especially because a baby cries not only because he is hungry but also scared, too cold, too hot, tired, hurting or anything else. I can also carry my son in slings and sleep next to him at night.

Everything I learn about Attachment Parenting helps me understand my role as an involved father, not a mere helper. Being a father is way beyond just performing tasks and helping out. It is all about caregiving.

As kids grow, discipline starts taking a major place in our daily lives. I could do like other men and delegate the responsibility to the mothers and other caregivers, but Attachment Parenting shows me how I could take responsibility through positive discipline instead. I participate in understanding how the behavior of my kids reflect their needs and feelings. I get to genuinely help my older son get through frustration and temper tantrums. I get to be an empathic human being.

This is why I am so grateful to Attachment Parenting: It helps me to assume my real role and responsibilities as a father.

This Father’s Day: Dads, talk about being a father

Happy Father’s Day!

thiago queiroz 1Today we celebrate you, Dads, for your role and involvement in your children’s lives. This is your holiday, when you can truly relish in the profound impact you make in your child’s life. It is amazing the difference a father can make for a child: from the moment a baby is conceived, through Dad’s presence from birth through today and beyond, well into the years – and decades – to come, as the children grow into teens and move out on their own, becoming adults with perhaps little ones of their own.

Dads, your secure attachment with each of your children can give them so much. It’s crucial that dads take as much time as possible to be with their families and to be equal partners in raising their sons and daughters throughout childhood.

But let’s be honest: Our culture is not always so friendly toward fatherhood. Sure, this time of the year, there is a lot of media — from blog posts and news articles like The New York Times“Tapping Your Inner Wolf” to TV commercials — about the appreciation of fathers, but how much do we hear about the importance of Dad the rest of the year?

Th312745_10150333377215669_1578995777_n (2)ere’s no doubt that the cultural attitude toward attached fathers is changing. I interviewed longtime Mothering editor and author Peggy O’Mara, who recalled how much more nurturing fathers are today compared to the 1970s when she was raising her children. Today, fathers are encouraged to attend prenatal appointments, expected to be in the hospital delivery room during childbirth and have an active role in caring for the newborn, including taking paternity leave provided and protected by law. In some countries, like Sweden, as illustrated in the breastfeeding documentary The Milky Way, whose producers spoke at API’s 20th Anniversary conference last year, it is culture that discourages dads from choosing to return to work quickly after a baby’s birth. And now, even in the United States, employers are increasingly offering fathers paid parental leave when a baby is born.

joe mackie and daughterBut for all the cultural change that has occurred in promoting more father involvement with their newborns — which is wonderful! — this encouragement markedly diminishes as the infant ages. In time, the mother is who is expected in our culture to take the central role in raising the children, despite the mother’s and child’s continued need for an attached father in an equally central parenting role.

This year we gave our fathers some really cool custom Dad hats that they loved. My husband got a Star Wars one, because he has been obsessed with the new movies.

Here’s reality: Although our culture doesn’t always recognize it, fathers are striving to be part of that central role throughout their child’s life. They want to be attached and involved. We just don’t hear a lot about it in the media, except of course around Father’s Day.

So, Dads, this Father’s Day: Talk about being a father. Talk about what it means to you to be attached to your children, to be involved in their lives, to be present in their moments. Dads, talk about Attachment Parenting (AP) and why it matters to you, as a father, to raise your children with a secure attachment.

Attachment Parenting International (API) has many dads who volunteer to share their stories and support other dads, such as API Advisory Board members Dr. Bill Sears of San Clemente, California, USA, and Sir Richard Bowlby of the UK; Torsten Klaus, also of the UK; API Leader Thiago Quieroz of Rio, Brazil; Jim Parker of Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Dave Taylor of Denver, Colorado, USA; and John Brooks of Marin County, California, USA.

But there are many more fathers who are just as strong of AP advocates in their everyday lives by choosing to not be shy about talking about Attachment Parenting, to their friends and family, coworkers, and other fathers at the park, grocery store, kid’s ball game, church or school. API Leaders Alexis Schrader of Albany, California, USA, and Samantha Gray (also API’s Executive Director) of Bluff City, Tennessee, USA, have both shared about their husbands’ behind-the-scenes AP advocacy, on the job and among friends. These dads have a great influence on other fathers in their communities.

feature photo - Kristen Brundige - Austin TXIt’s time for AP dads to start talking about fatherhood. Start advocating for your role in the family. Write a blog post for APtly Said. If you’re not a blogger, no problem: There are many ways to volunteer with API. Submit photos of you with your family for use in API’s publications to help us better show that the world of Attachment Parenting is as much about Dad’s relationship with the kids as Mom. Even showing up at your local API Support Group meetings can make a huge amount of difference in encouraging other fathers to get involved. The majority of parents who attend API Support Group meetings are mothers. Dads, we know you’re out there — other dads need to know you’re there, too.

familyEvery effort counts. Every positive comment made by a father matters, whether in passing or by offering active support to another dad friend. Every blog post about AP fathering makes a difference. Every minute a dad spends advocating for Attachment Parenting – whether casually or in a bold way, like NBA player Steph Curry bringing his daughter to his press conference – means more acknowledgement of the importance of attached, involved fatherhood.

Every action on your part – big or small, publicly or behind-the-scenes – helps continue to change the face of parenting in our culture, to identify fathers more and more as legitimate parenting partners, because you already have that role in your family and you should be recognized for it in our culture!

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A nod to my husband

WP_20150101_08_34_11_Pro (2)Often times it seems — at least to me — that dads don’t get a lot of recognition, especially when their kids are babies. So in honor of my husband’s milestone birthday this month, I thought I’d take a moment to tell the world why he is so invaluable to my children and me:

To my children, he’s their whole world.

He’s their confidante, their tickle monster, their tent builder.

He’s the one they watch for out the window, unable to contain their excitement that he’s home from work.

He’s the strongest role model they could have, providing a constant example of the type of person we should all strive to be.

In his arms, they can find solace unlike any other.

Because of him, they will have a childhood filled with snowball fights and dance parties, board games and movie nights. But more importantly, they will have a childhood filled with unconditional love and security, a childhood that teaches them that all their dreams can become realities.

To me, he’s my best friend.

He’s the one who always takes care of me after I’ve spent the day taking care of the kids.

He’s the one who can make me laugh — really laugh — no matter what.

He provides constant support and encouragement in everything I do, whether it’s Attachment Parenting or pursuing writing.

He’s the provider that gives me the privilege of staying home with our children.

He’s my partner, in life and in love, as we raise our family.

Reflections of AP fatherhood

By Jim Parker

Mr Parker and LaylaFirst, let me give you a little background on how I was raised, so you will have some idea why I believe Attachment Parenting (AP) has spared my family from another generation of physical and verbal abuse.

It gives me pause to consider the upbringing of this Texas latchkey kid, who was thrust into daily chaos with an absent, alcoholic father, a workaholic mother and an older, controlling sister. Are you getting the picture?

Though my mom was the primary caregiver, she had to work long hours to compensate for my father spending our rent and food money on his bad habits. She was exhausted most of the time, and it seemed my sister and I were more of an inconvenience to her at the end of the day.

In spite of all that, we must have had enough nurturing to instill a sense of right from wrong and to feel compassion for others. Fortunately, neither my sister nor I became career criminals.

Mom was raised with a razor strap and perpetuated her parenting model with us. Somewhere along the way, my sister reluctantly had to take over as primary caregiver. She was only 17 months older than I was and was usually angry and abusive to her little brother, who constantly sought love, attention and validation. As we grew to school age, she ignored me at school and told me she would deny it if I told anyone she was my sister.

That sounds humorous and fairly typical to most of you who have brothers or sisters, but to me it was a kick in the stomach. Had I had some stability at home–with someone–it may not have been so hurtful, but it was just another abandonment issue for me to deal with.

I was a performing musician when I met and fell in love with Lysa, who would eventually co-found Attachment Parenting International (API) with Barbara Nicholson, who together coauthored Attached at the Heart.

Our first son, Jesse, was about 2 years old when I began traveling on the road for long periods of time. He loved coming to the big bus to see where Daddy slept and to say goodbye.

One night, the band was in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, when I called home to say hello. When I told him I was bringing him a surprise, he tearfully exclaimed, “I don’t want a surprise. I want you!” That was the moment when I truly understood the purpose of Attachment Parenting.

Since I had had little interaction with my own father, I was taken aback by his need for me, having blocked the need for my own father out of necessity. It was at that moment when everything in the universe was altered that allowed me to be the father I never had.

Within a year, I was a full-time real estate agent with a good opportunity to start being a father who could be home every day. As the children grew older, I showed property during the day and made it a point to be there when the boys came home from school. I didn’t want them to feel the emptiness that I had experienced, with no one to talk to about their exciting moments of the day.

My propensities to spank and verbally abuse were very strong due to my upbringing. It was a struggle to stop the urge to lash out as we had done in my family. Even today, as an adult, the slightest irritation can sometimes thrust me into “fight or flight” because of how I was treated by my family when I was an innocent, needy child.

I realized what terrible effects this had on me as a child. I understood that verbal and physical abuse is not the way to make a positive impression on a tender psyche. Yet only through my loving wife’s persistence, learning from her work with API and many years of teaching special education, have I been able to work through some of my issues to be a more loving, nurturing father.

I have to admit, I was a little resistant to Attachment Parenting at first, especially when it came to sharing our bed. However, I trusted my wife’s instincts and surrendered. Now I wouldn’t trade a thing for all the wonderful memories we have of our children sleeping with us.

I have seen the results of Attachment Parenting first hand. Attachment Parenting has been critically important in helping me develop strong emotional bonds with my sons. Because of those strong bonds, I learned a more empathic way of disciplining that doesn’t require yelling or hitting.

jim parker and familyAttachment Parenting has made a profound, positive change in me as a father and a person.

It hurts me to watch how some of my clients interact with their children. I try to model respectful behavior to all children, especially those who receive little respect from their parents. I also make a point of talking about Attachment Parenting every chance I get. In some small way, I know I’m making a difference.

The Challenges of AP Fathering

Let me start off telling a little bit about myself and my family. My name is Thiago, I live in Brazil, and I have a beautiful one-year-old toddler, Dante. I am also currently an API Leader Applicant, preparing myself to start the first API support group in Brazil: API Rio.

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Dante was born at a planned home birth, which was a totally life-changing experience both for myself and my wife. I would never believe I could become a completely different person, a father.

Getting there was not that simple. The obstetrics situation in Brazil is quite unfortunate for the birth experience. In 2010, 52% of the babies were born through C-section and accounting for the private health care system, that number goes beyond 80%. Women in Brazil still need to fight to get the respectful birth they want for themselves and because of that, we studied and prepared ourselves very much for the birth until we were able to come to the best option for everybody.

However, as soon as he was born, I really did not have a clue what to do afterwards. I mean, we applied so much effort on ensuring a loving and respectful birth for our baby. So what now? We did not know how to care for him lovingly and respectfully after he was born.

I remember that we had bought a crib for our son, but we have never used it. Since the first day, we slept with our son in our bed, not because we read something or we heard somebody, but because it felt right for us. It was the practical decision, given the fact that my wife was breastfeeding on demand, but soon enough we realized it was more than just a practical decision. It was an enjoyable experience and good for the whole family, for our circumstances.  This is how Attachment Parenting entered my life and the crib became a cloth deposit.

Now that you know me a little better, I would like to talk about the challenges of being an attached dad. Overall, raising a child with respect, empathy and compassion is not one of the easiest things to do. Creating strong and secure attachment with our children is something that requires will, but something that also offers a lot of joy in the process.

I do not mean being an attached father is different or harder than being an attached mother, but there are different types of challenges involved. For starters, we fathers, have a lot of work to do in order to undo the (not so good) history of how the fathers used to parent in past generations. We must struggle to put away that image of fathers who simply were food providers and authoritarian figures. For some men, this is particularly harder, considering the type of education they received and how deep this concept is built within each one of them.

Additionally, we do not have (what I like to say) the birthing and breastfeeding superpowers. Nature, through the nurturing hormones, gives a hand to mothers in creating secure attachments with their babies. For instance, a mother who has a natural birth experience and breastfeeds has a nature’s boost in her attachment with her baby. I am not saying that it is a piece of cake for mothers to become attached to their babies, but at least nature gives them a little hand. Mother and baby are naturally bonded; they have such a deep and strong connection that is almost visible to the naked eye.

The attachment between father and son, though, is something that takes time. It requires us to be aware and present, being a part of that new life. Through consistent and loving care, we can build a strong attachment with our babies that will last a lifetime. But again, it requires a lot of dedication that can be easily distracted if we do not remain focused.

We cannot give birth and we cannot breastfeed. So what is left for us to do? Well, fathers have two paths to choose here:

1- We can assume that, since there is nothing to do, it is better to stay off the path and help with some basic tasks, like washing the dishes, changing diapers and stuff like that. After all, we do not have breasts anyway, right?

2- Or we can actually join the whole experience and help our attachment with our children flourish. We can stay close and see these events as a blessing; we can live our parenting to the fullest.

I have chosen the second path. I got my “dad badge” and I want to use it. I did not get a “mother’s helper badge,” so I need to be a father now. It has some additional challenges, because I need to be there, I need to focus myself on parenting and, most of all, I need to grow that sensitivity that men were culturally trained to forget since when they were very young.

Check back with us next week to find out how Thiago works to overcome the challenges faced by AP dads!

Thiago Queiroz is an attached father who found AP after his son was born at home. Currently, he is an API Leader Applicant seeking to start an API support group in Rio, Brazil.

The Portuguese translation of Part 1 can be found here.

 

Yep, I Do the Cooking, the Washing, the Childcare and I am a Man. {Part II}

API is pleased to recognize this blog post for its contribution to AP and to share it with you, our readers. API does not review other content on the author’s blog or website and takes no responsibility for how that information may or may not align with API’s ethos or API’s Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting. We thank you for remaining supportive and encouraging when interacting with the author and with other readers, whether or not the ideas presented work for your family.

Last week, Torsten gave us a peek into the world of the stay-at-home Attachment Father. His perspective, continued…

 

T Klaus and sonAt the same time I “teach” my children that boys can clean up their mess too, whether it’s the loo or their plate. Or I involve them in cleaning. Yesterday my sons and I had our weekly cleaning party. We took turns in vacuuming, washing up and tidying the house. After the job was done, we sat on the sofa and read a book. So, it turned out to be fun. We just made an effort not to see it as horrible task.

So yes, I would say spending the last one and half years as a full-time dad has been extremely rewarding and the changes I and others can see in me are only of a positive nature.

However, there were times where I did ask myself whether I just had to live with the fact that my “colleagues” were now, almost exclusively women. Don’t get me wrong, I have made many wonderful female friends, but I also did miss male company here and there, especially just sharing my experiences with someone who is in the same boat as me.

Being out and about with my kids on a weekday I still get “the looks”: a mixture of pity and suspicion when dealing with the daily toddler struggles in a public domain or entering a playgroup. So maybe, this is the reason why, why there are not as many men as full time parent? Yes, who would want this to happen to them? The more confident of men don’t blink an eyelid, while others just feel completely out of their comfort zone.

So, more than two years later I’m still a happy stay-at-home dad. And actually we went a step further. My wife and I both work from home now, so that no one has to miss out: neither on the children, nor on the washing up.  This has become more enjoyable for both of us.

I think to achieve a harmonious home life both partners need to be involved and active in parenting. I find humans are not made for JUST one or the other. There are so many passions, wishes, dreams inside us. So many different things we can and want to do, that just choosing one path makes most of us dissatisfied.

So, equal parenting it is for us and this works best for us AND our children.

 
t klausTorsten is a stay-at-home dad, embracing all the beautiful and difficult things about it. He believes that fathers and men of today want to explore and express their feelings, expectations, worries and emotions. In his blog, Dads Talk, he talks about fatherhood and about the way dads of the 21st century could live a happy, content and relaxed life. He’s a Parenting Coach and he runs groups, workshops and support sessions for Dads and Grandads. And yes, whenever there’s time left he also teaches parents Baby Massage.

When One Parent is Away (A Lot)

Sometimes I think of our family as an airplane and my husband and I the co-pilots. We are responsible for our precious passengers, our children, and we do our best to fly over beautiful vistas, look out for bad weather and provide decent meals. We love flying our plane and help each other navigate, give each other time to rest when needed and hold hands when things get bumpy.

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But as life would have it, my co-pilot has a job that takes him away from our family quite often. And so I have spent many hours in the cockpit of our family plane alone. I have though a lot about what to call this time when I am parenting without my husband. I have decided to call it Solo Parenting, as in Solo Flying. I am up there in the pilot seat in charge of all the controls. My passengers are my responsibility, and I am an expert at simultaneously looking for bad weather ahead, keeping the plane steady, all while preparing some tasty meals.

But the seat next to me is empty. What helps me about this metaphor is that although I am parenting by myself while my husband is away, I always feel his place in our family. I can see the empty co-pilot seat next to me, so to speak. We miss him, and although I can run the plane alone, it is so much more fun and less tiring to do as a team.

My children have always lived in a family where their mother is ever-present and their father is not. Because they do not have both parents available every day, we have worked hard to make the rest of their lives feel consistent and reliable. Little things add up to life feeling safe and predictable: songs to brush teeth by, games for getting on shoes, routines at night for snuggles and singing. Time for play and time for rest. Rhythms of a day and a week. Pancakes every Sunday morning, homework after dinner each night.

We don’t like it when Daddy is away, but we are used to it. Sometimes we need to say how hard it is and how much we miss him, while other times saying it out loud makes it worse. My job is to give my children the opportunity, but not the requirement, to express their feelings. They come up while drawing together, making up silly songs in the car, and at bedtime when thoughts from the day are shared.

We stay in touch as much as we can with modern technology. I tell them when I am sending Daddy messages and photos. They know their co-pilots are still a team even when Daddy’s seat is empty. But I’ve noticed that my children want to hear about Daddy more than to talk to him directly. I think it is because talking to him on the phone is not close enough. They want to sit on his lap and talk. They want to be chased and snuggled. The voice on the phone is a reminder that he is far away. So we don’t insist that they talk to him on the phone. Seeing him on a screen is easier, and they like to have him show the view from his hotel room. But these are short interactions, rarely a time for long conversations.

Transitions are tricky, and we have developed some ways to smooth the hellos and goodbyes. My husband always asks for help packing, and often our children sneak little love notes in when he is not looking. As he leaves, he always gives a round of hugs and then says, “Be good!” We answer, “You too!” and that makes us laugh.

Later in the day we check the map and talk about where Daddy is headed and what route he will take to get there. We find the spot he will be and trace back and forth from us to him. We talk about holding him in our hearts. Sometimes we get out the globe and talk about whether it will be dark for him when it is light for us and vice versa. This orienting helps make his absence concrete; he is not just gone, he is some place specific in the world, and we can see it on a map.

When he gets home, there are more hugs, and then he takes out postcards from whatever city he has visited. Each child gets a postcard, and we all sit together looking at them and listening to stories about my husband’s trip. The postcards go in a big basket to be looked at again and again, and eventually many are put up on the wall. This simple routine has become very powerful for reconnecting our family. It gives us a focus at the moment when emotions are high and everyone is tired. It gives us a reason to sit together and a chance to begin to tell the stories of our time apart.

Making room for my co-pilot to join me as a co-parent after an absence takes mindfulness on my part. I get used to doing everything, and so I have to remind myself to let him step in for the little things like helping wash hands, putting on shoes, going out to get the mail and peeling an apple.

We have a lot of family hugs in the days after he returns. We try to spend a day doing nothing in particular, giving us time to rest, play and be together with no agenda or time pressure. And we go on adventures together to celebrate our togetherness. But best of all, we continue the day in and day out rhythm of our lives, co-pilots holding hands and passengers dancing in the aisles, waiting for their next in-flight meal.

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