Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fatherly advice from Cape dads

Being a parent, as almost any mom or dad will tell you, is the single most challenging and important job you will ever have. The hours can be grueling, but the joys can be unsurpassed.

So for Father's Day, we sought out some of the brave men who took on that job and asked what advice they would give to other men about to embark on the most critical task of their lives: becoming a great dad.
We found men with toddlers and ones with grandchildren, some with one or two children and one with five. Their advice varies, but much of it centers on a few key principles: Spend time with your children; savor that time; be there for them; and recognize that life is not about you anymore.

And they wouldn't have it any other way.

Chris Guyette of Hyannis, who has a 15-month-old son and 18-year-old daughter

"Be prepared for big changes! You are going to have another life in your house!�

"You will appreciate the little things in life that you used to take for granted, like taking the time to study your child's face and learn their little quirks. You learn more about yourself and how fast life changes at any given moment. Our son gives us something new to look at every day — a Cheshire Cat grin, a new word. Appreciate those little things, and value every minute, because it is all those little moments in life that will lead him or her to the bigger moment in life when they are adults.

"And those little milestones will never repeat, so keep a scrapbook so you can reflect back when your child is

older. Treat older kids and teens with respect, and understand that each child is an individual, and understand those differences — you have to be a chameleon, changing parenting tactics from child to child to suit their personalities, while being fair and equitable between them all."

Bob Johnson of Centerville, who has four grown daughters and two grandchildren

"My kids and family always come first, and I never treat one daughter better than the others. I have always tried to reason with them and explain my decisions, and I think by doing that, we have a very open, talkative relationship. Don't preach to your children, rather talk to them and explain right and wrong.

"Keep them away from drugs, which can destroy their lives.

"My door will always be open to my children, no matter what they have done or what trouble they may be in. I brought them into this world, and it is my responsibility to protect them and provide for them."

n Mark Sundman of Sandwich, who has an 18-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter

"I have always taught my children that the best way to avoid getting into drugs is simply to never try it. If you never try it, you will know for sure that you will never desire it or become addicted to it.

"My children and I are very close, and I think that is because we participate in things together that we like. Many parents go to soccer games or gymnastics but don't actually participate. My son and I love mountain biking together, and my daughter and I are into music (she is in a hand-bell choir, and I am learning the guitar)."

Dan MacDonald of Mashpee, who has two daughters, ages 2 and 3

"Being a father changes your perspective — life is not about you anymore, it is about your kids. You start to enjoy things that you haven't enjoyed in 30 years when you are a dad. You appreciate the small things in life and the absolute joy of watching them grow."

n William Murphy of Brewster, who has four grown sons

"I think that you realize that the world doesn't revolve around you anymore — that your kids come first, and you need to be there for them, no matter what. And you need to realize that your children will follow in your footsteps — they see you as their role model, and so you need to make sure that they are learning from you what you want them to learn. You can inadvertently be a bad role model if you are not careful."

Lee Flanagan of Bourne, who has a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter

"The rewards of being a parent go along with the effort you put in. Be 100 percent involved — don't be a part-time father. Being a dad is not a spectator sport. There is a huge difference between being a 'father' and being a 'dada' — anyone can be a father, but you must really work at it and devote the time and effort to your children to become a dad."

Rob O'Regan of Forestdale, who has a 4-year-old son

"You learn as you go. Being a dad fills up so much empty space that you never even knew was there. I couldn't imagine my life without him. You have to love them unconditionally. Go with the flow, and have rules, but be flexible as well. Do things with them every day, because the time goes by amazingly fast.

"Children make you remember the simple joys of life and how exciting the smallest feat can be."

Steve Tordone of Sagamore Beach, who has a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son

"I am still learning, and it is always a learning process. I never thought I could love someone as much as I do my children. Be patient with your children, and realize that your time is no longer your own."

Justin Bousquet of Mattapoisett, who has a 1-year-old son

"Bringing up another human being is enormous work. Be patient, because when you look back when they get older, you realize it wasn't so hard. You understand more about yourself as a man as well, and you eventually realize that being a dad gets easier as long as you put your children first."

Jeff Allen of West Barnstable, who has an 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter

"Sleep while you can, have great patience, and get a good sense of humor. Your life will change, but don't give up your passions — expose your children to your hobbies and what you enjoy. Take them to restaurants and on vacations from the time they are babies, and they will be easy to go places with and do things with as they grow, because they are used to it."

Bernie Milton of Sandwich, who has three grown children and four grandchildren

"You learn patience and moderation. You may get the urge to be really angry, but you must learn to moderate that anger and understand that they

make mistakes. Treat them like adults, even when they are young."

n Gary Cardeiro of Falmouth, who has a 21-year-old son and four daughters, ages 16, 15 and 13-year-old twins

"Be part of your children's lives — go to sporting events, school functions — it will run you ragged, but you will never regret it."

Steve Pothier of Sandwich, who has two daughters, ages 24 and 21

"Learn patience, and don't be quick to judge them, especially as teens. You need to let them make mistakes, even though it may cause you pain as you watch them learn from their falls."

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