Grit, I’m told, is one of the secrets of success. It means doing the hard thing if it is the right thing.  It also means doing the scary thing, and I’ve found a lot about being a dad is actually quite scary.

I was genuinely scared to get involved with my kids when they were babies. I felt I was not as well equipped as my wife for handling small children. There was no pelvic shelf on my hip for parking an infant on while I was walking around. There was no built in lunch bar. When my wife sang lullabies, they were soft and sweet; when I sang, it was like someone had brought a concrete mixer into the bedroom.

I realised I was grumpier, hairier, scarier, and not nearly as nice to snuggle in to, and I also seemed to lack some of the parenting skills that my wife just seemed to have so naturally. I am not the only man to feel that. I have seen engineer mates struggling to change a nappy,  a lawyer trying to reason with a grizzly toddler and airline pilots unable to land a spoonful of goo into an infant’s mouth. (That’s actually a lie – I don’t know any pilots but I thought it made a nice mental image).

Men do not come with the parental hardware or the software, and so we get scared. Some men get the idea they should stand-back and leave child-rearing to the experts, that is, women. They step back when their kids are babies, and unfortunately they stay back.  Fortunately, more and more men now challenge that fear, engage grit-mode and push on into being an engaged dad. The big surprise: most of them love it, the kids love it and their partners are grateful that you want to be a team-player.

So step forward and do the scary stuff. If you have a baby, learn to handle her. Babies are scary but relatively rugged – not as tough as a rugby ball, but not as fragile as a Flake bar. Handled with reasonable care they can last a lifetime.

Do the scary stuff. Do parent-help at kindy. You might be the only man there but castrations by kindy teachers are still rare.

Do the scary stuff. Encourage your partner to take a holiday while you look after the kids.

Do the scary stuff. Hold the line with discipline and chores even though you really want to just give in.

Do the scary stuff. Tell your teenager about real sex and how Hollywood doesn’t know a thing about it.

Do the scary stuff. Apologise when a being a man means you stuff up.

Your grit will rub off on your kids. That actually sounds quite abrasive and uncomfortable but what I mean is that your children will learn from your example to bravely do the hard thing if it is the right thing to do. In their studies, sport and careers, nothing will serve them better than having some grit in their character to get them through. And, when they become parents themselves, isn’t it nice that they will have enough grit that when your grandchild fills her nappy, you can pass her back to your son and not have to do it yourself.

John

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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