by Brains and Things
June 20th is Father’s Day, and for me that means celebrating my two older brothers who are both dads to their own kids, and also a little bit like dads to me too. My brothers are part of a new generation of dads who take an active role in their children’s lives. Sam and Josh take as much of an interest in their kids’ lives as they do in their jobs, hobbies, or anything else they may care deeply about.
My brothers often share parenting moments with me — partially, I think, because I work at First 5 LA, but mostly because I am their sister and they want to show off how well they are doing.Whatever the reason, I welcome their stories with open arms. I’ll take any opportunity I get in order to gain insight into what I like to call their “new American dad” ways.
Let’s start with Josh, my eldest brother. He is a scientist and father to two beautiful girls, now ages 7 and 10. Since my nieces were both born, Josh and my sister-in-law have taken an educational approach to parenting. Josh has shared his love of science with the girls at every turn, even before they were old enough to talk. My nieces had periodic table placemats, squids and spiders included in with stuffed bears and bunnies, and life sized maps on bedroom walls.
So far, this “learning-as-part-of-everyday-life” approach has paid off. His girls can talk as easily about Hannah Montana as they can about the elements in the sun, and are always asking inquisitive questions, which delights Josh to no end. For example, just the other day he sent me an e-mail about a “tucking-in” conversation he had with my younger niece:
“Dad, if the air in the sky is colder than air by the ground, and hot air rises, why doesn’t the sky get hot?” she asked.
He shared with me his response, which pretty much encapsulates his passion for dad-hood:
“Oh, my, do I ever live for these questions! We talked about it a little, and I explained some basics, and she felt pretty satisfied. I asked her why she had this question, and she said she thought of it in school and asked it of her teacher, who replied, “It just is that way.” She thought this wasn’t satisfactory, so she asked me tonight. It made me really happy!!”
Now we get to Sam, my other brother who is in a science-related field as well and has a son who is almost 4-years-old. While in many ways his approach to parenting is not too different than my eldest brother — my nephew’s favorite stuffed animal is a sloth he calls “sloth-y” — my nephew has a toddler sized obsession with anything fire truck or fireman related. This has somewhat usurped my brother’s desire to share his love of bikes or music, but Sam does not let this faze him as a dad.
Following my nephew’s lead, Sam takes him to the local fire station whenever he asks, which is so frequent that the firemen know him by name. Play time often centers on pretending to put out fires or washing “the fire truck,” which is my brother’s Honda CRV. During his imaginary play, my nephew goes by his alter-ego fireman name Chet, which also doesn’t faze Sam, who calls him Chet when he insists to be called so.
Sam believes in supporting my nephew in the things he finds interesting, which I think will serve him well throughout his life.
I should clarify though that neither of my brothers are helicopter parents, overly zealous or overly permissive. Thanks to my brothers’ “new American Dad” ways, both of my nieces and nephew are well socialized, spend plenty of time playing with friends and watching movies. Also, both of my brothers and their wives balance discipline with love, but also inspire their kids to learn about and love what interests them the most.
Also, because these kids are as close to my own as they can get, when I send my brothers their Father’s Day cards, it will be with a hearty thanks for being such great dads to the special little people that call me Auntie. Cheers to the new American dad!