He’s a common specimen, the super-awesome-weekend dad. He’s the one who picks up the kids on Friday night and whisks them off to their favorite pizza joint and allows them to order whatever they want. Saturdays and Sundays are all about exciting fun — amusement parks, concerts and shopping sprees. Bedtime? What bedtime?! Holidays? Forget it. He’s over the top.
I don’t envy weekend parents. As I wrote in this post, I find it much easier and more fulfilling to have my kids more often. I understand the urges of weekend dads to go bananas with the extras, but they sell themselves and their relationship with their kids short when they do.
There are a few reasons the super-awesome-weekend dad (or mom, if she is non-custodial parent) pulls out all the stops. Each reason is deeply flawed. Here is why dads outdo themselves to be super-awesome, why it is wrong, and what to do about it:
1. Guilt. You’re not there for the heavy lifting of parenthood, so you go overboard during the time you are with the kids. Or, you try to make up for the fact that you left/cheated/have a new family/ or just that things ended like they did.
Why it’s wrong: Intention counts. Do something — no matter how nice or awesome — out of guilt, the recipient of the deed gets it, even at an unconscious level.
What to do about it: Is it really impossible to spend more time with your kids? Then decide to stop feeling guilty, and instead focus on really, truly quality time together (see below for more). Do you believe you can and should spend more time with your children? Make steps to make that happen.
2. Competition for memories. One single dad recently told me he worries that his kid will grow up to have fewer memories of him since he spends less time with his father. To combat his fear, this divorced dad plans elaborate weekends of museum visits, kayak rides and weekends in the woods — all in an effort to etch himself into his kid’s memory bank.
Why it’s wrong: Growing up, I hated vacations. Car trips to educational experiences like museums and historical villages were always totally stressful and sp focused on learning and feeling bad about all the money spent that vacation ended up being way, way more lame than staying home. But I have really great memories of waking up each morning to killer smells of scrambled eggs, French toast and the other delicious things my mom cooked each and every morning. Those meals were tasty, but also made me feel cared for and safe. The takeaway: You never know what memories your kid will cherish. Likely, they will savor your acts that come from a genuine place, rather than guilt or fear.
What to do: Be yourself. Make your kid feel safe and loved. Share things and ideas and experiences that you genuinely enjoy and express who you are. Even if means talking current events or puttering around the yard.
3. Competition with the ex. Especially in divorced families where custody and visitation is a point of contention, parents can find themselves competing for kids’ affection and loyalty. The assumption is whichever parent provides the raddest time, wins the kids’ love.
Why it’s wrong: Common — you know you shouldn’t try to out-do your ex. It’s not nice, and it doesn’t work. See above – your kids know who loves them. Feeling safe and cherished are the greatest gifts you can give a child. Glamor and excitement only go so far in any relationship — including family. Plus, your kid will grow up. Hopefully he will see his childhood — and all its nuance and complications — through the eyes of an adult. An adult who will appreciate you for who you are and what you gave.
What to do: Accept that each parent brings to a child a different set of skills and gifts. My ex, for example, is really good at doing the special little things like telling the kids they’re wearing “sweet dream socks” to bed, or teaching himself how to braid hair from a YouTube video to appease Helana’s obsession with “hair-dos.” I’m good at organizing and coordinating and making sure everyone gets a hug when he needs it. It takes a whole village to raise a kid, and your child will win when you embrace your shortcomings and be thankful he has another parent who compliments or supplements your strengths.
4. Laziness. It is easy to entertain kids with entertaining activities, like visits to arcades and FAO Schwartz. Sweating through the daily grind of meals, homework, chores. soccer practice and bedtime inevitably tests a parent’s nerves, incites conflict and requires infinite patience. The less time a parent spends with his kids, the tough this routine can be to establish and follow. Razzle-dazzle parenting can be the path of least resistance.
Why it’s wrong: Kids thrive on routine. It makes them feel safe to know what comes next and what is expected of them. A constant whirlwind of fun is exhausting and confusing.
What to do: As tough as it can be, establish a routine, and stick to it. This might include set mealtimes and bedtimes and chores. But it can also mean tradition — pancakes on Sunday mornings, for example, or making up silly songs at bedtime. Make it your own, but make it regular.
5. Insecurity. Some weekend dads are unsure of their skills as a parent, so they turn to prescribed activities to occupy the family.
Why it’s wrong: Kids get it if you avoid connecting with them. They just want to know you — you as a parent, but as a person, a man.
What to do about it: Talk to them. Tell them stories from when you were a kid, or about your day. Ask about theirs. Give yourself space to screw up. Parenting is both an art and a science, and everyone’s path is rife with error — maybe, especially, single parenting.
- Sometimes it’s best to just getaway for a while.. (nicolepitcher.wordpress.com)
- Bedtime Habits of my Toddler Revisited (kingglutenfree.com)
- Deadbeats & Bitches!! (michelle87x.wordpress.com)
- The incredible and adventurous story of my life (hambookworm.wordpress.com)
- Back to School Routine! (aloveforlearningblog.wordpress.com)
- A Day With Dad (madisonwebbblog.wordpress.com)