12 Great Moments in Parenting From 2018

Whether bonding over shared interests, coping with loss, or teaching valuable lessons, these dads all had moments to celebrate this year.

Most of the time, it’s hard to tell if you’re doing a good job as a parent. You do the best you can and you hope for the best. Of course, there are also times when you know you screwed up, and hopefully learn from it, and the times you know you did well, and hopefully celebrate it. Great Moments in Parenting is a series that focuses on the latter. This year, it featured stories from a dozen dads who faced parenting hurdles and found unique ways to overcome them.

Learning Constructive Coaching

I gave him the usual dad speech, I think, about being the best he could. “Son, the reason I am so hard on you is because I want you to be your best and because I love you so much.” The response I got changed everything. My 9-year-old son said, “Dad, that doesn’t make sense. If you love me so much, more than anyone, why do you treat me the worst?”

I was speechless. He was right. He was absolutely right. From that day forward, my mindset changed. I’ve stopped becoming overly-critical with my son. I still “coach” him, but I try to be more constructive. I pump him up with positivity. I let him know that mistakes are okay, and that he will continue to improve as long as he learns from them.

Bonding via a YouTube Channel

It’s funny to think that something like this – YouTube – never existed until a relatively short time ago, but now it’s given me a great way to bond with my son. I’ve really been able to break through and engage with him in something that he loves to do. We share a sense of humor now, and it’s even helped his confidence. He used to be kind of shy, but now I see him speaking more freely and confidently in public and social situations. It’s really been a great bonding experience for both of us.

Sharing a Love of Comic Books

With every flip of the page, you could see the amazement in my son’s eyes. The colors. The motion. The struggle of good versus evil. They all resonated with him on such a basic, visceral level. I would point to pictures of the Webslinger leaping over giant cityscapes and ask him “Who’s that?” If I concentrate real hard, I can still hear his voice, in awe, saying, “Spider-Man.”

It was the first time that I shared something with my little boy that I, too, was extremely passionate about. And it’s been our “thing” ever since.

Realizing My Son Is Going to Be a Good Man

It made me feel so good as a father, because it showed me I’d told him the right things while he was growing up. How to treat people. How to treat yourself. But, more importantly, it felt like assurance that, through all those years, I’d provided a good example for him to follow. His reaction to my neighbor’s gift was just so … automatic … that I could tell he wasn’t just doing it to impress me. He was doing it because he believed it was the truly right thing to do.

Finding a Shared Passion

A few days later, a big pickup truck pulled into our driveway, and the guy helped me unload the new machine and set it up in the garage. When my son got home from school, I told him I had a surprise for him, and took him out into the garage. You should’ve seen his face. It was just like the bowling alley. Mine probably lit up, too – I mean, it’s pretty cool having a pinball machine in the garage. He let out a gigantic ‘Wow!’, ran over, and we started to play. It was perfect.

We play all the time now – he’s actually gotten pretty good. He’s got the high score on the machine in the garage, and is working his way up on the one at the bowling alley. It’s a cool thing — and so rare — to be able to bond with my son over something I remember loving as a kid.

Hearing About My Son's Act of Kindness

But hearing my neighbor tell me about this kindness my son displayed? I was proud. I know my mother would be happy. I know my wife and I are happy. It comes down to this: I want my kid to be smart. I want him to be successful. But most of all? I want him to be kind to others especially when others are not. That’s what he did. He did it because his mother and I taught him that. But he did it also because he’s a good kid. To me, that was a great moment, that’s for sure.

Passing on a Love of Baseball Cards

Secretly, I would play this game where I’d open a bunch of packs without him and pull out all the good cards — you know, the ones with the autographs and the ones of up-and-coming rookies that everyone was getting excited about. Then, I’d take those good cards and I’d seal them all together into a ‘new’ pack. That’s the one I’d let Ben open. I think that is the reason why he ended up getting hooked on baseball cards.

Watching him open those trick packs and see how excited he’d get over those autographs — those are some of the best memories that I’ve had with him. But I don’t think I ever told him that.

Teaching Lessons With Nudie Mags

After a few minutes, I wasn’t pissed or embarrassed anymore. So, I used the situation to talk to him about women. But I told him that women should be respected, and that some women – a lot of women – find stuff like those magazines disrespectful. We also talked about beauty standards, a little bit about pornography, and stuff like that. I don’t know how much of it sank in – I think he was just glad he wasn’t in trouble anymore. But, I like to think I was able to turn what could’ve been an awkward situation into something a little less awkward, and possibly teachable.

Losing 100 Pounds to Keep Up With My Son

One of the coolest things about my transformation is that he became my biggest cheerleader along the way. I can’t even describe the high I got when he would say stuff like, ‘Daddy! You look so different!’ or ‘I’m proud of you, Daddy!’ I hesitate to say I became an inspiration to him – or anyone – but maybe one day, when he’s older, if he’s ever in a situation that’s troublesome, he’ll look back and see the work I put in, the reason why, and decide to make a positive change in his life. I hope so.”

Making the Most of Getting Caught in the Act

Did I scar him? I hope not. I intended to start a conversation and we had the beginnings of one that he seemed receptive too. It felt like a great parenting moment to me because I went in there with a plan to be truthful and open I was. At least I think I was? Who knows. Does anyone?

Using Action Figures to Teach Social Skills

So we’d play with his action figures and during the course of, say, a raid of the opposing fortress or space station, I would include certain phrases that might sound mean and then apologize through them, one action figure to the other. I’d then have the one who was offended be energized again after the incident, or shrug off the comment. And we’d have conversations this way about mean comments and the best ways to react to them. There we’d be, playing with aliens or robots and role-playing schoolyard conversations.

Stopping My Son's Bullying Through Conversation

Bullying hasn’t been a problem for my son since the initial conversation. In fact, sometimes he tells me that he’s able to deescalate situations thanks to his ability to talk circles around his peers. They come to him for help with schoolwork because he always ‘sounds so smart.’ I’m cool with that — very cool with that, actually.

These days, the world has enough bullies, and not enough people who can talk meaningfully. I hope our conversation will be one of the first of many. Not necessarily about bad behavior, but about his feelings, fears, and abilities. Those are the conversations every father loves to be a part of, especially with a kid who can talk the way my son does.

Getting to the Potty in the Nick of Time

Our portable potty, however, was in the car. I’m maybe 20 yards from it at this point. I move my packages to one arm, gently scoop up my son, and we rush over there. Somehow, I’m able to press the unlock button on my keyfob from the inside of my pocket while hustling with him and the packages and, in one fell swoop, I set him down, swing open the door, grab the portable potty, stand it upright, and just in the nick of time, he sits on it and is able to do his business. He was excited to be able to do it.

Learning You Can Be a Single Parent

She fell asleep for a little while mid-flight but then we hit a little turbulence. At this point, I’m anxious, I’m nervous. She wakes and starts crying immediately because, of course she does. But I don’t want my little girl to be scared. I try everything. I rock her. I distract her. I offer her food. She’s just having a helluva time. I’m getting nervous, too. But I think of my wife and how she would’ve handled it. And my wife used to sing these silly songs to her. I don’t remember the name. I don’t think she named them. I’d only sung them a couple times since she’d passed. So I start singing one of them quietly into my daughter’s ear and rocking her a bit and she calms down. She could’ve easily tired herself out. But my daughter actually laughs when I get to one of the funny voices in this song.