Fatherhood is a job being made ever more complex in modern times. This age of information gives us ready access to countless experts and doctors who will try to tell you their way is the only way to raise well-adjusted children poised for success in the future, but as all the papis will tell you once you actually begin to raise your kids, you realize that all goes out the window.
As a Latino dad of two girls, I can tell you there are some additional cultural and societal issues we as papis we will need to put our heads around, and sometimes it shapes how we approach parenting. There are traditions to pass down, but there are also some social norms that one should take a closer look at – like old views of machismo and homophobia, and the way we look at race, gender and class. All these things can be overwhelming, but no one expects you to get it right all the time. For those who want to put some effort into it, here is some advice I wouldn’t mind sharing that I’ve learned along the way about lessons to teach your kids.
History and culture, as a Latino and as an American
It’s important for children to understand where they come from, and where they currently are. My girls are “Domini-Rican/Jersey Girls,” and they are aware that daddy’s family came from Puerto Rico in the 40s, and mommy came with her family in the early 80s. They know about Los Tres Reyes along with Santa Claus, and I read to them folkloric tales from both our islands. More importantly though, I let them understand that they are both Latino AND American, not “half and half.” This country belongs to them, and all the rights and responsibilities that come with it. I warn them that there are those who would try lessen the value of their American-ness because of their Latino-ness, but that their unique experience of being tied to three places – Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and The United States – means they are amazing times 3, and are not ⅓ of any part.
Basic life skills
Honestly, this is the hardest part of being a modern parent for me. With over scheduled children (dance+playdates+homework+family trips, +, +, +) setting a consistent schedule to teach them these skills are usually what gets sacrificed. It’s just easier to do it yourself, as many parents will probably confess to after a few drinks. But as papis we must put the extra effort to calmly and patiently teach them to make their beds, do some light housework and be a contributing member of the household. These skills are too invaluable for when the birds leave the nest. We as parents can really do them a disservice by not having them do chores for a few reasons:
1. They become dependent on others for basic survival which can lead to some relationship dangers as an adult. No one should feel beholden to a relationship because the partner cooks and cleans and does the things they cannot.
2. As we and our children climb up the socioeconomic ladder, they must have an appreciation for hard work. It will be too easy to get lost on those LCD screens and lookup to see a room that is magically cleaned every afternoon, either by parents or by outside help – and as the child gets older, they associate that type of work as beneath them. You don’t want your child to be THAT jerk who talks down to the hotel service people or waiters because they’ve never done laundry in their spoiled lives. Speaking of lives
3. These skills can actually save their lives. Knowing how to inspect a car, change a tire, and maintain it well will keep them safe on the road. Knowing how to clean a wound and keep it from being infected has obvious benefits, and knowing how to handle dangerous items like stoves and irons will keep them safe when your eyes can’t be on them 24/7.