My Hubby (DH) isn't a rough and tumble Daddy. He's not a sports Daddy. He won me over with his patience and his sheer determination and endurance. The night we met, a fun cousin had helped my two year old to twist a comb in his, very 80's, beautiful blonde bowl cut. He ended up looking like Pebbles Flintstone. I took a look and assumed that I'd need to go home and give my baby a buzz. However, the friend my brother had invited to his Eagle Scout court of honor, patiently took the time to gently work each hair free of the comb until he'd preserved my baby's surfer-do. That night he made at least two conquests.
The things he does with our children aren't big and obvious. I'm the one who the neighbors get to watch running down the street behind a bicycle as five year olds learn to balance and pump their legs at the same time. DH is the one who holds the babies while he eats and coaxes them to try new foods.
He takes the time to dress a toddler on Sunday mornings and always remembers to play right foot/ left foot, and teach eyes, nose, ears, and belly button.
He likes to read them the books that his Father read to he and his brothers each night while Mom made dinner. Our little ones, and the big ones before them, are all well versed in the adventures Thorton W. Burgess created about Old Mother West Wind and her Merry little Breezes, Mr. Toad, and Happy Jack Squirrel.
At church I give the little ones a bag of fruit snacks to keep them busy, and quiet. Daddy always makes it a game. He hides one in his hand and has them peek under each finger until they discover their treat.
Years ago, when the older boys wanted to start having rowdy tickle fights with Dad before bed, he instituted a rule that has saved many tears and misunderstandings; they can laugh, and scream, and holler "no, no, no" as much as they want, but when they have really had enough and are ready for the game to stop, all they have to do is say the magic word "Please" and play instantly stops. The safety and comfort they get from knowing that they are in charge of the game has had immeasurable benefits.
One game Daddy plays has always bugged me though. I'm a stickler for accuracy, so Daddy's silly game of holding a child's hand and then asking why their foot is stuck, or talking about their red shirt when they were wearing blue, really drove me crazy. Until I read I Love You Rituals by Becky A. Bailey, PhD. Besides creating strong attachments these little games give children positive interactions, and even Daddy's silly game gives our little ones the opportunity to show their knowledge by correcting Daddy's silly statements.
Daddy's games accomplish exactly what Dr. Bailey suggests and "demonstrate the difference between responding to the physical needs of a child and bonding with the child by responding to his or her emotional needs" creating secure attachments that enable a child to "feel that the world is a positive place"! When children have these secure attachments they become "equipped with enough confidence to explore, to develop healthy peer relationships, and to rebound from adversity" and they see themselves as "being loved, loving, and valuable."
So, what games and "I Love You Rituals" do you have at your house?