Archive for August 29, 2010

Honoring Variety

My family and I went to the zoo last week. What an awesome family outing. We saw so much variety. We saw animals ranging from huge elephants to tiny molerats, exotic sea dragons to common lambs, swinging monkeys to slithering snakes, lethargic sloths to phrenetically flying bats, playful seals to ferocious tigers. The variety seemed unending. We laughed at some animals, admired others, and stood in awe of many. We admired the beautiful, the bizarre, and the creepy. They all seemed amazing. The variety didn’t offend us. On the contrary, it made the trip all the more interesting. It added spice to our trip to the zoo.

We also saw an amazing variety of people and families at the zoo. There were single parent families, two parent families, multigenerational families, Spanish speaking families, Russian speaking families, families with babies in strollers, families with teens, families that walked hand in hand, and families who merely smiled at one another as they looked at the animals. No matter what, the families seemed to enjoy the outing and each other’s company. It made me smile to see mothers, fathers, grandparents and children all having so much fun together. The variety of families added even more interest to our outing.

All this diversity made me think about the variety we experience within our own families. Each person is different. Each family member has their own likes and interests, strengths and weaknesses, character and personality. Sometimes we might not like the same things that our family members like. We might even dislike what another family member loves. However, the beauty of family is that we accept one another anyway. In fact, we do more than accept our differences, we honor and value those differences. We know that those differences give our family the depth and strength that we might not have otherwise. One child loves sports and the other loves music. A parent loves to read while a child loves to cook. One family member likes loud music and another likes quiet ballads. Together we celebrate those differences and learn to encourage each family member’s interests and strengths. We allow other family members’ strengths to compliment our life, filling in for our areas of weakness. We can even learn from other family members’ interests, expanding our own borders somewhat. Perhaps I can learn to enjoy and appreciate the age of texting that my children so enjoy…and in doing so I can keep in better contact with them and their world. Overall, accepting and valuing the variety within our family becomes the spice of our family life.

Daddy Time

In The Male Brain, Louann Brizendine talks about the effect of children on the brains of fathers. Not surprisingly, both father and child benefit from Dad’s attentive involvement in the child’s life. At the risk of sounding simplistic, “daddy time” helps a man become a better father. When a fathers remains actively involved in his child’s life, his brain releases more oxytocin. Oxytocin helps him feel bonded and close with his child. Oxytocin is also associated with generosity and trust, perhaps increasing both for the father in relation to his child. In addition, hands-on fathers have more cells and connection in their prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in decision making, planning, and higher order thought.

Not only do fathers benefit from active involvement with their children, but the children of hands-on fathers also benefit. Children who have active fathers exhibit more curiosity than those without active fathers. Hands-on fathers seem to help improve their child’s ability to learn and increase their child’s self-confidence even into adolescence. Those children who receive active discipline (but not harsh discipline) from a father exhibit better grades. Their sons show fewer behavior problems and their daughters fewer emotional problems.

Time with Dad is a win-win situation. Everyone benefits. So Dad, take some time and invest it in your children. And Mom, move over and let him have some time with the kids. Its good for everyone.