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Attention ALL dads: GET DIRTY!

Sometimes you have to stand in the mud WITH them.
Photo by: Elvis Santana

When thinking about being a great father, thoughts of most men go far beyond just being a basic father. Their thoughts turn into daydreams of super daddyhood: an extreme clean image, broad shoulders, large muscles, wide stance, and fists on their hips while standing in the breeze of dismay with their superhero uniform on underneath their clothes; ready to rescue their children from the slightest sign of dirty trouble. There is nothing wrong with that. Many times, children actually see their fathers/dads that way…

…however, children grow, and as they do, the dirt and mud they tread through gets thicker and deeper. The clean, super dad just might not be enough for the rescues then. Subsequent rescues may call for you to get “dirty.” Not the dirty father (e.g., consciously and willingly absent from their children’s lives), nor the dirty dad (e.g., taking money out of the children’s piggy-banks while no one is looking), but the father/dad that is willing to talk dirty, get his hands dirty, and get his feet dirty.

1. Talking dirty. There will be times when your children will observe and/or experience something that will raise questions within them…and they will ask those questions. Sometimes, you may be present and there are no questions present, but an opportunity for you to build within your child’s life is. You, as a father, must be willing to speak to your child about the subject, regardless of what the subject is. If you don’t do it, then some other source will do it at some point and time…and they might not be given the most appropriate answers. Do not leave that up to chance.
2. Dirty hands. There will be times when your children will have unpleasant experiences where they are not at fault. This can range from racism to stereotypes to mistreatment from others to broken hearts. You have to be sensitive enough to care for their mental/emotional state of being, using your “touch” to wipe away tears, push away fears, brush off hurts, and peel away pains.
3. Dirty feet. There will be times when your children get “stuck in the mud” where they feel they cannot be rescued and possibly can’t be rescued. Also, there is a high probability that they will have a hand at fault in these “stuck in the mud” experiences. This is when dad (you) must take of his shoes, stand in the mud, and help pull his child out of the mud the best he can, without falling in himself. Dad (you) must reach down into your dirty experiences and give your child a first-hand example of Fail-and-Triumph. From learning from your experiences, your child can grow far more than what they would from just hearing about experiences from other sources. Your transparency will allow for them to understand their situations and circumstances with a clearer and more guided perspective.
For most, this may be the most difficult part of getting dirty, for it calls for a delicate, appropriate, and effective balance of key personality and character traits. You will need to be sensitive, but strong; proud, yet humble; solid, yet transparent. You may become upset (justifiably so), yet you must possess the restraint and self-control to not react detrimentally. Stepping into their dirt (with them) will make for a more effective learning experience on their end and yours.

Now, “getting dirty” is not instruction for you to casually have lewd conversations with your children, or to put yourself in unwarranted and unnecessary detrimental situations in order to gain some sort of “street cred.” The objective is not to be a “dirty” person, but to be integrous in sharing the knowledge and discipline gained from being in your own messes. “Getting dirty” is a flag of awareness waving at fathers/dads, letting them know their children are subject to vicariously learning from untrustworthy sources; where the fathers/dads, themselves, can cement themselves as the primary source of refuge for troubling times that arise within their children’s lives.

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