During her recent Netflix special “The Call to Courage,” best-selling author and vulnerability expert Bréne Brown touched on an important misconception many fathers have about what it means to be a hero to their kids.
While at the lake with her family, Bréne’s husband shared with her a nightmare he had. In the nightmare, he was helping his kids and nieces and nephews swim across the lake when a ski boat began approaching them. In order to save all of the kids, he swam them down to the bottom of the lake. He was trying to keep them safe and alive when he noticed his son wouldn’t make it under water much longer, but the boat was coming and he didn’t know what to do.
Bréne tried to reassure her husband after he told her about the dream, but he told her he didn’t believe in her reassurances.
“Here’s what you want,” he said. “You want the guy that when the speed boat comes, he takes all six of the kids, throws them, then swims so fast, he catches them, sets them down on the dock then looks across at the lake to you and says, ‘Don’t worry little lady, I’ve got this.’”
Of course, Bréne’s point was that this is an unreasonable expectation for any man or father to be physically capable of doing and yet, how many fathers have had a similar nightmare? How many are afraid they won’t be able to save their families from the bad guy, or the ski boat? How many worry that they won’t be able to provide for them, take care of them or be the superhero they are expected to be?
Recent research reveals that dads are spending more time than ever with their children. And yet, only 39 percent of dads said they feel they are doing a good job at parenting.
I believe this could largely be due to unreasonable expectations they put on themselves, much like Bréne’s husband expressed in his nightmare.
Bréne goes on to explain that one of the biggest shame triggers in men is a weakness. They are told from a young age to never show weakness. If this is true, then fathers, you must redefine what weak and strong means. You must understand what it truly means to be a hero in your child’s life, and it’s not the ability to throw them to safety across a lake. In fact, it has little to do with physical strength at all.
Hero dads are present.
They are present physically and emotionally. They spend intentional time with their kids and they listen to them. They don’t just simply throw the ball; they listen to what their kid is saying as they’re throwing it.
Hero dads are careful with their words.
Dad’s words can make or break a child. When you tell your child something, she will internalize it as truth. If you tell her she’s strong, she will think she is strong. If you tell her she’s brave, she will believe she’s brave. You have the power to build up your child’s character simply by using your words.
Hero dads lead, instead of coach.
There’s a big difference between a coach and a leader. Coaches can teach skills and encourage their execution, but it’s a leader who brings vision, which is another way of saying a moral framework for how life is to be lived.
Any dad, no matter how strong, can be present, can use his words to build up his child and can give a healthy vision to his child for what kind of person he or she can be. This is being a hero dad.
The next time you have a nightmare about not being strong enough, rich enough or good enough to be a hero to your kids and your family, remember you might be forgetting what it actually takes to be a hero. The reality is, you’ve been your child’s hero since the day you first held him, and you will always be.