She took them off and changed, and I noticed that the pants were nearly rectangular. They weren’t just a bit tighter, they were cut in a length that was for a much taller person with about two-thirds the circumference of my kid. I was shocked, these pants at a regular kids’ store looked like one of those drawings you would see in an exaggerated fashion sketch mockup.
Feeling her pain and seeing how early on unrealistic expectations come into the picture for women really drove home the point. Body issues and doubt are sown early. And being aware of it as a man is a step towards empathy between the sexes. I let her know she was beautiful and only the pants needed to change.
We all feel ugly or wrong sometimes, we just need reminding that there are other choices.
Like all dads I found myself facing the question of authority—the are we their yets and do I have tos? I learned to pay attention to the difference in how I say things. When do I want it to be an order, a request, or an inquiry that welcomes feedback?
Realizing how to deliver your words is as essential as what you say. Beyond tuning into tone is the importance of understanding what it is that’s wanted. Part of learning was making it a shared lesson for her in how to lead.
Many times early on in our alone time she would sit in her room and talk aloud if she wanted something, even if I was in the next room. One time she stormed over to me upset that I wasn’t paying attention or caring about what she said. At that moment I instructed her that I would always care, but it was HER job to make the message deliverable, i.e. see if I’m busy first, then ask if I have a moment and make eye contact.
Before you can guide another it is crucial to investigate yourself.
Want to know more about what makes you a good father and a better man? Check this video out below!
I’d like to say that as a father I do it well and always get it right. I’d also like to say I’m a billionaire, too. Neither is true. There are times when I make a call or pick a direction and I am proven wrong. The only thing more frustrating than that is having a little person be the witness—a smart, articulate little person who gets bigger and doesn’t forget.
Being around her for the last fifteen years has taught me the importance of owning who I am, including my mistakes and missteps. And having a sense of humor about them too. It’s not uncommon for me to tell her I was wrong, or that she had a better idea and that she’s a smart kid.
One of the first times I had to take accountability wasn’t lighthearted or easy. Shortly after the separation, especially as the court battles were raging, I would say regrettable things. On one such occasion, my daughter started crying and said: “But that’s my mommy.” At that moment I started growing up and realizing how interwoven we all are. I immediately apologized and let her know that I had been wrong to say that.
Being able to own my good and bad moments has allowed my daughter to trust me, and just as importantly, to trust herself, because we don’t have a relationship built on the illusion of infallibility.
Developing dialogues around where the missteps are lets both of us be more than roles; it lets us be whole human beings together.
Written by Orin Hahn
Originally appeared in The Good Men Project