The night before Michael Graubart’s first of four children was born, he told a friend in Alcoholics Anonymous, “I’m not ready for this.”
He was 41.
Few men are 100% ready to be a father when the time comes, but recovering alcoholics and addicts struggle perhaps more than anyone else to get fatherhood right and not repeat the mistakes they witnessed growing up.
“Parenting isn’t a game of perfect, but alcoholics can be perfectionists, and we have to learn to lighten up,” Graubart says.
“We might not have had the best role models growing up, but we can be outstanding dads ourselves” (www.michaelgraubart.com).
Graubart offers tips on how to be an outstanding father even if one is a recovering addict or alcoholic:
- Embrace your manhood—it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In our society, people sometimes make fun of the concept of manhood, turning it into a caricature of John Wayne. In reality, true manhood is the willingness to embrace personal responsibility as an adult. Your child needs a man, not a guy, for a father.
- Discipline yourself before you discipline your child. If you want your child to grow up the right way, you’ve got to grow up first. This means confronting the areas where you may have tolerated your own immaturity because it wasn’t really affecting anyone that seriously. Not anymore!
- Anger doesn’t belong in your home. The most damaging thing you can do to your kids is use anger on them or your spouse. Anger terrifies kids without educating them about the right way to do things. Instead of anger, find another way to make your points.
- You will lose every fight with your wife. If you win, you lose. If you tie, you lose. And if you lose, you lose. So why bother?
Always reward good behavior and good grades. At the office you can win trips and trophies for doing a great job. I’ve made trophies for my kids for being a “great older brother” or just simply for getting great grades. Everybody loves awards, especially kids.
Your kids don’t need to know everything about you. Don’t overshare about your drinking and drugging days. It may be entertaining to you, but it’s usually terrifying to kids to hear what a meatball their dad really was.
“Your kids just want a man they can look up to, not a cartoon superhero,” Graubart says. “If you’re sincere, present, loving, and doing your best, your kids will forgive you for the mistakes you’ll invariably make.”