Father’s Day: How I learned to be a better father | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Father’s Day: How I learned to be a better father

I have learned that being a good father takes a lot of love, caring, time, willingness and ability to change, and a little bit of luck.

Our three children are all very special and have unique gifts, but I have learned that even though I am one dad, I cannot be a one-size-fits-all dad, especially when it comes to school.  Our schools have an online grade reporting system that gives access to parents of all grades to the assignments so we can encourage our kids to turn in assignments or provide a friendly reminder when necessary.

Asking questions about school each day worked fine for our first child, but our second viewed it as intrusive, feeling I wasn’t trusting her. My regular checking into the system created a rift between us. As if that wasn’t hard enough, suddenly I became embarrassing to be with, especially around her friends. How did this come to pass? Why was she pushing me away?  What did I do to deserve this? What started out as a father who only wanted the best for his daughter, turned into a two year “cold war.”

I backed off of discussions of school, and let my wife handle that with our daughter. I had faith that things would get better and she would see the good in me and have a healthy relationship with her dad once again. I had much time to reflect on what I could do to be the kind of parent that she needed.

I kept up communication, saying good morning, good night and I love you, with no response for several years. I made breakfast for her as she was getting ready for school, with rarely a thank you in return. I took her to her friends’ homes on occasion, with silence as my companion. I’d leave sticky notes with nice comments in her room, or even long notes that expressed how special she was to me. And I started doing the same for my other children as well, just so everyone really knows how special they are to me, leaving nothing to chance.

Slowly but surely, we rebuilt a relationship. I learned that my actions speak louder than my words. By being consistently supportive in positive ways, I have regained her trust, her communication, and her love.

And that lonely, long journey has made me a better father for my other children as well.  I have learned to take interest in my children’s interests and make them my own. I treat each child as a gift from above. They have a limited amount of time to spend with me before they grow up and spend more time with friends, go to college and move on with their lives. I have decided to put them ahead of my favorite television show or something I want to do, as the time we spend together will be what has the greatest impact on our lives.

Joe Ellner, of Bayside, owns and operates the Relax the Back store at Bayshore Town Center in Glendale. He and his wife Michele have three children.