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Frankly Fatherhood – P.D.A. with D.A.D.

My boys and I are very affectionate. From cuddles on the couch, to sloppy wet kisses, we are very comfortable showing affection – not only at home but also in public. It’s not uncommon that my five-year-old will negotiate getting a box of Fruit Loops in exchange for a cheek full of smooches in the grocery store aisle (and I cave every time). Or my three-year-old will interrupt his playtime at the park for a squeezy hug and a quick exchange of “I love yous” before running back to the swings.

Not all fathers are comfortable with PDAs (public displays of affection) and prefer to keep their “pucker-up parties” at home. Dads may also choose different ways to show affection in public. We relish in rough physical play and tickling, or we’re a bit more distant and offer encouragement, involvement, and showing our caring sides verbally.

However we show it, most people see affectionate fathers in a very positive light and a sign of an emotionally involved parent. But some dads experience harsh criticism or ridiculous assumptions for their PDAs. For example, my friend Henry was comforting his son Ben on an airplane. Ben was sleeping with his head on his dad’s shoulder, and Henry’s hand was on Ben’s lap. A flight attendant, assuming a sexual nature to this exchange, reported what she saw. Upon their landing, armed airport security whisked away this loving family for questioning. Absurd, isn’t it? But you can see how fathers might hold back and worry about public perception.

When you think about it, many fathers today are learning as we go since many of us were brought up in an era where our own dads didn’t show much warmth. Perhaps displays of intimacy were once seen as making kids too “soft”, a threat to their own masculinity, or maybe they simply didn’t think we needed it.

And to be clear, kids DO need affection – and lots of it! Studies have shown that children of affectionate parents tend to have higher self-esteem, improved academic performance, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavioural problems. It’s important to hold our kids and show them how much we love them. And if this doesn’t come naturally to us, perhaps it’s time for us to learn.

For me, it’s all about connection. I feel connected to my boys and I want them to feel loved, secure, and that it’s ok to show tenderness. During one particularly intense hug fest, I mentioned to my oldest son that one day he won’t want to hug his daddy this much. His reply was simply, “Daddy, that’s silly! I will always want to hug you”. I definitely need to get this in writing!

Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.


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