Our 532nd Dad in the Limelight is Lukasz Laniecki. I want to thank Lukasz for being a part of this series. It has been great getting connected with him and now sharing him with all of you.
1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
In one short sentence “A former litigation lawyer turned parenting blogger, negotiator and mediator.” In more detail, a guy whose messy relationship with his parents (adoptive parents) resulted in a lawsuit. Yes, I sued my adoptive mother, but guess what, we turned out fine and I feel that it was an experience that enriched us both (on a deeper level – not in a monetary sense). And it has led to my grand awakening as a parent. I’m so grateful for this.
But immediately I want to make it clear – I’m not advocating suing your parents. This should always be treated as the last resort. You should also know that we were ultra-lucky that we managed to get out of this mess – I’ve seen the nasty dynamic of a court case a lot in my professional career as a lawyer (friend or family – it doesn’t matter anymore).
Even a short version of this single story would be too long for this post so I have to leave it at that, and maybe some of you puzzled.
2) Tell me about your family
It’s my wife Anna, our son Richard (still 7 now), me and our dog Winter.
But, we’re not in a vacuum and we’re not solely flesh and bones. And as far as I’m concerned no family is.
We’re still grossly influenced by the parenting styles and behaviors of our parents (just as they were influenced by their parents and so on). So any family is a collective output. We need to be aware of that.
We can undertake to write a completely new chapter with the family we set up, but we are always biased and we need to deal with those biases (things we soaked up when we lived with our parents for so many years).
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
For me it is being in sync with the co-parent.
I can’t tell you how many times the problem was (and still is) not our son’s behavior – something what we need to tackle, but the lack of sync on our (parents’) side. Being on the same page as to many issues we face day in and day out parenting.
Each parent has own methods (even if just a tiny bit different), own vision, own strategy, own tactics, to the greatest extent absorbed as a kid.
And children are smart and use it for their advantage. Mom said NO, so I’ll check what Dad’s opinion is. No sync and the child gains advantage.
I like to say that a teacher in school or in kindergarten has a much easier task as far as consistency is concerned. And parents are doomed to struggle a lot with consistency, what makes parenting much more difficult than schooling.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Don’t be afraid to apologize to your kid and always offer a heartfelt apology.
I cannot recall a single time when my father or my mother offered me an apology, let alone a heartfelt one.
Believe it or not, but this is one of the few things I’ll probably never forget. I’m 37 years old right now and it still bothers me. It’s not that I feed myself with this grievance – I’d actually prefer to get over it, but because it has to do with instances of injustice (as I saw them) and because they happened a lot, I simply cannot get it out of my head.
Recently I watched a TED Talk by Risa Pierson, in which she made a following comment about offering apologies to children:
“Tell a kid you’re sorry, they’re in shock.”
This statement by a teacher with 40+ years of experience with kids allows me view my parents’ inability to offer me apology as something normal among parents.
Have there been instances when a heartfelt apology would have meant a world of difference to me? Of course.
Would I have grown up to be a more confident adult, had I been offered an apology when it was due? I have no doubt about it.
Admitting to being wrong or to doing wrong is not an easy thing to do. And adults somehow think they can get away with it when dealing with children.
Children have little power, they won’t argue, often they can’t argue because they can’t express themselves as well as an adult can. Furthermore it arouses the issue of power loss, which makes it even more difficult for a parent to offer an apology to a kid. As a result, some parents can’t even imagine that they could offer apologies to their children.
I’m grateful that at some point in my life I took interest in alternative dispute resolution and negotiation which helped me understand the importance of true, heartfelt apology in interactions with people. It is still something I’m learning because this isn’t an easy thing to master. For an apology to be effective it is not enough to just say “I’m sorry.”(you may want to read more about an effective apology in this article).
5) How have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
I don’t think this is something you necessarily must balance. Or I should say, at least I don’t understand the concept of “balancing” the two.
You are a parent 24/7, 365 days a year. There is no magic switch. Never once in my 7+ years as a (very engaged) father did I get the feeling that I need time off from my son or that I need to “recharge” or anything of that nature. It’s the same with your job – those for whom their work is a mere necessity or drudgery need to balance, those who live their passion at work don’t understand the concept of “balancing”.
My dos and don’ts.
I don’t make promises to my son which I know can be hard to keep. I prioritize and always remind myself that for example my son’s first day in school is a once-in-a-lifetime event and my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join. This allows me to say NO to many things that only “pretend” to be a high priority on my list. In fact the majority of them are not that important. Sadly many fathers get fooled that way – they soon find out (when it’s already too late) that this super important meeting wouldn’t make or break their career or company. Or if it really was that important, it could have been rescheduled.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
The father that I have interacted the most with was of course my father. And knowing that he could have been a much, much better role model for me I also learned something. Not from him directly, but from my interaction with him. I learned that we all have a choice as parents (fathers). We can either blame the circumstances and offer multiple excuses as to why we are poor at parenting (which is equal to doing nothing about it) or we can become self-aware parents, stop blaming the circumstances, forget the excuses and strive to become world class parents (the choice). My dad was pleased with offering excuses all his life and had other people (my mom, for example) who would offer excuses for him.
Don’t let that happen to you. Make the choice.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
This one will be short. Striving to be a world class father doesn’t mean you are not allowed to make mistakes. We all make them. It’s inevitable. So make them, but also own them. Your child needs to learn how repair the damage and apologize. You can model it – what you do after you’d mishandled a situation matters a lot. This links to the advice I gave you earlier (Q#4).
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
My son’s birth and the first week of his life. For the first 4 days he needed to stay in the incubator and we also had a tough call as to whether we will allow a blood transfusion. As if this was not enough, my parents turned their backs on me and I had no support from them whatsoever. I couldn’t believe it was happening but sadly it was.
Another most memorable experience happened when my mom and I escaped the dynamic of a court case and ended the court battle and my son (3 at that time) could meet his second grandmother for the first time in his life. Suddenly our family was bigger. From the very first moment they met they adore each other.
If you have any questions for Lukasz, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!