I am Dad, the Calm-Assertive Pack Leader

Nine months.

Knowing that my son will inevitably pick up on the vibes I put out there as I react to him, I make a conscious effort to be calm-assertive, as a dad. Here’s my own definition of calm-assertivenessbeing cool, calm, and collected as well as being direct, assertive, and respectable.

I very much enjoy watching Cesar Millan’s TV show Dog Whisperer, as he teaches the importance of being a “calm-assertive” leader. It’s not only interesting to learn about how dogs were meant to be raised and trained, but also how a lot of what Cesar Millan teaches actually translates to human relationships. He himself has noted the comparison, being known for saying: “Humans are the only animals who will follow unstable pack leaders.”

The Dog Whisperer makes a great point about us humans needing stable, respectable leaders.  When we (as well as our children) do not have a confident, consistent, authoritative example to live by, we can become confused, angry, anxious, rebellious, spiteful, and/or apathetic. I know for a fact that I am wired to want to follow the best human examples out there. So I am always looking around the room to locate the “pack leader.”

Sometimes that means that I need to be that leader, when there is not a legitimate or active one present. I was also programmed to want to be in control, because often, my ability to control is necessary and needed for the structure of those around me; especially at work and at home.

I can’t allow my son to begin to believe that he is the pack leader; that he is the boss.  Sure, I know we parents may joke about our kids “ruling the roust” sometimes, but in all seriousness, there needs to be no doubt in my son’s mind who really makes and carries out the rules. It’s my job to make it clear that there are definite boundaries that must be respected.

When it comes to establishing those boundaries, part of my responsibility as a dad is to figure out the limits while considering my wife’s maternal input.  Undeniably, I must make the conscious effort to establish order and expectations for my son to live by.

Granted, my expectations are necessarily and realistically set as low as they need to be. But I refuse to be a dad without direction.

Thank you, Cesar Millan, for introducing me to the concept of the term “calm-assertive,” even though I’m not actually a dog person.

This post is a spin-off of “Putting My Paternal Instincts to Good Use.”

Assigned Seats: Many Friendships We Have are “Forced”

It’s a little something I call “forced friendship”.

It was always a bittersweet moment when as an elementary school student, I would walk into the classroom Monday morning and realize that my desk was on the other side of the room.  I would now be sitting next to other kids that I hadn’t necessarily been around much before.  This also meant I would no longer be sitting close to the friends I had made while at my previously assigned seat.

Boy, this is just a life metaphor waiting to happen.  Don’t beat me to the punch…

Do we choose our friends?  Yes.  But so often, by default.  Whether because of proximity through work, school, church, current circles of friends, or even marrying into a family, we find ourselves in what I call “forced friendships”.

And I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing.  It’s good.

I use the word “forced” because the reality of friendship is that we don’t usually go out to places looking for friends.  Friends just happen.  We end up in the same place at the same place, often on a reoccurring basis.  And in each location, the people that have the most in common or whose personalities compliment each other the most, are naturally going to become friends.

It’s not typical for one person to walk up to another person that they barely know and say, “Let’s be friends.”  Because it’s much more natural to let the Assigned Seats of Destiny direct us in our human relationships.

The concept of forced friendship became apparent to me in 2008, the year that my sister got married in January, and I in July, just six months apart.  In the same year, I gained a brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) on one side of the family, then seven brothers-in-law (my wife’s brothers) and two sisters-in-law (my wife’s sisters).  Before 2008, I had no in-laws at all.  In a matter of six months, I acquired plenty of them.

And through that process, the ones I have spent the most time with became the ones I obviously know the best, and therefore, have the strongest friendships with.  We are family by marriage, but that doesn’t take away at all the friendship aspect of it.

Each one brings out different sides of my personality, hobbies, and interests.  As we reflect our similarities and common ties.

For example, my sister’s husband Andrew and I are just a few years apart, having grown up playing the same old school Nintendo games, both having grown up in Alabama, and both obsessed with LOST.  In fact, he’s the reason my sister started watching LOST, which is why I am now obsessed.  Throughout the week, we send each other stupid website links and YouTube videos.  The perfect combination of a brother and a good friend.

On the other end of the brother-in-law spectrum, there is Tom up in Pennsylvania, who is the husband of my wife’s 2nd oldest sister.  We only see each other about twice a year and there is about a 10 year age difference between us.  In fact, he and my wife’s sister got married when I was in Junior High and they had their first kid the year I graduated high school.

Yet we have a whole lot in common.  When our wives are together, we let them catch up.  And we just do our own thing.  Whether it’s playing cards, shooting pool, watching movies, or playing with the kids.  We live the laid-back life together.

Being around him is like that seeing my life ten years into the future.  What little recent experience I have being around kids is from his two daughters.  I watch carefully how he talks and interacts with them.  His calm-assertiveness gives them the direction they need while still keeping the environment positive and loving.

Having the ability to choose isn’t everything.  Sometimes it’s better for someone or something else to make our decisions and life plans for us.  The funny thing is, the friendships I have sought out after never seem to last, like a trend or a fad.  If anything, those friendships are the ones that actually ended up feeling forced.

Whereas the forced friendships have always seemed natural.  So there we have it, friendship is a force.  And with all there is to gain from forced friendships, I can’t help but be thankful for assigned seats.

Similar post from the same author: The Invisible Touch, Yeah (The 2nd Installment)