The goal of Meet a Dad: Profile a dad and let him share his fatherly wisdom with us. Some of these dads will be well-known in certain circles; others will be largely unknown outside of their immediate circles. Doesn’t matter, because I think just about every father has as much (or more) to share than I do.
Today’s dad is Tor Constantino, a devoted reader of this blog, runner of marathons, and all-around nice guy.
Tell us who you are and what you do…
For the past 20+ years I’ve worked as a former journalist and current public relations director for a biotech company outside of Washington, DC. I’ve finished five full marathons as well as my first non-fiction book that’ll be available in November. I say all that to tee up the fact that being a dad is the toughest and most important job I’ve ever had.
My wife and I have been married for 16 years and have two girls who are growing WAY too quickly — the oldest will be ten this fall and the younger just turned seven. Those are great ages to be a dad!
What is one thing you do that qualifies you for being an above-average dad?
I guess the only thing that comes close is that I try hard to actively engage with my girls. So, if they want to play Barbies I make time for that (I have a sweet, vintage 12” G.I. Joe with eagle-eye action and Kung-Fu grip that I break out) or if they want to play board games or Frisbee, we’ll do it. But I also look for opportunities to engage them in things we can do as a family. We just found a Karate dojo which offers lessons that families can take together. We’ve been attending twice a week for several months and while that doesn’t make me an above-average dad, it does enable me to rock white high-water pajamas cinched with a belt in broad daylight!
What is one thing you do that results in eye rolls and/or exasperation from your kids?
Probably when I tell them how beautiful they are on the outside AND on the inside. My wife and I want them to grow up being comfortable in their own skin – not needing external validation from some random guy. So we strive to normalize them to the idea that being pretty is fine, but true beauty that endures comes from the inside out and is enhanced by our faith in God. There’s simply no amount of makeup or plastic surgery that can transform a girl into a Proverbs 31 woman.
What is the most challenging aspect of fatherhood for you?
The toughest thing for me is “false attribution error.” In other words, I’ll see someone engage in a behavior and arbitrarily assign them motives that aren’t necessarily there. Regarding my girls, we may be running late for church and the youngest decides she has to make an emergency bathroom break that can’t wait until we get to the church which is three blocks away.
In that situation I’m tempted to think that she’s doing it to be funny, spiteful, or rebellious because she may not want to attend church that day. I may then concoct some fictitious intent, completely excluding the fact that she may simply have too much fluid in her bladder.
That’s the biggest challenge for me, because once I’ve ginned up a motive it’s easy for me to overreact or get angry over inconsequential stuff. It’s an internal battle that I continue to fight, but with God’s help it’s gotten much better since the girls have been born – compared to when my wife and I were first married.
What is your absolute favorite thing to do with your kid?
I’d have to say general indoor “rough housing” or “ horseplay” – the type of stuff I used to get banished outside for as a kid. We’ve got a fairly large, finished basement where the girls and I will go for pillow fights, dodge ball, monkey-in-the-middle…what have you. The great equalizer is that I have to play all those games on my 42-year-old-knees. Thank God for pile carpet and deep foam padding beneath.
What’s the best advice you ever received about fatherhood?
While my wife was pregnant with our first, we found out we were having a girl so I bought a book by Dr. Kevin Leman titled What a Difference a Daddy Makes. There were so many excellent insights in that book, but the one that still lingers is that a child’s relationship with the opposite gender parent is the single most important relationship for their life. It creates a filter by which they’ll view every other opposite gender encounter. That forces me to be loving, fun, present, authentic, vulnerable yet strong, responsible, disciplined and consistent.
If another father asked you for one piece of advice about being a dad, what would you tell him?
Be sure to administer tons of love for no reason, but be willing to apply consistent discipline for warranted reasons. I was raised in a home that had lots of love and discipline. That combination tends to produce the best results in kids. High love/low discipline produces self-centered neurotics; high discipline/low love tends to produce uncaring automatons while low love/low discipline results in scads of antisocial behavior. High love/high discipline wins. I also think it’s important to be a “lifelong learner,” seeking out new information. If you don’t mind me saying so, www.dadequate.com is a great source for new and veteran dads.
Please indicate any blog or social media links if readers would like to connect with you online.
I tweet @torcon and have a blog that is updated regularly at torconbooks.com where I’ll share insights about faith and family – occasionally it’s even funny.