Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Can a father be a friend?, finger-wrapped dad asks

Discipline is one of those topics that vex me as a father.

Can a father be a friend?, finger-wrapped dad asks


Discipline is one of those topics that vex me as a father.

Colossally imperfect as I am, I look at my record in this area and see it as inconsistent at best: I’m all over the map.

On days in which work and money woes haven’t frazzled me, I seem patient and calm. Other times, not so much.

There’s never spanking or a lot of yelling. But anger ebbs and flows. And my go-to-your-room policy needs more cogent guidelines.

In truth, I’m the product of a tough dad, and my instinct is to go the other way, and err on the side of leniency. In combat, Sgt. Jim Lubrano took hills from Koreans who really wanted to keep them. Having toiled as a longshoreman and a construction worker, my dad rubbed shoulders with some of New York City’s less aristocratic types.

“I’m not your friend, I’m your father,” my dad intoned over and over. Well, I know I have a greater responsibility than a friend’s as my Little Girl’s dad. But can a father be a friend as well? In the end, the father role must dominate, I guess.

Still, some of the better times my daughter and I have is when she can goof around with me, call me silly names and jump on my abdomen 427 straight times because the wheezing sound I make is apparently hilarious.

“I don’t know why it’s so funny when you get hurt,” my daughter often giggles, before digging her nails into my skin. My father and I never did that kind of stuff together.

Don’t get me wrong: I tolerate no back-talk, force baths and reading, and deduct points for whining. However, friends and family tell me the Little Girl has me pretty well finger-wrapped, and I myself notice a distinct generational difference between my approach and my dad’s.

Does anybody really get this leniency-discipline balance right? If there are parenting professors out there who have all the answers, let me know. I’ll sign up for a year’s worth of classes.


Inquirer Columnist
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About this blog
A New York City native, Lubrano has written for newspapers since 1980. He's the author of a book, "Limbo: Blue-collar roots, white-collar dreams," and was a commentator for National Public Radio for 16 years. His work has appeared in various national magazines and anthologies. He lives with his daughter in South Jersey, and has worked for the Inquirer since 1995. Reach Alfred at

Alfred Lubrano Inquirer Columnist
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