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Divorced Daddies

Q  As a divorced dad who sees his two kids only two weekends a month, I don't want to waste time disciplining, but I don't want them to think I'm just a playmate. How can I be their father too?

A Your time with your kids is precious, but spending part of it disciplining isn't a waste. Being their father means being willing to do the unpopular but necessary things parents do to teach their children and maintain health and harmony. When you tell them it's time to go to bed, pick up their toys, wash their hands before dinner, stop fighting, put away the cookies, or shut off the TV, they don't hate you for it (at least not after a few minutes). They just feel, "All's right with my world." They know that's how parents are supposed to behave, divorced or not. So act normal.

My friend Steve, who is newly separated and a dad of two boys, says that some of the best advice he's gotten is to "just be with the kids. Don't try to make every second together better than anything else they did that week." Steve talks to his sons on the phone nearly every day, so their weekends together aren't so much reunions as continuations  -- something you could make a bit of an effort to do too.

Also, parenting is not a popularity contest, or at least it's not supposed to be. Playmates your children can get plenty of; fathers they can't.

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