PictureJust this photo, alone, makes me think this child will be a winner!
Home! Home can be many things--your country, city, neighborhood, family, or--basically, home is where you feel comfortable. We trust home and believe in it because it is what we know and understand. However, home can be encouraging and challenging, or home can be overly comfortable and patronizing.

When we come into the world we are completely helpless, but we learn at a tremendous rate! It is important where we are and who we are around these early days, weeks, months and years of our life because it makes us who we are at our core. When I was a child, there was a story about a little boy in the wild west of Texas who fell out of the back of a wagon and was found and raised by coyotes. His name was Pecos Bill. Bill didn’t look like the other coyotes but his home was the prairie and his favorite pastime was howling at the moon. Of course this is a tall tale, but it goes towards the point.

Our potential intelligence, skin and eye color, blood and body type are set and are inherited from our parents. On the other hand, our education, motivation, values, beliefs, and appearance are not inherited but highly influenced by society and whoever raises us. So what we have is a combination of givens and variables.  Our mothers and fathers are irrefutably involved in both, even if they are absent after birth! The ‘givens’ come about through nature (genes) while the ‘variables’ are the result of nurturing (memes).

If you look at the extremes of civilizations, you can clearly see the influence of culture--that being how and where one was raised. Aborigines have a lifestyle that we in the western world would call backward while the Aborigines would say our lifestyle is frightening and too complicated. Even your religious beliefs are formed by your family and surroundings more than any research, logic or visions. While a few people change religious beliefs when they are older, it is often because they weren’t immersed in their original beliefs in the first place, again due to the influence, or lack thereof, of those who raised them.

If children and teenagers come from an incomplete environment that hasn’t taught social mores, nor the value of self-esteem and the lessons of a successful life, their odds of getting out of their environmental rut are stacked against them. We are shaped by both our genes and our memes.

From, 
The Power of Dadhood: A Better Society Starts with Dad

It is in the home...

  • ...where children should learn kindness, goodness, values, discipline, and manners.
  • ...where children should find understanding, caring, and comfort.
  • ...where successful lives should begin, with open minds, encouragement, and love.
  • ...where compassion should exist, where the safety nets of our children’s failures are made of rubber bands, ready to sling them back into the world — stronger, wiser, and with new momentum.

If we were to find these characteristics in all homes, what kind of world would we have? Certainly most homes have some of these characteristics, a lucky few have most, and some have none. I don’t have to spout statistics, although they are readily available, to convince you that in those homes where fathers are present and involved, the chances for success and happiness are much greater.”

Families are implicitly involved in forming the attitudes of their children. If you see yourself as a winner, you’ll be a winner. If you see yourself as a victim, you’ll be a victim. Winners with no advantages will beat losers with all the advantages just about every time. 



 
 
PictureRachel and April on Rachel's Wedding Day
Girls need their mothers to learn from, to believe in, and to challenge. Girls will become their mothers in many ways even though they would often deny that fact. Girls need their fathers too! Fathers are sounding boards and relief from their mothers. They have different attitudes with their fathers. Often girls approach their mothers with built-in tension. If they have a caring father, there is much less tension involved simply because men and women don’t compete at the same level.

My wife and I have two of the most perfect daughters anyone could ever have! They are even perfect in their imperfections. They both have those down perfectly! But their imperfections are the things that make them perfectly normal. When it comes down to the important things in life, they are all a parent could hope for. They are now both married with children.


PictureApril's family
April is the oldest of our three children. She is the academic, graduating Summa Cum Laude as a journalism student at the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She went on to get a Masters in Counseling. We always thought April would lean towards having a career, and she did, waiting to thirty years of age to marry. However, being mother is her chosen priority as of now, with a six year old and a one year old daughters. Both of whom have stolen my heart!

April works as a Career Counselor at Washington University in St. Louis, part-time as of now. The campus atmosphere and the academic aura is very appealing to her. She thrives when helping others! April and her husband Mike are matched perfectly. That’s not to say they don’t have to put up with a few small things, like we all do with our spouses. Mike is one of those guys that knows everything, I mean literally! Although I’m much older, I go to him to educate me on most matters.

PictureRachel's family
Our youngest child is Rachel. Like her sister, Rachel’s occupation involves helping others. She graduated with Master Degree in Occupational Therapy. Her specialty is working with patients who have had serious brain injuries. Because of the injuries she sees, Rachel is not happy that I own a motorcycle. She scolds me whenever she sees me or anyone climbing too high on a ladder. 

Rachel was the one that wanted to be a mom since she was a little girl, but she didn’t get married until she was twenty nine years old. As it turned out, she had a great life prior to marriage. But she used to ask me, “Dad, will I ever get married?" I told her there was no doubt. She was quite a catch!

What strikes me about Rachel is the number of close friends she has made over the years, and they never seem to part ways. She’s a real people person. Her husband Kevin is the easiest going guy to be around, quiet and unassuming. He loves sports and has made Rachel a baseball fan after I was unable to get her to be interested.  Kevin and I talk sports and go to baseball, basketball, and football games together. 

Rachel and Kevin have a son, our only grandson, who is almost two years of age. His name is Ryan and he is my buddy. Ryan loves trains, planes, and automobiles. When we babysit him, I spend hours sitting in my truck with Ryan, in the driveway, where he pretends to “drive-drive”.  Kevin and I can’t wait for Ryan to join us playing and following sports. Rachel is now pregnant with her second child, a girl. How she can be as cute and wonderful as the other three grandkids, I don’t know. But somehow they always are! My wife and I so thrilled to be blessed with these children.

Kathy and I sometimes stop and thank our lucky stars for having children who are happy with families and careers they love. Our family life has had turmoil like many do. Our kids had to put up with some of their parents antics, and we had to put up with theirs (and still do). But there was never any doubt of our support and love for each other. My daughters’ love for their brother is unparalleled! When he has been in hazardous duty situations, serving in the Army, they had difficult months worrying about him. And while my son Mike is not as open about his love for his sisters and their kids, it’s definitely there! They all have each other’s’ back.

My blog is about being a dad! I hope you can see, through my words, what a wonderful thing it can be. Son’s need a dad to see how to properly be a man. Daughters need a dad to show them how to be properly treated and fulfill a need they all have to be accepted by a man as a woman. While my wife Kathy was the primary care taker of our children, as is the case in most families, I was a very important part of their lives and I took that very seriously. Any man that doesn’t look after the needs of his family has abandoned maybe THE key role of his life. I can’t say I understand it, but I know it is not always the fault of the father alone. Still, to not stand up to your responsibilities as a father, or to fight against all odds to do so, means something is missing in their heart. That could have been caused by the lack of a real father of their own.

I like to think I had an intangible influence on my daughters’ choice of husbands. Certainly they are different than me, but there is one common thread. We all three are totally absorbed in and committed to our children! We want to be with them, teach them, and prepare them for their futures. Yes, girls need their mothers to learn how to be women. And they need their fathers to know what kind if men they want in their lives. Hopefully your daughters will want men like you, dad, if you are a good example. Hopefully they will choose men unlike you if you are not a good example. 


The trouble is this. If you are not that good example, where will your daughters find one, and will that person be trustworthy?

 
 
PictureVisiting my son in Hawaii. (His backyard!!)
I believe in certain things, as we all do. For instance, I believe America is flawed but the greatest country on earth. I believe I am responsible for my own happiness. I believe the New England Patriots cheated in the 2000 Super Bowl. I could find many who would disagree with me on any of these beliefs. After all, a personal belief is often just an opinion, not always founded on a certainty.

Opinions come about through a combination of facts, rumors, bias, family history, country of origin, religion, convenience, experience, and that one thing that you would like to add I have not mentioned. The point is this. With this combination of factors, there is little if any likelihood that we could have the same opinions or beliefs. With that said, I’m going to tell you what this father believes about our impact, as fathers, on society.

My beliefs are mine, but the basis of my beliefs come from much research, statistical analysis, and life experience. The bottom line if you do not want to read any further is this; most societal issues have, as their root cause, a decline of the family, too often, because the father is not involved with his children--if he is around at all.

1.       I believe that too many teen aged girls get pregnant because a boy wants to prove his manhood and a young girl is looking for male approval. Both are the result of a family with issues, most often because the father is not involved.

2.       I believe crime is caused by a need for drugs, disregard of honest work, and machismo.

           a.       I believe drug use is an escape from reality and caused by peer pressure, lack of self-esteem, and lack of caring or guidance.

                      i.      I believe peer pressure is strong when there is no respected higher authority.

                      ii.      I believe lack of self-esteem is due to a lack of a support structure.

                       iii.      I believe a lack of being cared for, or lack of guidance is also due a lack of a support structure.

           b.      I believe a disregard of honest work is due to that principle not being instilled in youth.

           c.       I believe machismo is a release all boys need, but with guidance.

           d.      All the above are largely the result of a family with issues, most often because the father is not involved.

3.       I believe poverty is often caused by family patterns, lack of education, and/or lack of incentive or pro-active habits.

          a.       Family patterns are what you may believe to be the norm--when you only do what you know and see. When a family is in despair, the cycle can continue if nothing is done to break it.

          b.      Lack of education is an obvious impediment to success.

          c.       Lack of incentive or pro-active habits can be brought about by being comfortable in your situation, not knowing how rewarding work and accomplishment can be. Welfare contributes to a lack of incentive for many.

          d.      All causes are largely the result of a family with issues, most often because the father is not involved.

4.        I believe suicides and homeless rates are higher, and drop outs from high school are more likely when families have issues, most often because the father is not involved.

5.       Here is a twist. I believe that police profiling is (for the most part) a result a statistical analysis that points to a much higher likelihood for young black male to commit a crime than, for example, an elderly white Mormon (for exaggeration). This is terribly sad for the vast majority of young Black males who are innocent victims of this methodology, whether it is formal or not. But any anger towards police should also be directed at those young Black males, who do commit crimes much more often than other demographics. If not for them, the innocents would not be victimized nearly as much.

           a.       And why do young Black males perpetrate more crimes than young white males? I believe it is because 72% are born without a father in the home compared to a much lower 28% of Caucasians that are born without a father in the home. It’s not a race problem, it’s a fatherhood problem.

           b.      Profiling is done everywhere, from advertisers, to college admissions, to warfare.

6.       I believe that:
  • Mothers, in general, are much more dedicated to their children than fathers.
  • Most children can be molded to be good citizens.
  • Adolescents need a leader, and they need a good man to be that leader.
  • All children deserve both a loving male and a loving female influence.
  • Families are in decline and we need to act in a grassroots manner to fight against it. 
  • Fatherly involvement is the key to a better society

Clearly, there are many other reasons, other causes, differing philosophies and disagreements as to why we have the societal issues we do. But can anyone deny that if the majority of families had a decent, caring, and mentoring fathers in the home, our issues would shrink into a manageable and healthy level? I hope to impact at least a few men, who will wake up and embrace this all-encompassing responsibility to their children. If all men would take this pledge, then society would then heal itself.



 
 
Picture Mike flying a Blackhawk Helicopter
As I write this my wife and I are past our 4th hour on the tarmac at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, waiting for US Air flight 692 to finally depart for Honolulu, Hawaii to visit my son Michael. But this is not about that. This is about my son, and it just happens to be Veterans Day. Mike is an Army helicopter pilot, assigned to the UH-60 Blackhawk. He is stationed at Schofield Barracks, where the Japanese attacked American aircraft at nearby Wheeler Army Airfield during the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor.

To say I am proud of Mike would be a tremendous understatement! He worked very hard to be where he is today, overcoming some likely inherited insecurities and struggles to graduate from college. Not that he isn’t smart, he is--college just wasn’t his thing. Many times Mike talked to my wife Kathy and I about quitting and we would ask him to stick it out. Finally, in his junior year, we decided to tell him to quit if he thought he just couldn’t do it. After that, he never again asked us about quitting and took it upon his own to graduate! Mike is a ‘hands on’ kind of guy. He can tell you anything about Army Aviation and fly a Blackhawk with the hand-eye coordination I wish I had been blessed with, but English Literature or Macroeconomics are not in his wheelhouse of interests.

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree, Mike spent five years as an enlisted helicopter mechanic before attending Warrant Officer training, then helicopter pilot training. He chose the Warrant Officer course which allowed him to fly his entire career, avoiding any future desk time that a commissioned officer may endure.  A very smart choice for him!


Picture
Mike has served combat tours in Kosovo, Iraq, Egypt, and Afghanistan in his thirteen years of service. In my twenty-nine years of active duty Air Force and Air National Guard time, the closest I got to a combat tour was being on strategic bomber alert in South Dakota. So if you think Mike is lucky to be assigned to Hawaii, he certainly deserves the break. That assignment is about to end as he will be re-assigned to Ft. Campbell Kentucky in February. The most deployed units in the Army are from Ft. Campbell, including the 101st Airborne Division. So where he will end up, no one knows for sure.

PictureMike flying over the Pacific
Mike has fulfilled his dream of flying as a career. I assume his interest was sparked by my time as a military pilot. For a while he was in the University of Missouri Air Force ROTC program, until he was enlightened to the advantages of being an Army Warrant Officer. It was a tough day for me when Mike told me he was quitting Air Force ROTC. I discussed with him the plusses and minuses of quitting without putting too much pressure or guilt upon him. At least, that’s how I remember it. He wasn’t really quitting. He was readjusting.  

As he was growing up, Mike wanted to follow me around and be like me. Once, when Mike was about as tall as my waist, I was having trouble putting up a light fixture or something when Mike said, “Hey Dad, why don’t you do it this way?” He was right and his suggestion worked. Mike is smart that way. He started college as an engineering student, again I assume because I had graduated as an engineer. I wasn’t sure it was the right move, but I didn’t discourage Mike from trying it. Eventually, he was smart enough to realize it wasn’t for him. Again, he was readjusting, something I didn’t figure out when I was in college. I think I would have been more fulfilled as an architect, but didn’t know any better at the time. And I certainly wasn’t ready to be a writer!


PictureMike and his sisters
I think this is how fathers and sons are supposed to work. Mike followed my example and adjusted to his desires, dreams, and abilities. That is perfect way for a son to act in my eyes. My contribution was an example to follow until he found his own way. Boys without fathers may have trouble finding their way without that fatherly baseline to follow. Too often they are lost or on the wrong path or following the wrong people, who themselves had no one to look up to for proper guidance.

Mistakes? I made a few, maybe a lot--but we all will.  I wasn’t around as much as I would have liked, working many weekends in the Air National Guard, attending schools, and travel for work. The important stuff is the big picture! As a dad, ask yourself these questions. Were you around? Were you a good example? Were you helpful but not over bearing? Did you do things together? Were you patient, allowing for mistakes and do-overs? Did you show you cared? Were you available when needed--even when they are adults? These are the important questions. Better yet, they are important goals to set as a new father!


PictureVisiting Mike in Hawaii in 2103
I’ll being seeing Mike later today! (If we ever take off!) It only happens about an average of once a year. We don’t talk very often in between visits. He’s quiet and neither of us are good at small talk. We understand our relationship and have no need to prove our love by constant contact. I know he will call if he needs advice and does. I will call him when something exciting happens in the family, or in sports. I constantly send him photos of his nieces and nephew. He never thanks me for them, and that’s how we are, and I see no need change anything! 


 
 
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Being a dad is tough enough. But the entertainment industry portrays fathers in ways that make it even tougher. I mention this in my book, The Power Of Dadhood.  Here is a quote from my publisher, Familius

We live in a day that is confusing. Much of entertainment and media portrays dysfunctional family life as normal. Sadly, it's become popular to be rude, to be unfaithful, to be ignorant of history and current events, and to devalue the contribution of fathers and mothers. While this noise is all around us, we don't have to opt in.

Simply turn it off and do something positive instead. Be kind to someone, tell your spouse you love her, talk about lessons learned from history at the dinner table, and through your daily example demonstrate why parents are the most important teachers each generation has.”


By Christopher Robbins, Familius. CEO and Pater Familius

Indeed, parents are the most important teacher and the only gate keeper protecting our children from the bad influences we want them to avoid. When I watch TV or go to the movies, it is usually for entertainment. I’m experienced enough to overlook some values I find objectionable. It is sadly a fact that crime, machismo, sex, and shady characters are more interesting to most viewers than functional families. Sometimes these shows/movies are pointing out truths and/or putting a light on issues that need to be addressed. However, most of the time the goal is simply ratings, which leads to profit. I’m not against profit and I understand entertainers complying with viewers’ tastes.

This where real families must act. As parents, we have to control what our children watch or explain what they are seeing and hearing in a better context. We are not going to see a significant change in programming soon. Certainly violence and sex are obvious areas to avoid. Less obvious is the depiction of fathers as bumbling idiots, or children being disrespectful to adults and/or cruel to each other, or endorsing questionable behavior. 

In an earlier post of mine, I wrote about The Seven BE's of a Successful Dad. They are "Be involved, principled, consistent, loving, fun, balanced, and passionate." Here are a few examples of recent TV shows depicting families where the fathers fail to meet these seven characteristics.
  • “Everybody Loves Raymond” – a bumbling father who is uninterested in his kids. 
  • “The Simpsons” – Homer is funny but utterly disgusting.
  • “Modern Family” – Phil is an excellent dad in all characteristics, but still portrayed as immature and bumbling!
  • “Malcolm in the Middle” – “Breaking Bad” star, Bryan Cranston was the less-than-stellar father of a dysfunctional family. 
  • “That 70’s Show” – Red, the father, is cantankerous, flippant, and sometimes' mildly violent.
All of these dads perform badly with respect to most of the, 'Seven Be's', with the exception of Phil Dunphy.

Not all of today’s TV dads are bad, 'Bernie Mac' is a good example of fatherhood, but most good role models were from the old days of television. “Father’s Knows Best”, “The Bill Cosby Show”, “Leave it to Beaver”, and “Andy Griffith” had good, respectable, lesson-teaching dads, and even though they were exaggerated, so are the recent shows mentioned above. Today, it is not unusual for an incompetent dad to be married to a smart attractive wife who has to set him straight and fix his mistakes. Funny and entertaining, these depictions nevertheless tell a young person who doesn't have a father-- or has a father who is not involved in their life--that by not having a dad around as a mentor is not such a big loss. Nothing could be further from the truth!





 
 
PictureBarn, Farmhouse, Shed
One day in 1999, I started putting some thoughts together about being a dad. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with those thoughts, but because of my experience as a boy and as a father, it was important to me. I continued this practice but would often not write anything for weeks. As retirement was approaching, I became more serious and promised myself to organize my thoughts into a book for my family. My persistence paid off and with the help of others, it will be published by Familius in April, 2015--and not for just my family. Knowing how much time, work, and aggravation it took, I wouldn’t have made that promise to myself. But since all that is mostly behind me, I’m very satisfied with the journey. The first note I ever wrote put in motion a process that has changed my life in a way I never contemplated, but certainly love and appreciate.

For years, I wrote at home, in libraries, and various ‘Bread Companies”. I wrote on vacations and even at work when a thought occurred to me, not wanting to forget. But I also had another vision, a vision where I was writing in a quiet, isolated location, on a table by a window with a beautiful view. Well, you know how it is to have a vision—it pulls you toward it. The more vivid the vision, the more the pull.

While my vision was pleasing, it wasn’t elaborate. Just a small piece of land, maybe on a hill, and a small A-frame with enough room for a table and maybe a sofa bed with a small dorm refrigerator and a rustic bathroom. Just quiet, inspiring beauty, and a table with a window.

I had been looking around, mostly in Jefferson County, Missouri and I had found some amazingly beautiful areas. Areas most people from the St. Louis area never see because they are out of the way. But to find land for sale that was perfect for my needs was difficult.

One day, I was driving home from playing golf asking myself “why do I torture myself playing this game?” when I came to the intersection where I enter the interstate highway to go home. A quick thought came to me, “I wonder if there are any possibilities of land ahead of me towards Augusta?” It had never occurred to me to look before. It was early November and even though it was after 4 pm, plenty of daylight was left. So I sped across interstate instead of turning on the on ramp towards home.

I had driven about 10 miles when I came to 3-way intersection. There was a sign that said “home with a beautiful view”. I wasn’t looking for a home, but I was looking for a view. I took a right turn and drove up a steep hill and three miles later, I found the house with a beautiful view. And it was! I could see for miles over the Missouri River Valley. The view and the house were breathtaking. Almost as breathtaking as the asking price of $750,000! In the Midwest, that gets you much more than a simple A-frame.

After slowly backing away from this beautiful home, I decided to keep driving down this road I had never traveled before. It was a fun adventure. On the highest elevation of the road, the beautiful fall foliage surrounded me, blocking any distant views until I came upon an opening that delivered a view of the most beautiful valley I had ever seen in this area. Being far off the beaten path, I wondered if this was how Lewis and Clark may have felt as they navigated the nearby Missouri River.


PictureThe Farmhouse
Of course I wanted to investigate further. When I got to the bottom of the hill, I saw a yellow farmhouse with a sign that said FOR SALE BY OWNER! I didn’t go any further that day.

Now this farmhouse was not what I was looking for. This was a two story, 2000 sq. ft. home built in 1900. It was not on a hill, although it did have beautiful views, and it came with a barn and shed with three acres to mow. But it spoke to me.

I drove home and told my wife Kathy about it. I was shocked that she didn’t discourage me on the spot. A few days later we went back to look the property again. Kathy was curious and we both enjoyed the ride. Three months later, we bought it and our lives changed.


PictureAfter removing 2 layers of linoleum.
It’s now six years later. I have re-learned what hard work is all about. I found a beautiful wood floor under 2 layers of the ugliest linoleum you have ever seen. I turned an old canning kitchen and breezeway into a comfy living area surrounded by windows with a fireplace. With the help of my brother, I installed glass double doors where a wall used to be that separated two rooms and added a picture window in the kitchen to view the landscape. The house is solid, built of oak 2x4s when they were actually 2 inches by 4 inches!  You can jump up and down anywhere in the house and not one thing will shake.


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Canning kitchen before
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Canning kitchen after
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Kitchen window replacement and wood floor. (see view)
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Three grandchildren have been born since then and one is on the way. What was to be a small writing place has become a family gathering place for my extended family. We celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, birthdays, and more. Every Memorial Day we invite friends and family to a huge party with lots of food and fun for kids. We’ve even had a band on a couple of occasions.

We have a play set, tire swing, playhouse, motorized toy tractor, a creek nearby, a barn, and lots of room for kids to run around. We’ve had many bonfires under a sparkling carpet of stars. My original idea of a place to write has turned into a memory maker for my wife, my children, my grandchildren and me. Memories that have brought us all closer together.

I often wonder what my current life would have been like today had I not made that snap decision to drive across the interstate that early November day in 2008. I may have finished the book much sooner, but not as well, and at the cost of so much living.

Oh, one more thing, Please suggest my book to a father who could use some encouragement! 
"The Power of Fatherhood - A Better Society Starts with Dad" Out in April 2015.


 
 
Life quotes are great! They help us through tough times and give us hope and encouragement. But most life quotes are ephemeral (word of the day). Their impact lasts a day or so. Quotes with a real-life dimension add a bit of reality and responsibility, offering true ways out of your circumstance or towards your goals. Below are a few thoughts on fatherhood, or 'Dadhood' as I like to call it, captured in photos.

Below each photo is a fractured life quote, that inspired each dad quote
.

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‘Love makes the world go ‘round’, but little else gets done until you come to your senses. 

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 ‘You can do anything you put your mind to.’ Yeah, maybe if you are rich, powerful, wealthy, good looking and oblivious to facts. How about “you can do just about anything that is within reach if you really want to. Just don’t forget to reach very far!” 

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When you wish upon a star’, you kind of have a notion. But when you take a step towards a star, you’ve set a plan in motion.


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‘When you dream, anything is possible’until you wake up. When you work towards a dream, you eventually might catch it. 

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‘The best things in life are free’. Not really, you must pay for them with your appreciation!

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‘Never give up’ sounds nice. But ‘never give up on what’s worthwhile’ is better.

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Never say never could never be said without saying never. 

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‘Beauty is only skin deep.But it does buy you a lot of time. However, always giving in is a big mistake!

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‘When one door closes, another one opens.’ But if you can stay in the room, you won’t have to worry about it.

 
 
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If you ask men what masculinity means to them, you may hear words like strong, manly, brave, and bold. From a woman, you might hear some of the same words as well as handsome, rugged, sure of himself, and protector. These adjectives have a place in romance novels and action movies, and certainly masculinity can involve these traits. But I have a much different definition of masculinity.

To me, being masculine is doing what you should do as a man. Sometimes being strong and brave help you do those things a man should do, but there are many other important things that require none of that. If a man were caring, thoughtful, loving, conscientious, and kind, masculine may not be the first words you hear from someone describing him. But these are the characteristics of a man who tends to and fulfils his responsibilities.

The question becomes, “what are the things a man must do to be a man?” This is precisely the question that is rarely ever asked, directly, and is a painfully missing lesson for most boys and young men. There is no set list of things a man should do as a man because it can vary from culture to culture, family to family, situation to situation. Also, almost anything you would list as general requirements could also apply to a woman, such as being confident in his (her) body, being honorable to the opposite sex, non-abusive, and sexually responsible.

There are, however, certain traits attributed to males that many think make them masculine, but are actually traits the should be avoided. Included in the things a man must NOT do to be a man are the following.

1)      A man cannot and should not prove his manhood by keeping a scorecard of how many women he has slept with. I’ve known men who have claimed to be accomplished in that area, but they are not necessarily attractive, engaging, or successful in life. There are even women who sleep with women, so indiscriminately sleeping around does not make a man.

2)      You cannot be a better man by constant competition with other men. Out-drinking, out-scoring, out-womanizing doesn’t make you a man. It makes you a drunk woman chaser who can shoot a basketball (but obviously not all at the same time). Neither are you a man by envying or bringing down the men that ‘out-do’ you.

3)      Being in control does not make you a man, unless you are in control of yourself. It is likely that the more you need to be in control of others, the more insecure you are. To conquer and control is good in war, but too often we confuse everyday life as the same as war. Being a domineering husband or father is not a man. Often, powerless men who need control of something, try to control women. 

Avoiding the activities above are important in being a real man, but you’re not there yet. A real man also has these characteristics.

1)      Caring--Someone who cares about others, especially family. A provider and guardian.

2)      Dependable--Someone who others can trust and rely on when needed. Someone who says he will do something, and does it.

3)      Consistent--Someone who is predictable in an emergency, constant in their emotions, fair in their reactions and judgments of others.

4)      Responsible--Someone who is accountable for their actions and not afraid to be in charge. A person with character who will take calculated risks to do the right thing.

Again, these characteristics are important for a woman also, so what makes a man a man? Well, just being male will take care of the biological, physical, and emotional differences. Those came about without any work on your part. The difficult part of being a man is doing the right things, and not doing the wrong things.

Simply, a man is a male who carries himself well. This is the example boys and young men need to see. A man teaches other males by his example. These males eventually and desperately need to be anointed by a respected man, hopefully a father, as meeting that requirement—of carrying ones' self well.

In his Introduction to his book “Man Enough: Fathers, Sons, and the Search for Masculinity”, Frank Pittman writes, “Masculinity is supposed to be passed on from father to son. Women, no matter how wonderful, no matter how loving, can’t teach it to us. If we don’t have fathers, we should have grandfathers, uncles, stepfathers to raise us from boys to men. If we don’t have men in our family, then our need for mentors begins early. If the males we know are the other teenaged boys or the macho heroes from the movies, we may get a distorted, exaggerated concept of masculinity.”

Summary

If you are a male, then being a man means avoiding the behavior that can lead you to false notions of masculinity, and embracing the values that bring respect to you. Nature will take care of the rest. So just remember this; a man is a male who carries himself well, and who passes the lessons and the torch of manhood on to his sons. If this isn’t done, they may learn from other confused/knuclehead males and/or the false images of masculinity which can pass on generation to generation, until a real man intercedes.


 
 
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Don’t worry that your children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.”   Robert Fulghum

We all know that the perfect role models for children are parents. That’s not to say that all parents are the best role models, but they are first and most prominent. Role models show the way, establish values, teach and mentor. If you were perfect, you probably wouldn’t mind being a role model. But if you are like everyone else, you aren’t perfect. That causes a dilemma. Do you deny any responsibility for being an example to others? Or do you carefully and consciously accept the role?

 "I am not a role model" said Charles Barkley in a Nike commercial. Barkley called for parents and teachers to quit looking to him to "raise your kids" and be role models themselves. I think he is half right and half wrong. Parents should be the primary role models for their children, but he is naïve if he doesn’t know that many kids don’t have good role models for parents, including fathers, if they have a father at all. In fact, 33% of children do not live with a father. In the  black community, that number is an astounding 63%! Because of these facts, boys are usually most impacted by a lack of a role model. All young men deserve a good example to look up to.

When their father is not around, where do young men go? In an interview with MTV, rapper Tupac Shakur said this, “I didn’t have a father, but I had pimps and drug dealers and robbers and killers telling me what I should do.” While most fatherless kids are not exposed to this kind of crazy, many never find a decent role model to follow and their future is at risk.

Even kids with good role models look up to their favorite athletes or heroes in some ways. That may not be fair to the athletes, but they should accept that role along with the money, or they can decline to be famous athletes. As a young military officer in uniform, I was no longer Mike Smith while in public--I was a representative of the US Air Force. I didn’t act much differently, but I acted more consciously and conscientiously. I took great pains to not embarrass the uniform. To embarrass myself would be on me alone. To embarrass the Air Force would be quite another thing. As a parent, you cannot always be yourself just as I couldn’t be a private citizen in uniform.

If a car cuts you off, you may respond one way if you are alone, but another if you are with young children. Police officers are held to a higher standard with regard to restraint. Restaurants are held to a higher standard for cleanliness. Airlines are held to a higher standard for safety. The military is held to a higher standard for teamwork and bravery. Role models are also held to higher standards, no matter what that role may be.

Do you know the best way to teach your children how to show kindness to others? It’s simply being kind to others yourself, including your children. It is paramount that you be a good example for them. If you smoke, drink heavily, or swear often, your children will see that as acceptable behavior no matter what you say to them otherwise. They trust that you know best how to act and react to all situations, and learned behaviors are hard to break. Of course, that trust may fade as they get older and they may look to others for guidance--some good, and possibly some bad.

My father was not a role model I chose to follow. Yet I find myself doing some things I saw him do. Most of those are innocuous habits, but I have made a bad choice or two from his example. I have learned from those bad choices, but not without some regret.

Here is an excerpt on the topic from my book,  The Power of Dadhood. 

“Know when your actions will come back to haunt you. Our kids watch us and learn from us from the earliest ages, even infancy. Be the man you want your children to model. As they get older, help them see what their actions tell others, and that life is all about the choices they make. They need to know why they make the choices they do, and how these choices impact both their own lives and those of others.”

The Role of Role Models

In my mind , the role of role models is to:
  • have good values
  • be good at what you represent 
  • be aware of your actions and of those around you 
  • know the situation you are in, and
  • be a good citizen

You can choose to ignore the tacit responsibility of being a role model, but why would you? It’s an honor that has been bestowed upon you by someone who respects you and your example. However, as a mom or a dad, you can’t deny your responsibility, nor can you ignore the example that you are presenting to your children. Be careful!

Good role models are vital to the future of our youth!


 
 
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"I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”  Michael Jordan
~
I’m almost there! I must be! I’ve had enough restarts, non-responses, bad efforts, missteps, double-clutches, disappointments, slip-ups to fulfill any requirement for success. If failures lead to success, I'm on the brink. I’m ready for it so let it come forth!

I made a decision when I retired that I was going to do two things.

1) ‘Be there’ for my extended family, and
2) Be an advocate for ‘dadhood’.

To be clear, I’m not as much an advocate for dads as I am an advocate for ‘fathers being better dads’. Being there for my family has been easy. Or should I say an easy choice because they are awesome! The babysitting, handling of issues, hauling stuff in my truck, has often been taxing, but totally rewarding.

The advocacy of fatherhood has been much tougher! I started with no platform from which to speak and after 10 years of research/writing and 14 months of two or more ‘Helping Fathers to be Dads’ blog posts a week, my platform is now the size of a shoebox, thanks to the eyes looking at this page!

I’ve never expected quick success on anything. When it happened in the past, I was suspicious. Too easy—must not be good. Too easy—must not be what I thought it to be. Real success comes after much failure--that’s always been my way of thinking--because there is rarely a straight path to earned success. Is this a pessimistic thought process, or is it an optimistic thought process? On one hand, it’s pretty pessimistic to think nothing comes easy. But, on the other hand, to think of failures as necessary steps to success is an optimistic viewpoint. This kind of thinking encourages you to never give up.

Certainly, Edison had my philosophy. He failed 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb. But he knew there was answer and would not give up. I’m not giving up either. Edison’s one success has shown a light on the world. My dream would be to shine a light on one father at a time with each being a success. Of course, I would like one BIG success--like Edison’ light bulb, but I’ll take multiple small successes.

So far my efforts have seemed like chopping down a Sequoia tree, yet only having enough wood for a nightlong campfire. But I know that campfire would not have existed without chopping down that Sequoia. I’ll attack that next Sequoia a little more smartly and perhaps I’ll have enough wood for a week’s worth of campfires. To push the analogy even further, I consider each of you who are reading this a log in my campfire—keeping me warm, giving me the fuel to keep writing because writing does not come easily to me. I would rather be flying airplanes, taking pictures, or bouncing my one year old granddaughter on my knee. I write because that’s how to communicate with a large amount of people, without repeating myself, on a very important topic.

It is so hard to get the attention of your audience. My audience is parents, especially fathers. There is so much information bombarding us all. Just in the blogging world there are 3,900,000 mommy bloggers. Only about 500 get much attention. There are far less dad bloggers. I couldn’t even find a discussion on the numbers of dads who blog. But I personally know of over 800 of them. For someone to find, or have time to read my blog, is like….difficult! But you did! Most likely because you’re family, a friend, or a friend of a friend. That’s okay though! We all have to start somewhere and word-of-mouth is the best way--if you have something worthwhile to say.

I blog because I wrote a book on fatherhood. I was told that I must blog to get a platform (basically an audience) to sell the book. It turns out that blogging is another way to reach my ultimate goal (and it’s not making money—that ship is leaking badly). My ultimate goal is better families and healthier kids through loving and nurturing dads! It’s my way of giving back for the wonderful life I have been blessed with, after a shaky start.

How this relates to being a dad

Parenting is not for wimps! To be good at it, you will experience “restarts, non-responses, bad efforts, missteps, double-clutches, disappointments, slip-ups” just like I have with my book and blog. And just like me, you will wonder if anyone is listening. Just like me, you’ll often chop down the proverbial parenting Sequoia tree and still not have two sticks to rub together. Just like me, you will want to give up at times. But unlike my competitive situation, you are the only father your children will ever have.

You can’t give up on your kids! Sometimes that means no longer helping them when doing so allows them to get deeper into trouble. That takes guts and knowing your children very well. Your decisions must always consider what is best for them, even though they will often disagree.

Good parents do make a difference. IMHO, fathers lag mothers in this area and need to catch up. Many are catching up!

Summary

Writing about dadhood/fatherhood has been a little like raising a kid. With the awesome leadership of my wife, our kids turned out to be very responsible people. I can only hope my book “The Power of Dadhood” turns out half as well!

Thanks to my readers for helping me help families!


 

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    Mike Smith

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