Why do some neighborhoods live in relative peace and prosperity while others live in fear and dread? The real answer is rarely discussed or seriously attacked.
In any society you will find:
But in a society where few fathers are engaged with their children, these issues explode!
- Child abuse
- Education issues
- Emotional and behavioral problems
- Inappropriate sexual activity involving minors
The societal symptoms mentioned above are addressed much more aggressively than the cause. We often blame crime on drugs, drug trade is blamed on the lack of work opportunity, lack of work opportunity is caused by educational issues, educational issues exist because of poverty, and poverty is caused by all these issues. Where does it begin and how do we stop it?
Many believe, as I do, that most of these issues are rooted in the breakdown of the family.
What Linda Eyre’s says is true! Can anyone deny that the issues of society would be dramatically decreased with more effective families? Families are ineffective for many reasons, often because the parents were the result of other ineffective families. And if we are honest, the reason families are not whole or effective is most often due to the lack of fathers in the home.
One vs Two Parent Homes
One parent homes can and do work, but not nearly as often or as well as two parent homes. Two parent homes have twice the love, twice the variety, better financial capability, and both feminine and masculine models.
Having positive role models is vitally important! A boy needs to watch his father and learn from him. He needs his father’s approval and validation. If not, the boy tries to prove himself to the wrong people in all the wrong ways.
Girls need to be loved by a father who will show her how to be properly treated by a man and to experience male approval. If she does not find male approval from her father, she will seek it elsewhere, often in the wrong places.
The Cycle of Despair
When a fatherless boy, who is desperate to prove his masculinity, meets a girl who is looking for male approval, you can assume we have the making of another dysfunctional family. In my book, I call this the “cycle of despair.” Defeated mothers and absent fathers create future defeated mothers and absent fathers.
Let’s look at some statistics which come most often from the US Census Bureau.
So we do have serious issues in society, but these stats tell us they are caused, in very large part, by kids growing up in homes without a father involved.
Teen pregnancies and high school dropouts alone are serious issues that can take generations to correct. I know....I’ve seen it firsthand. Around 85% of these situations are from father-absent homes. Resolving these two issues alone, by closing the fatherhood gap, would erase many other social issues.
Fathers or Government?
Most government programs address symptoms that will never go away without addressing the cause. We can build drug treatment centers and prisons, rely on government-assisted childcare, provide school lunch programs and food stamps, which are well intended programs that help and often work well in smaller numbers, but they won’t stop these societal issues from reoccurring. And no matter how hard it tries to provide food, shelter, and medical care for needy families, our government cannot provide the two most important things a child needs from a father: love…. and emotional support.
The only program that would help every issue mentioned is a program to encourage, train, and mentor young parents, especially the dads.
It’s not my intention to blame all our social ills on irresponsible fathers. There are some fine families with troubled kids and some troubled families whose offspring find a way out and are very successful. Many times the mother is ill-suited as a parent, or the mother may block a father from seeing his children. No matter the situation, it is clear that healthier and whole families would allow our social issues to be much more manageable!
Lets spend money on something that will eventually save money, and much more importantly, save lives! It is my hope that many more private and government led programs will evolve that promote family welfare, not through subsistence but through better educated, willing and able parents. That education needs to start before young people become parents and continue after they are parents, especially if they have no example at home to follow. And admittedly, it would likely take three generation to see significant results--but it HAS to start!
The Correlation Between Single Parent Homes and Social Issues
If the statistics above don't convince you of the crises of father absence, examine the two maps below. (I'm from St. Louis so I'm using my home town as an example, but you will find similar maps in any city.)
- On the left is a map displaying areas, in orange and red shading, where single parent families exist. The green shading show areas where two parent homes exist 90-100% of the time.
- On the right is a map displaying areas where major crimes occur.
The correlation is astounding if not surprising!
If you imprison every perpetrator of every crime, but don't fix the families--is there any doubt that those crime dots will reappear in the same places with the same density in little or no time? In too many single parent homes, there are teaching gaps, morality gaps, social misdeeds and immature philosophies that become accepted. But there are too few organizations, leaders, or mentors to counter this kind of thinking and the cycle continues.
Could the root cause of our social issues be any more clear!? Can we not concentrate on educating and emphasizing family values and responsibility? Responsible fathers could work miracles. This is why I wrote, and why I believe in, "The Power of Dadhood"!(Below are larger versions of the maps above)
To the right (east) of the Mississippi River is East St. Louis, IL.
This blog is normally for the topic of "dadhood". But I occasionally do photography. If you read my last post, you know I just returned from vacation with my wife and the families of my two daughters. It was a blast! But upon return, I had to go mow the 2.6 acres at my farmhouse property. It usually takes about an hour an acre because there are lots of trees, slopes and obstacles.
I started about 5:30 pm on a hot day. As I was mowing, a couple of rain clouds passed by and a rainbow popped into view. I stopped my John Deere XL500 and took a photo of the rainbow with my iPhone, then another a little later. After I finished mowing, around 8:00 pm, I could see the clouds in the west and I knew there was some potential for a good sunset. I went inside, grabbed my Nikon 5100 and started walking towards the field behind the farmhouse. When I looked out, a family of deer was watching me closely. I snapped their photo and kept walking into the field, which chased the deer away.
I took a few blah photos, which I won't bore you with and waited some more. I looked away from the west and looked straight up, noticing the moon and some hazy clouds. I rested my camera on a bale of hay and took some zoom shots. I could tell I might be able to do something with them. They turned out to be very interesting and clear for a day shot without a tripod.
Finally the sky was starting to change. Some clouds became fiery while others were dark. To the northeast, white billowy clouds contrasted with the blue sky. I took panoramas, and close ups at different points along the horizon.The final shot was of some white clouds over my barn--just to show I was at my farmhouse. It was beautiful and timeless. Nothing else entered my mind at all during my shooting.
I enjoy writing my blog "Helping Fathers to be Dads", because it is a very important topic and I am passionate about fatherhood. But it is a lot of work writing so much while also trying to publicize my book. But photography is a release for me! I am lost in the moment during times like I had tonight. It is fun making something normal look interesting, but nature made it easy on me this evening. Rainbows, deer, the moon, clouds and a sunset--all within three hours!
Man! I's so happy I had to come to the farmhouse to mow tonight!! I hope you enjoy the slideshow!
Three hours on July 26, 2015
My wife Kathy and I spent this week with our family on vacation, which included our two daughters’ families--each with two kids. The four grandkids are six, two and a half, 21 months, and 3 months old. While a bit hectic at times, Kathy and I loved every moment. Our vacation took us to the Branson area in southwest Missouri. Known for their excellent live entertainment shows, we had too much to do to see even one of them. Our base was Big Cedar Lodge. Tractor Museum at College of the Ozarks
Kids have a way of expanding or changing your interests. If a little boy loves tractors, you will go out of your way to see a tractor museum at The College of the Ozarks--nicknamed Hard Work U. for reasons that are evident if you ever visit in Hollister, MO. Everywhere we looked was a beehive of activity. Moving hay bales, tending to calves, cleaning barns, making apple butter and fruit cake, learning horticulture, all being done with enthusiasm by their students. Ryan watching the tractors work.
But not one student is ever too busy to stop and talk to you. One young man stopped his huge tractor while working, opened the door and welcomed my grandson to take a closer look. He was in awe! A young lady stopped to tell us how much she loved it there, being originally from the city. She was cleaning out a large barn and offered us a free kitten! It was little kid heaven!
Malia at Laura Ingalls Wilder's Home
Actual Ryan quote, "Mommy, this sign says 'sit here'!
Also, if your six year old granddaughter has read every ‘Little House on the Prairie’ book, you will naturally go to the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Mansfield, Mo. There she saw the actual objects mentioned in the books. Objects like Pa’s violin. Her imagination met reality and her interest in true stories not only grew, but a memory of family time will be cherished forever. Papa and Rosie at the stables
One evening, my 21 month old granddaughter, her daddy and I were alone in the cabin. She decided she was going to take care of her Papa (me) so she waddled into the kitchen area, found a paper plate and reached on her tippy toes into a bowl of cantaloupe. She grabbed a piece, placed it on the paper plate and brought it to me. “Here Papa, for you.” I enthusiastically took a bite and offered a bite to her, which she accepted. She then waddled back to fetch another piece of cantaloupe and we shared it again. She did this 5 more times and each time the small piece of cantaloupe slid off the paper plate onto the floor, where she dutifully picked it up and placed it back on the plate. It wouldn’t have mattered if it were a dirt floor, or the cantaloupe was rhubarb--there is no way I wouldn’t have accepted her attention and caring for her Papa. Rosie with Daddy's flower.
It wasn’t the kind of vacation where we explore what we, as grizzled veterans of life, like to do on our own--which usually consists of traveling or relaxing. It was better than that! Because to see your children and/or grandchildren laugh heartily, or to cherish a flower from daddy, or to want to snuggle up with you, is much more precious! Watching their eyes as they see a large Belgian horse close up, or drive so near a waterfall, that you get a little wet, makes you realize you are doing these things for yourself--to them enjoy new experiences and revisit old favorites! First visit to Big Cedar!
Vacations together are important! You may spend lots of money with nothing tangible to show for it, short of a T-shirt or trinket, but the memories are precious! Memories like these are the glue that keeps families together and the avenues that keep communication open. These experiences feed curiosities, stimulate imaginations, encourage cooperation, and inspire loving relationships.
The littlest one, being only three months old won’t remember the boat ride on the lake, swimming in the pools, the horseback riding, the calves or the newborn kittens in the barn. She won’t remember the attention she received from two grandparents, one aunt, one uncle, her mom, dad, brother, and two cousins. But the stimulation of all that made millions of neuron connections in her sweet brain and she no doubt felt the love. Golfing at Top of the Rock!
I did get to play 9 holes of golf one day with my son-in-law on a gorgeous course. I took almost as many photo shots as golf shots. And for me, that's a LOT of shots!
And I enjoyed a beautiful sunset over Table Rock Lake. It was good all the way around! Another bucket list item I hadn’t even listed-- vacationing with my grandkids!
Sunset at Table Rock Lake. July 22, 2015
I’m a grandfather who, upon retirement, is looking back at fatherhood hoping to help fathers of today. I loved being a dad, and being a grandfather may be even better. Here are seven ideas I found from my experiences, which are critically important to understand when raising kids.
1. Wink, smile, look at them in a way they can feel the love.
Most dads say “I love you” to their kids. Some never say it. But for those of us that do, it can get to be routine. That’s not to say to stop saying it, but there are other ways of saying I love you that pierce right into their hearts! Special moments can be found where just eye contact will let them know you care and that they are very important to you.
2. Don’t treat all your kids the same.
Have your heard of the “average” kid. Well, he/she does not exist! The average kid is a statistic. Of course you will find common traits in kids such as being, shy, active, loud, picky, anxious, careless, it goes on and on. This fact means you can’t treat kids the same. Your interactions should be tailored to their needs because every kid is different socially, regarding behavior, intellectually etc. Of course they should all be treated fairly, but it would not be fair to treat them all the same.
3. Your children want to be disciplined.
You kids will fight you and challenge you at every turn--until they know the routine. If you are consistent, they will know arguing is useless and they won’t do it after a while. As they get older, there will be rules they don’t care for and they will try to talk you out of them. “You must be home by 11 PM” you say. “But dad, my friends can stay out until midnight!” Sometimes you can and should give in, but if you have hard and fast, but reasonable rules, then stick to them. The rules tell them you care enough about them that you want them to grow safely into responsible adults. Their ego will be angry but their true being will love you!
4. You are not your wife.
You are a dad, a man. You are not their mother, a woman. You are different and teach different things in different ways. Of course parents must discuss discipline and values, compromise if necessary, and be on the same page on important factors. But do things with your kids that their mom wouldn’t do. Have special routines with your kids. Be yourself. If one parent is a little easier going, then the other parent may be more responsible. If these styles can be balanced in the family, that is good. Better than both being easy going--or both being tough all the time. But never work against each other as parents!
5. They will watch what you do more than what you say.
Your kids are very observant. They pick up your habits very easily--the way you talk, the way you treat people, the way you treat your wife. Most importantly they will notice if you keep your word. They will learn from you that words do have meaning. When you do what you say, then they will know what you say is worth listening to.
6. Don’t ever involve them in your private marital issues.
No matter how old, never complain to your kids about their mom. They may know about what you’re unhappy about, but they don’t want to hear it from you. Why upset your children about something in which they have no say or have no fault? When you complain to them, you are the one that doesn’t look good in their eyes.
7. You will regret the gaps.
I have memory gaps involving each of my children. Certain ages they went through can be forgotten. It may be you don’t remember your son playing violin one year, or you recall your daughter playing softball, but it is a blur. Their first days of school, the vacation you couldn’t make, the name of their best friends, are all precious times and facts that deserve remembering. Although we shouldn’t live in the past, we also shouldn’t be without a story. The stories of family will warm you when you are in your last days. A fond memory lost is worse than almost any object lost. Therefore, take photos, tell stories of the past to keep them alive, don’t miss special occasions, and when you do things with your kids be there all the way, in mind and spirit. Not doing this will result in forgetting certain moments which will be treasured even more in the future.
These are things I learned as a dad. I failed at times on all of them as you will likely do as well. But if we keep these lessons in mind, our failures will be minimized and our roles as fathers will be of great value to our children!
How tough is it to sell a book if you’re not a John Grisham type or in Oprah’s Book Club? It’s tough! (By the way, if any of you know Oprah, let me know. My good friend Sue is determined to reach Oprah and I love her for it! But if you know Ms. Winfrey, it may speed up the process.)
Here is a little analysis I could have done prior to writing my book on fatherhood. I’m happy I didn’t, or I may not have ever written it. (I’m kidding, yes I would have!)
Check this out.
- There are 320,000,000 people in the USA
- Only 30% of those read more than one book a year -- 96,000,000
- Only 30% of those readers are male – 28,800,000
- Only 50% are fathers – 14,400,000
- Only 25% have kids under 21 – 3,600,000
- 80% care about being dads -- 2,880,000
- Only 10% care enough or think they need to read about being better dads -- 288,000
- Finally, optimistically word of my book has reached about 15,000 , or .0047% of the US population.
A 0.0047% average population reach to 288,000 fathers who,1) read more than one book a year, 2) with kids under 21, and 3) care about being better dads equals...13.5 dads who will likely buy this book. With this calculation of expected sales, I’m slightly ahead of expectations! ;) Of course I am being facetious! I made these assumptions for fun. But it goes to my point that the most difficult job of an author is not writing, but promoting! Some of these numbers are educated guesses and could be way off. But even with this pessimistic look, there would be 288,000 interested male customers of my book, not even counting women who would be interested! But no one can buy a book if they have never heard of it! 288,000 interested buyers out of 320,000,000 people is less than one tenth of one percent of the population--but it would, nevertheless, be great sales! But here is another, more important, issue. Those 288,000 dads I described earlier are not the men who most need to read a book on the challenges, answers, and rewards of being a dad! Their interest alone shows they are involved dads! It’s those men that don’t care enough to improve as fathers, or those who don’t think they need to improve, or those that are just clueless, that could use the discussion. They aren’t in that 288,000 interested male reader’s number, but should be! What to do? I'm trying many ideas to get "The Power of Dadhood" into the right hands. I’ve donated or given away over 200 books. I’ve spent more than I want to admit on promotion and I only get 10% of what one pays for a book, and I haven’t seen any of that yet. (Note: If had spent the promotion money directly on buying my own book, sales would have been much higher). I’m losing a bit financially, but this was not a money making venture for me, but I do hope my publisher prospers for their belief in my book. What I didn’t know is that publishers don’t really have much of a budget for marketing—it mostly up to the writer. I spend many hours every day on social media and reaching out to the National Fatherhood Initiative, Fatherhood.gov, father support centers, charities, book reviewers, etc. I write this blog, I look for opportunities to speak about fatherhood/Dadhood. I’ve tried to give it to libraries (and I did in Springfield MO. Thanks to Sue!) BUT… I understand all of this and went into this project with my eyes wide open, and with an open mind. I’ll keep on chugging! All I ask is that you, my blog readers and friends, keep your eyes and ears open to suggest my book to a father or family who either needs some help, would like to learn more, or is interested is measuring where they stand as parents! Please understand I am not disappointed in any way. I am grateful beyond words that I was able to get my book into the hands of the public! I just want my book to make a small difference in as many families as possible! Thank you!!!!
The success of a child with no fatherly guidance may come, but it will always be tempered with, “what if?” I had a crazy path to be the person I am today. Like most people, I had some things going for me and other things which held me back. The factor that held me back the most was not having my father as a mentor. Not having my dad to guide me was complicated by the fact that I was a very shy kid. I feel so strongly about not having him in my life as a positive influence, that I wrote a book about the importance of dads. Another result of my dad’s absence was a lack of money and frequent moving from school to school. I hated changing schools so often. It was tough making friends when you are afraid to approach anyone and knowing it wouldn’t be long before you would move again--one step ahead of creditors. So what does a kid do who is shy and needs some guidance? I spent a lot of my time listening to St. Louis Cardinal baseball on the radio. The invention of the transistor radio was, for me, like an iPhone is for a kid today. A radio without a cord attached! Baseball was my pastime in the summer. I also fantasized about being a pilot. I really wanted to fly airplanes. That was the thing I had going for me, a goal! When I was around six to eight years old, I would draw dials on a piece of cardboard and tape it on a wall. I grabbed a kitchen chair and a broom handle for control stick, all of which together served as a cockpit. I would pull my stick back and tilt my head back as if climbing through the clouds. I would push my stick to the left and simultaneously lean my head to the left. I couldn’t imagine how pilots flew upside down so I would stand on my bed, lean over, and look through my legs to test my ability, looking at the photos of airplanes that adorned my walls. This dream, or fantasy, of aviation gave me a direction to aim for, but I had no idea how to get there and I never thought to ask anyone. It seemed for quite some time that our family’s survival took priority over dreams. Not literal survival, like what happens in too much of the world, but survival in the American sense. One parent with little education and six kids is a challenge! Years later, as I matured, my dream remained. I still did not have a mentor or cheerleader to push me forward, nor did I shout my intentions, because I didn’t want anyone to think I was a day dreamer or feel sorry for me if I didn’t make it. I quietly did the only thing I could do to keep my dream alive. I kept my nose clean and studied in school. Certainly an education would be a help to move forward, I thought, even if it wasn’t as a pilot. As it turned out, my grades and my family’s lack of money allowed me to get a scholarship to college. What a huge break in my life! My fantasy was now upgraded to a real dream. But it was not an easy road. My good grades in high school were from constant studying. Had I really been smart I would have learned how to study more efficiently. I had spent so many hours studying in high school that I had no extra study hours left to compete with students who had all been in the top ten percent of their high school classes. As a commuter student at a university where most resided, I didn’t have quick access to friends who were smarter than me with whom to study. I was too shy to get to know people and had very few friends—my fault totally! But with all that, I managed to struggle enough to get my degree in electrical engineering with a mediocre grand point average. Not forgetting my dream, I had joined Air Force ROTC while in college. Now that I had my degree, I could get a commission as an officer and an opportunity to apply to pilot training. At this point in my story, I want to remind you that I am working toward a lesson. I went from lost to a hopeful dream which gave me some drive. My drive paid off and now I was in full competition with peers who were just as capable as me and, in my mind, much more confident. From the outside, it looked like I was clicking right along, but on the inside I was still the shy kid who felt uncomfortable in social situations. I did get selected for undergraduate pilot training. I couldn’t believe it was happening! But a short celebration became tempered by anxiety and changed again to doubt. I still suffered from a lack of confidence which I partially blame on my personality, and partially blame on never having a real mentor--someone who would encourage me and tell me why I was just as worthy as anyone else to be where I was. As it turned out, my pilot training class was mostly Air Force Academy graduates. These young men had already been in the military for four years. It was my first time away from home! Again the crippling lack of confidence of competing with these very tested young men put me in a stupor of non-aggressiveness. I wasn’t challenged by the competition like I might be today. Instead, I was ready to find a place to hide because it was obvious to me that I was not up to the competition--but really I was. The first half of flight training ended and I was at or near the bottom in class ranking. Having survived this far, I gained a bit of confidence and did much better in the second half. I got my wings! It was the happiest I had ever been. The story doesn’t end there, nor did my confidence problem. I flew B-52 bombers for five years after receiving my wings and left the Air Force. Something I regretted for quite some time. I left because I wasn’t thriving. I scuttled my lifelong dream and career because I could not get away from my feeling of not being good enough or fitting in comfortably. How ridiculous it seems now but it was so real then.
Soon after leaving the Air Force, my confidence issue started to turn around. What did it for me may seem trivial to some people, but it was a suggestion by a friend to read self-help books. These books taught me to look at life in a different way. I read stories of others who, when they could see things differently, were enlightened. Had I felt about myself as a child as I do now, I know I would have graduated with a higher grade point average, done much better in pilot training, and become a real leader in the US Air Force, with much less anguish. I joined the Air National Guard after I had left the Air Force, but I could not find a flying position. However, after learning how to deal with people and my insecurities from reading these self-help books, I became more attuned to my abilities. In time, I attained the rank of full colonel and retired as the Vice Commander of my unit. I also had the confidence and determination to write a book about the importance of fathers in children’s lives, having not had that experience in my early years. I had never been a ‘writer’ and knew writing did not come naturally. The ‘old me’ would not have attempted such a venture thinking it would never be read or readable. But I did write it because I now had confidence in what I wanted to do. It is not easy to admit to my insecurities and I haven’t been that lost person for a long time now. However, I am representing others who may look like they got through a father-absent life unscathed, but didn't in reality. Of course, not every kid is impacted by the lack of a male role model in the same way I was. Some are not as naturally shy and lacking in confidence. But on the other hand, some don’t have a dream to drive them or the perseverance I had to keep going regardless of how painful it is. No matter, every boy and girl is cheated when their father does not step up to be a guide and inspiration to them. Some fathers are not as active as others in their children's lives, but just the fact that a dad shows an interest gives a kid the idea they matter and someone cares. Kids work harder when they want to please someone and kids most want to please their parents until they are old enough to feel the confidence to want to please someone else or attain a goal. What if my dad was around? Might I have been more successful with my dad guiding and cheering me on? I really will never know. But I do know that I would have welcomed the interest, the company and the advice. Using my love of airplanes as an analogy:
- A father can propel like a prop,
- he can provide lift like wings,
- he can provide guidance like a compass,
- he can cushion a landing like an undercarriage.
And what if I didn't love airplanes? What if I didn't have a dream/goal to pull me through? Where would I be today?
Be aware of the critical responsibility and role you have in your children’s lives. Your involvement will give them confidence, skills, and desire to succeed. They will no doubt become more successful with less struggle and anguish with your help and guidance as a caring parent. Be there for them!
My book on the importance of dads is entitled: “The Power of Dadhood: Be the Father Your Child Needs”
The good thing about men as parents is we don’t usually fret as much about parenting as women. In general, we are a little more cavalier about raising our kids—a good reason we have wives. But a dad’s more casual approach is compliment to a stricter mom. And when these characteristics are reversed among mom and dad, it serves the same purpose. Having two parents is like being able to take the highway or the side roads; like drinking black coffee or with cream; like loving baseball or football. Neither style is better than another, but one style might be better suited for an individual or a situation. Sometimes a child needs a tough parent and at other times, a comforting parent. Each role should be shared, but often one parent is better in certain roles or situations.
A dad’s perception of his parenting is usually better than fact, at least in the ways he handles situations and challenges, which is more of a 'seat of the pants' approach. Often a mom’s perception of her parenting is that she is never good enough--but usually her parenting is more perfect than she may think. It depends on her ‘perception of perfection’. When some of us think of perfection, what we are really thinking of is fantasy. In the world of fantasy there are no problems. Birds sing, flowers bloom, babies never cry, each cloud is puffy white, everyone is pleasant, the series “Jersey Shore” never happened, and doors have no locks. But fantasy is not perfection, fantasy is escape.
The real world has questions that require answers and challenges to be met. This will never be truer than when you are a parent. Having to deal with fevers, ear infections, and discipline is what parents do. Toddlers learn naturally through trial and error. Adolescents are similarly maturing and will make many errors and adjustments along the way. Personally, your own challenges will make you stronger because resistance is required to build strength. Any weightlifter will tell you that. Weightlifters get to the point where they thoroughly enjoy the act and challenge of weightlifting. The most successful people similarly enjoy their challenges--it makes them better!
So what is my perception of attainable perfection? Perfection is the application of proper reactions to everyday life to the best of your ability. You won’t always meet that standard, of course, but given this definition, perfection is changing a dirty diaper. For a dad that might include a less than thorough clean up. For a mom, that might require Aquaphor, baby powder, and a check to see if the diaper is too loose or too tight. Perfection is also correcting your child, when necessary, without causing a scene. Perfection is balancing a marriage, career and parenting. To do that, none of the three can be perfect on their own! Perfection is finding answers and meeting challenges. Perfection is not an easy or idyllic life. It is handling life, as necessary, as best as you can.
You may fantasize about a life with no problems and it is good to escape once in a while. However, you will always have to come back to reality. When you do, you’ll be coming back to a less than perfect life, but likely much more perfect than you had previously thought, especially for you moms. If you meet your responsibilities and challenges head on, then you are living life as intended, and near perfection. A near perfect parent!
My family spent the 4th of July exactly like millions of others—with friends, family, food, fun and fireworks. I think Independence Day may be my favorite holiday for many reasons. While Thanksgiving is wonderful for giving thanks and being with family, July 4th is a time for bringing many families together and giving thanks for what we have in common, a wonderful country of freedom and opportunity.
It can be forgotten, when the negatives in the USA devour the positives in the coverage they receive--that we are in a good place! I love seeing kids, dads, mom, grandparents, friends and relatives getting together, enjoying each other and celebrating our nation, just 239 years old, the length of only three 80 year old lives!
The Independence Day slideshow below features much of my family and many of my friends. If you watch it, you will find it very typical and maybe even ordinary. But this is my kind of ordinary! It could be any American family in any American neighborhood.
An Independence Day message at the end. Hoping you and your family had a great holiday!
Credit goes to Kenny Chesney and his song "Summertime"!
Thank you from "Helping Fathers to be Dads"
These are the days of constant activity, competition, technology, and the bombardment of information. Is it any wonder that parents have less and less influence over their children? This is not a good trend because most parents know what is best for our own children. There are, of course, situations where parents can be a poor influence, but that situation is corrected by better parenting, not by the government or children making their own decisions.
There are few of us that ever escape to the quietness of a book or the serenity of a meadow or stream. Only 30% of the population reads books and less are likely to take a ride in the country like we did when I was a kid. The mind requires stillness at times to keep up with itself. I tell myself that every day, but instead I think I need to write another article for my blog! Or I have to do something to promote my book! Or I have to fix this or that. I need to help with my grandkids, answer an email, clean the garage, and declutter the house….whew! How can I take time out to chill?
This is not only true for you as a parent, but for your kids. They need time to read and play. But often parents are rushing them from one activity to another. From work, to home, to the ball field, to the smartphone, to piano lessons, to fast food-to bills, to bed, to a few hours of sleep, and then do it all again. For twenty three years, I also spent 15-20 weekends a year serving in the Air National Guard. It’s likely you have commitments on the weekends also! When is there time to teach, mentor and connect?
Too much information--which is too readily available on today’s technical devices is stealing our imaginations and self-identity. Unfortunately, most of us also choose trash information when there is so much valuable information that is available. Those of us that are old enough remember the relatively simpler times that allowed for more time between activities and protection from the blast constant awareness of information, most of which is useless to us. Our children think this lifestyle is normal—and for them it is! Yes, it sounds like the good old days (only 20-30 year ago) were better. Not true regarding choices and technology, but certainly true if you consider simplicity as better for the psyche.
If you have values you want to teach your children, you now have competition. They listen to friends who are influential. Nothing new about that but what they say is often mistranslated or misunderstood and what our friends think they know has exploded. The Internet has views your children hear that you can’t counter if you are unaware of what they are watching or reading. Standards of conduct are devalued and indecency sells, making it more prevalent and numbing to the senses.
Children’s dependency on their parents is nothing like it used to be. To make the point, parents used to teach their kids how to build a barn or sew a dress. Now kids teach their parents how to set up a wireless network or how to do ‘FaceTime’ or use ‘Pandora”. This switch takes away the ‘awe’ kids had for their parents. Less awe means earning more respect from them. How do we do this?
This all may be at its worse in the United States.
From, “The Power of Dadhood: Be the Father Your Child Needs”
In February 2007, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released a report that said, among the twenty-one wealthiest nations, the United States was the worst place to raise a child. The United States ranked low on the scale regarding children who eat and talk frequently with their families and had the highest proportion of children living in single-parent families. Single-parenthood was associated with “a greater risk of dropping out of school, of leaving home early, of poorer health, of low skills, and of low pay.”
Conversely, the study revealed that children in the Netherlands, Spain, and Greece “were the happiest,” and children of the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal “spent the most time with their families and friends.” The evidence in the Netherlands and Spain supports the obvious: children’s welfare—their health and happiness—is greatly enhanced by involvement with those they love.
A partial explanation of the report’s low ranking of the United States is the competitive nature in the job market, making adults less available to their children. Jonathan Bradshaw, one of the authors of the study, stated, “The findings we got today are a consequence of long-term underinvestment in children. They [the United States and also the United Kingdom, which ranked next to last] don’t invest as much in children as continental European countries do.” (Farley)
When economic conditions weaken, parental attention suffers as fathers and mothers look for work or struggle to make ends meet. Men’s competitive nature to get work trumps their nature to nurture.
The purpose of this article is awareness. If your children are swaying from your standards and desired direction, look to these as a few of the reasons.
- Lack of one-on-one time with parents.
- The availability of technology and the information, good and bad, therein.
- The abundance of unsolicited opinions of others before your children can determine right from wrong, good from bad, on their own.
- Not enough down time (or too much down time for a few).
- Fewer family times together going to church or grandma’s house.
There have always been factors that change over the years making it tough to parent. Some core factors remain from generation to generation, but other challenges appear. The challenges of today are tough because they test a parent’s influence. Respect and social standing of parents with regard to their children is being tested. We as parents must endeavor to keep up with our children both socially and technologically! Good luck!
In general, society sees dads as falling short as parents compared to moms. I agree with that--in general. I know many wonderful fathers. In fact, almost all my male friends are great dads. But when you look at the fathers in a much larger framework, across the USA--absent and distant fathers are contributing to an epidemic of social issues. Even effective dads could be more effective with just a few changes. But what are some of the possible reasons for men coming up short compared to women as parents? Here are my observations as a fatherhood writer.
- Dads do not carry or give birth to the baby--a distinct disadvantage in connecting. The baby has heard the mother’s heartbeat for months. The mother has felt the kicks. A natural consequence, dad is an outsider for the most part until the child is born.
- Dads read about sports, finance, politics, outdoors, bar-be-cuing, etc.–not parenting. It’s true! It was even true for me. I blame myself, but I also blame the fact that few parenting books or articles are written with the father in mind. It’s a chicken or the egg problem. Would more parenting topics for dads be written if they would read them, or would they read more if they were written specifically for dads? I guess the response to my book may answer that.
- Dads are told they aren’t as good as moms are with their kids—and they believe it. Call a man a bad sport, or a poor leader, or a whiner and he will be p*ssed! Tell him he can’t parent without his wife’s direction or help, he may just shrug. Some mothers overrule fathers in parenting which should never happen. There must be compromise and agreement in parenting.
- Dads don’t talk to each other about being fathers. I watched the Today show the other day and Willie Geist had some of his friends on the air to talk about being dads. When the segment was over he said, paraphrasing, “it was interesting because we never talk about being dads to each other”. It’s true. It’s very rare for men to talk about being dads.
- Although changing a bit, dads are not at home with their kids as much as moms. There are more moms working and more stay-at-home-dads (SAHD) than ever before. But dads still are away from home much more than moms. Only 5-6% of families have SAHDs.
- Dads assume they are doing the right things as dads, and don’t look to improve. In general, men think providing and being around are all that’s necessary. Well, it’s a good start but there is so much more! It is a rare dad that will consciously look for ways to be a better father.
- Nature favors moms as caretakers. Women seem to have a sixth sense about parenting that most men don’t have. I think most everyone would agree. Of course, exceptions do exist.
- Society expects moms to take on the bigger parenting role. Historically, it has always been this way. It doesn’t have to be so, and it may not be that way for your situation, but I expect that expectation will remain for quite some time.
- Competition among men does not include being good fathers. Be it softball, arm-wrestling, checkers, or fantasy sports, men like to compete. When you compete, you try to get better. But men don’t compete as parents and there is no compulsion to get better other than your personal desire.
It would be unfair to label all men as the weaker parent. But when you see the issues in our society, such as poverty, crime, teen pregnancy and violence, that exist in broad areas of our country, especially in inner cities, know that a primary cause is ineffective families due to missing fathers.
Of the nine reasons fathers may trail mothers as parents, only #1 and #7 are not going to change. The rest can change and have been changing as of late, but the process has been slow. Somehow we need to encourage and mentor fathers or fathers-to-be in their responsibilities as parents, thereby interrupting the cycle of ineffective families. Nothing will change until the offspring of ineffective families get help, or find the energy/desire, to pull themselves out of their situation.
Of those men who are involved fathers, know that your different style is of great value to both your sons and daughters. Two parents means twice the love, twice the variety and twice the protection, at the very least! And as important, being an involved father brings a masculine view of the world to your children, a valuable complement to the feminine view brought by their mothers, allowing their insights and understanding of the world and to be balanced.
Note:For any dad, my book, "The Power of Dadhood: Be the Father Your Child Needs" will help you, at a minimum, with reasons #2, #3, and #6.