PicturePhoto: M. Smith
Former United States President Harry Truman’s father struggled his whole life to eke out a living as a farmer. Unfortunately, a drought hit and the farm had to be foreclosed on. Many years later, a reporter asked Harry why his father was a failure. Harry replied, “How can my father have been a failure when his son is President of the United States?” (All Pro Dad)

Success is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes those eyes are your own and they are frequently the most critical. Most men do have a desire for success, but then how do they define it. Is it making a million dollars? Is it curing cancer? Or is it being able to pay all your bills? Maybe it’s just getting further in life than your parents or you thought you would.

A man who wants success cares about something. He has a goal—something to work towards. There is a purpose to getting up in the morning and a good reason to be tired at night. Having goals, however, creates an opportunity for both satisfaction and disappointment, the latter a reason some don’t set aggressive goals. Not having goals allows one to get a free pass from self-criticism regarding achievement.

If you reach the pinnacle of your dreams, what will you have? Will others be helped by your work? While looking for your personal success, you can miss real success--especially if you are looking in the wrong places. It may be that your greatest success, or potential for success, is right under your nose. There are many remarkably successful people throughout history, most of whom have never been documented by historians. But of those that have, I’ve always looked at Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed a vaccine for polio as the symbol of a man who profoundly left his mark on the world. Millions were saved from the crippling effects of polio thanks to Dr. Salk’s vaccine. His success was this miracle cure, which he refused to patent, allowing it to be used freely. Not once did he seek financial success from his discovery.

Where did Dr. Salk get his desire for service and his ability to contribute? Who gave him the encouragement, support, and resources to “pay it forward”? Dr. Salk’s parents were immigrants who did not have a high school education, but they sacrificed and insisted that their son have an education. How much credit do they get for ending the scourge of polio? Just imagine the pride they must have had for their son!

Now your success does not have to be as dramatic or wide reaching as Dr. Salk’s. But it can be as significant as the successes of Dr. Salk’s father--or Harry Truman’s father, men who raised their sons to be wonderful citizens. Real success is selfless. What you do to pass on or grant success to another is the best success there is. Every father can do this, and it has a multiplier effect! Every father has the potential to support and mentor every son and daughter in a way that gives them a strong start to their own successes. 


Two Secrets Regarding Success and Failure

I can think of two ‘secrets’ regarding success/failure:

Picture"Sunrise in Maui", M.Smith
  1. Success often comes about by not knowing, in advance, how difficult achieving it is going to be. 

  2. Failure often comes about by assuming success will be more difficult than it really is.

Fathers can help their children by keeping the first secret to themselves, and giving away the second secret. Success as a father may not be the greatest success you’ll ever have. If this is so, maybe you didn’t have children.

Please consider my book for a new or struggling father. It will encourage him and get him to think. "The Power of Dadhood", coming out on April. 28, 2015.

 
 
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Photo: M. Smith, Haleakale Volcano on the Island of Maui, Hawaii
Someone once said it is none of your business what people think of you. I think that is probably great advice. Certainly someone with this philosophy will not likely suffer from anxiety. However, I believe there is one very important exception to this rule. It is vitally important what your children think of you!

In the real world, I would guess many men are more concerned with what peers, bosses, and maybe their wives think of them than what their children think. After all, you don’t have to impress your kids. Children will overlook your faults if you let them. And they are always around, so you can get to them later. There is some truth to this thinking, but with serious caveats.

  1. You don’t have to impress your kids. They are pre-wired to be impressed by you. But you are also capable of becoming unimpressive. There a myriad of ways to do this. Not being there for them, not being reliable, not being sober, not looking past your nose to engage with them are just a few.
  2. Children will overlook your faults. And they will if you let them. But continuing to make the same errors, like those mentioned above, and your faults will define you--causing your star to fall.
  3. Your kids are always around. Yes, you may delay attention to your kids a day or two because you are overwhelmed with work, but ‘day to day’ will quickly become “month to month” and “year to year”. Suddenly, your kid is moving out and you only saw a couple of ballgames, you don’t know their friends, and you never went on that camping trip. 

Very few fathers consciously decide to ignore their children. Not but a generation or two ago, in some parts of the US, it was common and accepted for men to be vaguely involved with raising their kids. But fortunately this is changing. It’s not the old culture that is the issue any longer, it’s the weakening of family values that is hurting fatherhood and vice versa. Many weak, ineffectual fathers had weak fathers themselves--if they had one around at all. If we fathers see only ourselves and not others, we will never learn to nurture, share, or love. When we don’t ‘see’ our children, we won’t be able to help them. If we're not involved, we won’t have any claim for their joys, nor will we be able to ease their sorrows. Lastly, without interaction, we won’t be able to receive or feel their love. 

While some fathers may not be closely watching their kids, our kids are always watching us. They can tell if you’re interested or not. They know if you are honorable, consistent, or trustworthy. If your children don’t see you as having these qualities, if you are an embarrassment to them, then their world is turned upside down! Kids need a hero in their home, not on a big screen, video game, or comic book. 

If you find some uncomfortable truths in this article about your Dadhood, what can you do to reverse the trend? Here are a few ideas, simple but so very effective!

  • Rediscover the joys and uniqueness of your children.
  • Dedicate time to them, as a group if you have more than one child, and to each--one at a time.
  • Be around for important events. By important, I mean important to them. That could be a tea party or a wrestling match.
  • Leave notes asking them how they are doing or telling them you love them.
  • Smile and wink at them.
  • Take them on an adventure.
  • Do a project together.

Change how you act and you’ll see changes in how you are treated and respected. It’s not difficult to make the change if you are aware of the need to do so and care enough to act. 

“No man is a failure who has helped a child, especially his own. The greatest single gift a man can give his children is his attention. It seems so simple, but somehow it is lost in its simplicity. There is no excuse for not trying your best to be a good father. There are reasons, obstacles, and hardships, but no excuses.”

from the Introduction to, “The Power of Dadhood

 
 
PicturePhoto: M. Smith, Waimea Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii
"Children seldom misquote.  They always say word for word what you shouldn't have said."
Unknown

Are you a seat-of-the-pants dad? For the most part, I was. No planning, no philosophy, no hard and fast rules. Thankfully, my wife was much better at that! I think moms usually are. I got by as an okay parent because of the most important aspect of parenting, I loved my children mightily, and I was there for them when they really needed me. It's the same today, even though they are all grown. Fortunately, they don’t need very much from me, unless it’s to borrow my truck or watch a grandchild. That’s what my wife, Kathy, and I always strived for—self-supportive and independent adult children.

I’ve learned a few things since my early days of being a dad, having been an active parent of three, and now a proud grandparent of three, almost four! Also, as a reader and a writer on the subject of Dadhood, I have learned so much from others. One of the more important lessons I’ve learned, and like to emphasize, is to have a flexible plan, or a philosophy to be a proactive parent. By flexible, I mean you must being willing to change your philosophy when it's not working, or when a better one comes along. Then be as consistent as possible with the new plan.

We know parenting is important, but we don’t usually have a plan. We plan weddings, parties, vacations and funerals much better than we plan parenting. Too often, there are those that don’t even plan to have a child then--VOILA! They’re a parent! What now?

Obviously there is nothing, not one plan, that will keep you from parenting on the fly. You will make stuff up as you go. Having a plan in parenting is more like having goals for your kids. Goals like having educated, independent, and kind children. Success in these areas is much more likely for those children that have been energized, supported, given dreams, and are exposed to living a full life. 


What our children start with--is given to them. What our children end up with--is their responsibility, but impacted heavily by us, their dads. Let’s give our kids a great start by being responsible parents (with their mothers) and see how well they do!

Here’s the advice I would give new parents. 
  1. Learn about being a parent. There are lots of books on parenting. I’ll be adding to that list this April. Not one of these books, nor anyone you may ask, will be the end-all-know-it-all of parental advice. Take in all advice and use what feels comfortable to you and your spouse.
  2. Decide on a parenting philosophy. What have you learned? Will you be strict and consistent? Will there be standards to enforce? Will you be easy-going with few rules so they find their personality? Will you be directing activities or observing their interests. Will you keep them busy or allow time for imagination. Will one of you stay home or will work be a priority for both? There are a lot more questions and choices to consider.
  3. Observe how your parenting philosophy is working. It may work for one child but not another. How do you handle that? If it’s not working at all, what next? If it seems to be working, great! But could it be better?
  4. Adjust your parenting philosophy if necessary. Your observations may point out weak areas in your parenting skills (see “Preparing Your Children”). Be flexible!
  5. Repeat! This means continued learning, continuing what works and deciding to change what doesn’t. Incorporating the changes then more observation on all. 
And the cycle will continue. 

What is a philosophy? It's a set of values. It is a way of life. Maybe your philosophy is exposure to as many places and things as possible! If you plant a seed of curiosity in the minds of your children and it takes hold, it will give them a yearning that will pull them forward. You plant this seed by stimulating their imagination and providing experiences to broaden their horizons. 

We are born without fault or accomplishments, but we die with both. Nowhere is the opportunity for fault or accomplishment more apparent, and the results more influential, than parenting. Why not take the opportunity of being a father to do your greatest good? Make your number one accomplishment the independence, happiness, and personal success of your children. Be an example of enchantment, vision, and inspiration! Give them encouragement to move forward, compassion when needed, and celebration for their successes. Now that's a plan! It's not easy, and it may not even be in our wheelhouse, but it's a plan. What's your philosophy? What's your plan? 

A man is no better than what he leaves behind.
Cecil B. DeMille-movie producer



 
 
PictureChores teach work, accomplishment, and self-worth.
As a father, as a parent, one of your most important responsibilities is to prepare your children for life. There are both big picture and everyday aspects of this. The big picture involves having a philosophy about your parenting style and goals. The everyday lessons involve preparing them for the next stage in their life. 

Naturally you will prepare them to walk and to talk, some parents being better than others, but it will happen. There are other needs, in every stage of their life, where you can help them to be better prepared. These, of course, change as they mature.

Without going into the myriad of ways to help your children, here are examples to make you think. Some may be obvious. Others are not so obvious but could be helpful.

Safety!

Beyond teaching that stoves are hot, outlets are not to be touched and strangers can be dangerous, there are other important things for which your children can be prepared. They need to not to be afraid of those who could help them--the police for instance. Yes, they are strangers too, and while a uniform can be fake, when your child is lost or needs help, I’d want them to trust an officer and not be afraid of them. (Never tell them that police will get them if they are bad!)

Take a toddler to a firehouse to see a fireman with all his gear on. God forbid it ever happens, but if your child must be rescued by a fireman, you don’t want him to hide because he is afraid of the monster with a mask, and an ax! If in danger, you want your child to see a fireman and run or call to him.

Dating

We all know that objecting to a boyfriend can make him more desirable to your daughter. Prepare her with standards that you both agree to before she has a boyfriend. Give your daughter some characteristics of a good guy up front. For instance, is he liked by her close friends? Does he have good manners? Does he do well in school? Is he an appropriate age? Is he respectful to her?

When you talk about these qualities up front, she will look for them. If, somehow, she does find a boyfriend that doesn’t meet those standards, you can point out the reasons why you don't think he is good for her. She may then realize you are just looking out for her, and she will be less apt to rebel.

Drug use

You must talk about illicit drugs way before they are possibly exposed to being around them. If they have curiosities, talk to them. If asked why people take them, explain the best way you know how. My approach would be to tell them that some people think they will feel better for a while, but then they feel much worse and out of control of their lives later--something like flying a jet that you don’t know how to land. That approach may not work for your kids, but you need to find one that does! The point to get across is how drugs can completely ruin their lives!

Use of Smartphones

In just a few short years, smart phones have taken over many of our lives. The iPhone came out in 2007. Since then, looking at clouds and stars, talking to family, proper English, even modesty, among many other time-tested and wonderful traditions have become old fashioned. Your children will want a smartphone! While there are reasons for them to have one, the shortcomings must be addressed. It’s an earned right, not a privilege. How they earn the right is up to you, but I would use ideas that counter the downsides.

Before you allow your younger children to have a smartphone, the rules must be clear. 
  • Time and location limitations must be established.
  • Trust but verify! Check, on a no-notice basis, the apps, texts, photos, and the usage stats.  Let them know you will be doing that.
  • Penalties for misuse must be agreed-to in advance and be as, or more, severe than the misuse.
Responsibility

Most kids don’t learn how to be responsible unless you give them a responsibility. Give them a task and see how they do. If they do well, give a little praise and add more responsibility until they fail. Then help your child to understand why they failed. It may be because you gave them too much responsibility too soon, or they reached their limit for their age. That’s okay. Admit it to them and adjust. If they failed a doable task, then you have something to work on. To ignore a failure is to accept failure.

PicturePhoto: M.Smith
Too Much Protecting is Not Preparing

Preparation includes dealing with daily life. But if you over-protect your kids, they will become helpless or lazy. Lessons learned first-hand are the lessons best remembered. 


Children must learn to live with courage, resilience and determination as a part of their character, not with a parent covering their six. Prepare them by placing courage, resilience and determination in their character. For example;
  • A better approach to protecting your child from bullies is to prepare them with skills to deal with them. 
  • Don’t accept excuses, push your children. But do listen to logical reasoning.
  • Don’t always keep them from being hurt. They need to learn how to cope.
  • Never decide the things for them that they can decide for themselves.
  • Give them room to error without endangering them. 

I’ve seen kids at bus stops when it was below freezing wearing shorts and no coat. If this occurred with one of my children, I would decide to let it go the first and maybe the second time to let them experience the discomfort and come to their own conclusion. If they continued, I would then intervene in two ways. 
  1. I would then be a parent in charge and make them wear a coat for various reasons that should be obvious (write me if you don’t know the reasons). 
  2. I would have a conversation with them to get the background on their decision. Is it peer pressure? Is it laziness? Is there a storage issue at school (doubtful)? Is it showing off in some way? What is the rationale?
Preparing your children is maybe THE key aspect of parenting. How did your parents do preparing you? Can you see how important it is? I’ll conclude with the wisdom of the following classic poem.


Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.


If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.


Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

 
 
PictureLife skills are best taught by skilled parents
Being a nice person hopefully comes naturally, but being nice is more of a pleasant characteristic than a skill. Skills are usually taught by one person to another, and when it comes to life skills, the teacher is usually a parent. Of course not all teachers are good teachers nor are all students good students. Therefore, when a child is having behavioral problems, or difficulty coping with life, is it the fault of the teacher, the student, both, or something more complicated? Because life skills are so important to lead a successful life, I propose a couple of tools to help you investigate that.

1) A few months back I wrote a Dad’s Self-Inspection Checklist for men to perform a self-evaluation of their fathering skills. While I think it is an excellent tool for any dad, the real grade you give yourself as a parent depends on how well your children do in life skills. But do you notice the life skills of your kids? What life skills are we talking about?

2) I found this Life Skills Report Card at Parenting 2.0. It’s an organized way to evaluate how well your children are doing, taking into account their age. Using this list is helpful in many ways.

  • It's availability encourages you to take action
  • It provides areas to look at that you may have otherwise overlooked.
  • It provides a scheme to measure life skills and progress over time.
  • It can be tailored any way you would like.

Evaluating Teacher (Dad) vs. Student (Child) Results 

Sometimes it is helpful to match the weak and strong points of your children’s life skills to your self-evaluation on your 'Dad’s Self-Inspection Checklist'. You may find some telling information, both good and bad. There is no doubt that your children's mother is equally responsible for life skills. So any issues need to be resolved together. Even though you may be disturbed by some of what you learn, it is very useful information, allowing positive actions!

How many parents have a way to match their parenting skills to the life skills of their children? This information may help you to realize there are some issues to address, but what caused them? And how do you fix them? This combination of your self-evaluation as a father (and as parents), and an evaluation of your child’s life skills gives parents a baseline from which to work. A tool which can help you zero-in on any serious issues that may exist.  

“Now really”, you say, “I may like this idea but I know myself and I will never take the time to actually do this.” I can’t argue with that. If the issues you, and/or your children have are the run-of-the-mill issues all parents have, then you are likely not to bother (not that you shouldn’t). Everyday life does keep us busy. On the other hand serious, or potentially serious issues require you to look closely at every factor, using every available tool.

The 'Life Skills Report Card' has five major categories.
  • Personal Care
  • Organizational
  • Respect for self and others
  • Communication
  • Social

An Example


Let me give you an example of how using my 'Dad’s Checklist' and this 'Life Skills Report Card' may work to help you find a reason, if not a solution, to issues within the family.

Take the six sub-categories of  the major category called “Respect for self and others” and evaluate one of your children. Let’s say it’s your oldest daughter and one issue of concern is that you graded her low in manners.  With that information, go through your 'Dad’s Checklist' with her in mind. Then, answer the questions on your checklist under the sub-heading, “Is building the character of your children a conscious part of your parenting?

After reviewing these questions and thinking deeply and honestly about the answers, you may come to some startling conclusions. 

  • You may find that your daughter is really mimicking you! Unconsciously or not, your own behavior may not be a good example. 
  • Or you may realize that you really never emphasized kindness, values, discipline, or manners when she was younger, that you really started much too late--letting her get away with bad behavior when she was younger and so adorable that it was difficult to discipline her. 
  • Or, if you are really honest, you may find that you haven’t shown respect for her--and she is rebelling.

On the other hand, you may pass all the tests of a nurturing father (and her mom as a nurturing mother). If this is truly so, then you know to look elsewhere for the answers. Is it peer pressure, a terrible phase, a dark secret, mental illness, or does she just not understand or realize what is going on?

Coming at a problem from two directions will help you pinpoint a reason, if not an answer. Life skills are vitally important to succeed in life. You don't want you children to be mislead or left behind in this very competitive and judgmental world. Be aware and pro-active regarding any weaknesses in the character or life skills of your children.

Note: My 
Dad’s Self-Inspection Checklist was developed from my book "The Power of Dadhood" which will be released on April 2015 but can be pre-ordered on Amazon. The checklist is also an appendix to the book.

 
 
PicturePhoto: M. Smith
I had a bad day last week! Nothing I could do would get me out of it. If you ever stubbed your toe, had a flat tire, and a password that didn’t work and which you couldn’t reset, all in the same day--you know what I mean. It happens to all of us occasionally. If you’re lucky, and/or plan ahead, these not-so-good days should be few.  But a few bad days are inevitable and realizing that can help get you through the day. That, and knowing about and looking forward to the other days you will have in your life.

What are the other types of days that you can experience in your, hopefully, many days on this earth? I’ve found in my own experience that there are seven basic types of days and you will live them over and over. I’ve already brought up “Bad” days. The other six are:

  • Giving Days
  • Taking Days
  • Playing Days
  • Resting Days
  • Loving Days
  • Good Days

These days don’t come in order like the seven days of the week. This is a metaphor. The ‘seven days of your life’ can come in any order and last more than a calendar day. They can even change during, or be combined within, a calendar day. We do, however, have some control over five of the seven days of our life. If you plan correctly, your Bad days will be minimized and Good days will be like icing on the cake of the other five days. Let me explain.

Giving days are for work, causes, family, and people we care for. We forget about our wants and needs on these days and give of ourselves and our time. It may be to volunteer for a charity, or to give up something you would like for time to help, or be with, another who needs you. It may be to visit a sick friend or to mow a neighbor’s lawn who may be out of town. Giving days will come back to you in good ways.

Taking days are for you. Depending on what kind of person you are, these days are many or few. We spend these days doing the things we like for ourselves. It could be reading, climbing, flying, or sleeping. We usually do these things alone or with those like us. We need these days to grow and recharge our imaginations.

Playing days are different than Taking days. Playing days involve friends or family, while enjoying life. Going to a movie, a picnic, going out for dinner, etc. are all playing days. Playing days are not self-sacrificing, nor or they focused on the ‘self’. Playing days are both give and take. You need Playing days for your social self and bonding with others.

Resting days are just that. We all need to refresh and renew, and true rest is needed to do that--however that works for you. You can’t really rest on Playing days nor Taking days—unless you’re Taking days involve sleep. Hopefully, most of us like more variety for our self-interests than extra sleep. But resting is more than sleep.

Loving days are noticing days. Days where you see the sunshine, you hear the birds, you smell the flowers and feel the breezes. Loving days can be full of awareness for the love you have for the simple pleasures of life, like the giggle of a child, or the wisdom of an elder. Loving days are for the senses. They are in appreciation for the things you often take for granted.

Good days are gifts. Like Bad days, they come without warning. Any of five days can also be Good days. You can have a Good day while Giving, Taking, Playing, Resting, or Loving. But by definition, you can’t have a Good day on a Bad day.

The Seven Days of your Lifeshould have some balance (see my previous post). With too many of any one type of day you can reach a saturation point, a point of diminishing returns, or uncontrolled pain.
  • Too many Giving days and you may become a self-fulfilled martyr.
  • Too many Taking days and you will become selfish.
  • Too many Playing days and you will be not accomplish anything.
  • Too many Resting days and you will become bored or boring.
  • Too many Good days and you will lose appreciation for them, a common malady!
  • Too many Bad days and you will become frustrated and/or depressed.

The only day you can’t have too many of are--Loving days! The only thing you may lose with Loving days are Bad days. So the lesson I see here is...“variety and vision in your life”! A little give, a little take--a little work and a little play—and a huge dose of noticing the little things in life.

Recognize and plan Giving, Taking, Playing, Resting, and Loving days. It will make you a better person, and if you are a mom or a dad, a much better parent!


 
 
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“I never thought what my philosophy is, but it has to be balance in everything you do.”

~ Abdullah Badawi

A New Year, 2015! It’s a little scary how fast the calendar pages change month to month. The passing of time is something I can’t change. However, I can change what I do with this most precious of gifts (time). This topic supports my theme , Helping Fathers to be Dads". I will tie Dadhood in later.


I always try to catch myself when I’m wishing tomorrow would come or today was over. Bad days come and go, but days just go! If you’re very lucky, you’ll have 30,000 or more days in your life. That sounds like quite a few, but I’ve already used 23,674 myself. The good news is, I feel a lot better and more optimistic than I would have thought when I was, say 10,000 days old (27 years). Even better is knowing I’ve done the things with those days that are most important to me.

When days passed are not wasted, they aren’t lost. Just like money, when spent on things worthwhile, you have value for value. But days are much more valuable than money. So what is the best way to spend 30,000 days (more or less)? Of course there are multiple ways that can result in a productive and satisfying life. But my New Year’s resolution is to do so with BALANCE!

I really want balance in my life. Being balanced means being poised and secure about one’s self. Real balance is knowing when enough is enough and when not enough is not enough. I find that I’m not really good about that, not many are. A balanced person would not waste efforts over which they have little or no control (e.g. world peace). Nor would they waste their energy on negative thoughts or retribution (e.g. suffering for all my enemies).

However, just wanting balance is not enough. It takes time, effort, and most importantly, realization of the things you need to work on. I’ve noticed that when I am the angriest, very unhappy, or the most temperamental is when I am out of whack (balance). What is it about us that gets out us of balance…and why? Most importantly, what tools or methods can we employ to self-correct our imbalance?

I’ve noticed some things which I have allowed to get me out of balance. Those include:

  • Being misunderstood or not understanding others
  • Not getting time to myself when I need it or being alone too long
  • Placing too much attention on others or placing too much time on myself
  • Too much work or too much play
  • Being rushed or having to wait
  • Needing control or being controlled
  • Challenging myself too much or feeling like I’m wasting opportunities
  • Lastly, being around other people who are, themselves, out of balance

What I now realize is all of those things are my fault! I have control over all of those extremes. Sure others contribute, but I am the only one that can fix me (perhaps with a little therapy).


What are the fixes?

There are no easy fixes that I’ve yet to come across. To just keep your cool and don’t get frustrated sounds like good advice. But I’ve found myself in tense situations and being mindful about it, kept my cool. But sometimes I really didn’t keep my cool, I just wrapped up my frustrations and tucked them away inside--instead of tossing them aside. When you do that, those frustrations will pop out at the most inopportune times. Keeping your cool is just a band aid, not a cure. We’re only human, so getting out of balance is not something we are going to eliminate, but we can become more balanced with a little awareness. 

Awareness

Awareness is simply knowing one’s self and where one’s weaknesses lie. For example, if you are going to your daughter’s dance recital, you know there will be thirty-nine other dance routines to sit through. (I sheepishly deny having an issue with this myself.) If you are impatient and have a difficult time sitting still, remember what is important here. Your family! Have a plan, in advance, that will not cause any friction (i.e. one you can get away with). Breathe, meditate, take bathroom breaks, look for talented dancers, but be pleasant. Imagine you are in coach on a jam-packed transoceanic flight, where you’d appreciate some dance recitals to get your mind off your cramping legs and swollen ankles. And when your daughter is on the dance floor, be as present and aware as if it were the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series!

The key is not to try to change everything about yourself at once. Hiccups, steps backward, will happen, just make small adjustments over time and you will determine what works for you. When presented with a challenging situation, keeping your cool will work in the short term, but I suggest that after bottling up some frustrations that seem to be percolating within, go to a safe place and let go. For example:

  • Run as fast as you can to exhaustion!
  • Scream until you’re blue in the face (use a pillow when in earshot of others).
  • Go to the gym and annihilate a punching bag.
  • Chop wood!

Quotes on Awareness 

Now I’m not sure all of the tactics above are encouraged in Buddhism, but Buddhists do believe in the self- awareness aspect.

“Conquer the angry one by not getting angry; conquer the wicked by goodness; conquer the stingy by generosity, and the liar by speaking the truth.”  Buddha 

And a Christian view:

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16 English Standard Version (ESV)

Balance in Dadhood

I wrote an article for the ‘National Fatherhood Initiative’ in December 2013 called “The Seven BEs of a Successful Dad. One of the ‘BE’s was BALANCE, suggesting the other six 'BE’s must have balance with each other and within each to be effective. I invite you to read, or reread this article if you are a dad, or a mom!

One more thing! You can remain in balance by always staying in the middle--but that is not living. Work hard--then rest totally, help others--then think about yourself, be serious--then be silly. Like balancing yourself on a bike, it's much easier if you keep moving forward! 


Be aware of when you are in need of balancing, and do it!

 
 
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If you are a man who lives life with passion, you will have many things for which to be thankful, and numerous experiences to reflect upon. But if you also become a father, your world will expand many times over. Being a dad is awesome, but only if you are up to the task. You must be selfless and give to your children, but they will pay you back many times over. Here are forty-seven reasons I have come up with why being a dad is so cool. I’m sure you can add to the list with your own experiences. 

The list follows this slide show representing 15 of the reasons. (You may have to be on the website to see it.)

1.     Each enjoyment is earned through hard work and tough times, and that’s the first thing that is cool about being a dad.
2.     Your chest will swell with every one of your children’s achievements.
3.     The sound of “Daddy” from your child’s voice is magical.
4.     You don’t think so much about yourself.
5.     Hugs around the neck are the best!
6.     Giggles are precious!
7.     Being available and present is appreciated forever. 

8.     You will smile when they bring you a book to read to them.
9.     Yo
ur emotions are elevated to dizzying heights!
10.   You are the most important man in their world!
11.   Keeping small secrets with them is fun, and it bonds.
12.   Saying, “That’s my son!” or “That’s my daughter!”
13.   When you hear them say, “That’s my dad!”
14.   Teaching them to stand tall is a great gift for both of you.
15.   Fixing stuff together is a blast.
16.   Seeing your children be unselfish.
17.   When they are respectful to their elders.
18.   Their successes are your successes.
19.   Seeing your kids showing love and affection to their mother.
20.   They love when you make French toast on Saturday mornings.
21.   Being an example makes you a better man.
22.   Riddles and puzzles are fun things to do together.
23.   Teaching them to the point of failure is priceless.
24.   Playing catch with your kids is more than playing catch.
25.   When they understand when it’s time for fun, or time to be serious.
26.   Finishing what you and they start will make you careful about what is important.
27.   Your daughter playing in the dirt while your son plays ball will make you smile.
28.   Seeing your kids’ help, comfort, and play with each other.
29.   Tractors or princesses will be the center of their young lives
30.   Tea parties can be fun for them, and the memories of them are wonderful for all.
31.   When your child reaches up to you from a crawl that says, “I want you to hold me”.
32.   Remembering when you let you son/daughter splash in mud puddles then taking the heat from mom
33.   Stick drawings of you smiling makes you smile again.
34.   Letting them steer your car (or tractor) when it’s safe. They love that!
35.   When they learn to eat with their mouth closed.
36.   When they speak to you, eye to eye, you will be proud.
37.   They’ll do goofy things that make you laugh.
38.   Being wore out from piggy back rides is a good tired.
39.   When your heart melts, you are helpless, and it feels good.
40.   When your kids are kind to the less fortunate.
41.   When your son follows you around because he wants to be like you.
42.   Realizing a toddler can crawl on your lap before you know they’re doing it.
43.   Knowing they don’t care about your imperfections.
44.   Being your kids’ favorite teacher.
45.   Knowing they are happy to see you come home from work.
46.   Graduations, dance recitals, ball games, plays, etc.—you and mom being the most important attendees!
47.   Being a dad means you may be a grandfather someday. If you think being a dad is cool, try being a grandfather!

This list is not complete because the joy has no limits. The point is--fatherhood can be wonderful, and the most fulfilling responsibility you will ever take on.  How wonderful depends mostly on you and the limits you establish. What you put into it, comes back again and again.


Click on the title to order my book in advance. Coming out April 28th! 
The Power of Dadhood: How to Become the Father Your Child Needs (new subtitle)
 
 
PictureThe Smith Farmhouse
It was Christmas of 2010. Two years earlier we had bought a farmhouse in the rolling hills of Eastern Missouri, just three miles from where Daniel Boone spent his last few years. It was a solidly built home built in 1900 of solid, real 2 x 4 oak. My brothers and I had spent many weeks rehabbing and transforming the house, not from its basic charm, but a new window here, reclaimed wood floors there, and bathrooms that severely required updating. And best of all, we transformed an old canning kitchen to a fireplace room with lots of windows.

My wife Kathy and I had decided the previous Christmas to start a tradition of having Christmas Eve with our extended family at the farmhouse. Our two daughters, with husband and future husband in tow, our first grandchild, just two years old, my mom, a niece and her three children, and my brother’s family all gathered that first Christmas Eve at the farmhouse--as we liked to call it. Especially nice was having my son with all of us! He had missed so many Christmases, as he will this one, because of his service in the US Army overseas


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That morning it had started to snow. Not just flurries or a wet snow, but a real Norman Rockwell snow that fell in buckets of ornament-sized flakes. There was not a wisp of wind, allowing the snow to fall in a gentle, rocking motion. As it built up from two, to three, to four and more inches, the snow had a muffling, insulating effect. If you have ever been outside in a deep blanket of pristine snow with nothing stirring around you but a few cardinals and starlings, you know how deafeningly quiet it can be. The scene of a fresh snowfall over the fields and hills, along with a numbing quietness is, to me, uncommonly inspirational and a refreshment to the soul.

PictureMe and my daughter Rachel
Despite the snowfall, everyone successfully navigated the snow-covered country roads and showed up one carful after the other. My mom came with a perfectly tan-crusted apple pie. My brother Bob and sister-in-law Ellen came with their teen-aged son and daughter, Timmy and Mandy. Immediately they wanted a family photo with the snow covered pines in the background. My oldest daughter, April and her husband (yet another Mike) came with the best present of the day for me, my granddaughter Malia. My son Mike was busy shoveling snow off the sidewalk that led to the back door as my niece, Stephanie, arrived with her three kids, all in their pre-teen years.

PictureTimmy, Ellen, Bob, and Ellen
The farmhouse filled up quickly with people, food and chatter. The windows were steamed up with a turkey Kathy had in the oven. We pushed a couple of tables together, not of the same height, and crowded sixteen chairs where we could. Evening approached as we sat down for dinner with enough food for three Christmases.  It was still snowing and we all felt a little magic in the air. 

PictureMe with Caitlin and Malia
After we stuffed ourselves, a few of us and the kids went outside to play in the snow. My son-in-law, Mike, found a bucket and a rope and pulled Malia around the yard in her own little sleigh. Caitlin, Stephanie’s oldest child, found a small sled and after a few trips down a small hill, also pulled Malia around as we all caught snowflakes on our tongues. Caitlin’s sister, Lauren and brother, Colin trouped back inside with Malia to watch a kid’s movie. I had my camera in hand and took a photo of them outside the window. Photos like that are always so nice after they have grown. I also tried to trick them jingling some sleigh bells outside, hoping it sounded like Santa flying by, but the older ones didn’t fall for it.

PictureMandy and Ellen with ornament-sized snowflakes.
Later, we played what had become a Smith Christmas tradition, Christmas Bingo. A few days earlier, we go buy the cheapest toys ($1 to $5) at a dollar store, wrap them all up for a boy or girl, then whoever wins a round of bingo picks out a toy to unwrap. They love it! They love opening presents no matter what’s inside and they have fun with the toy that night, and it usually only lasts that night! 

PictureSledding
After all the food, conversation, games, and play, all were exhausted, but almost everyone helped to clean up. (I had to play with the kids). Then all were off to their homes to go to bed for the big reveal the next morning….except for Stephanie, Caitlin, Lauren, and Colin. They stayed the night at the farmhouse and woke up with excitement to a classic Christmas morning, in the quiet countryside, covered in snow.

PictureThe kids watching a move while I spy from outside.
That was a wonderful Christmas! I can’t believe it took me four years to capture it in words! I just wish my other three grandchildren, who have come along since, could have enjoyed it. Hopefully, they will have many memorable Christmases, and I hope to be there for many of them.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

 
 
Wishing all families be whole this Christmas season and forever more!
PicturePhoto: M.Smith
As a kid, I remember being so excited about Christmas morning that I could barely sleep, tossing and turning all night on Christmas Eve. My brothers, sisters, and I would wake up early, usually before the sun rose, and our mouths would be as wide open as our eyes when we saw what was under a usually scraggy tree. All the presents were open before you could ask “how did Santa get in without a fireplace?” A mountain of wrapping paper covered the floor. Even though we didn’t have much money, we always seemed to have a nice Christmas one way or the other. There are many to thank for that, especially my Mom!

Then as an adult, when our kids were young, my wife and I would make sure they were asleep on Christmas Eve before making multiple trips up and down the stairs to gather all their presents and put them under the tree, hoping we could get a good night’s rest. We were a little tougher on our kids, not letting them tear into the presents right away. On Christmas morning, we (mostly my wife, Kathy) made them take turns opening their gifts so each present and each kids’ reaction were more appreciated. After a couple of Christmases like that, they cooperated nicely.


PicturePhoto: A McLellan
Now I’m a grandparent. It’s not about getting presents any longer, and we can sleep later because the grandkids come over after opening Santa’s presents at their own homes. However, we made a special request for Santa to bring some of their presents to our house.


I can’t wait to see our six year old and one year old granddaughters, and our two year old grandson opening gifts at our house. The look of excitement on the faces of little children as they rip open presents is one of life’s true joys! And yes, we ask that they take turns but, hey, they're little. Then after all gifts are open, the kids play in the boxes! On that basis, I was always good for numerous cheap presents thinking the kids don't know the difference under five years old and the act of tearing off wrapping paper was the true joy!

However, Christmas season is not just for children, it’s for families! It’s a reason to be together, to make new memories, to love and be loved, and to get to know each other just a little more. That’s what it is supposed to be like…and it is for most of us. But Christmas can also intensify whatever troubles there may be within a family. 

If a member of the family, who you miss very much, is not with you on Christmas--you miss them more than ever. If there is turmoil in a family, Christmas can help to relieve that turmoil, or make it worse. Yes, Christmas is a very tough time of year for many families. So I have progressed in my wishes for Christmas over the years.
  • At six--a cowboy hat and a toy pistol/holster combo. 
  • At sixteen--a mustang convertible, red with a white top.
  • At twenty six--a house of our own and kids.
  • At thirty six--suffering for all my enemies.
  • At forty six--World Peace!
  • At fifty six—retirement!
I hit the jackpot at age six! The others Christmas wishes had to wait a little while, or I’m still waiting. But now I have a new wish.

So what do I really want for Christmas now that I have seen a few years? I want for other families what I am fortunate enough to already have. I want ALL families to be whole, with a mom and a dad, and throw in a few loving grandparents if possible. I want ALL kids to have good parents. I want ALL parents to have good kids with bright futures, who will become good parents themselves in a never-ending cycle of whole, mostly happy, productive families.

Hummm, sounds like I’m back to World Peace. Well, it never hurts to dream! 

And while I’m dreaming, there is that vision of a black 5-Series BMW in the driveway with a big red bow on the roof  :)   Kathy?

         Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Photo: M. Smith