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The perceived truth is always in the eyes of the beholder. The factual truth sometimes has to be painstakingly excavated like an ancient pharaoh’s tomb. This article is a follow up to my previous article, The REAL Problem in Ferguson and America!

Things in Ferguson have progressed from a terrible incident that needed a thorough formal review, to a reasonable protest for justice that some assumed would not happen, to an unreasonable call for quick justice based on what people chose to believe, to violent protests and looting from opportunist who really didn’t care about Michael Brown, to other opportunists who sought to sell their brand, to anarchists and professional agitators from around the country enticed by the stage, the bright lights,  and provocation of the  media.

Racial divide is often the blame. It is my contention, however, that race is not the real issue here—broken families are! In recent times, race was THE issue when justice was questioned regarding Blacks, so it is difficult to get away from it. Certainly race has a place because statistics show Blacks have more chronic family issues; and not enough Blacks are represented in law enforcement for reasons that include a lack of interest, qualifications, and prejudice.

It is a lazy person who will not go through, or wait for, the proper process to find answers. Answers to questions are too often assumed, too often slanted, and too often rushed. The reason  issues are often not resolved, is because the wrong questions are asked, or the right questions don’t go deep enough!

The following process is what must happen to get to the root of any issue. Not but a handful of people in the night streets of Ferguson care about what I am about to suggest or explain. That is part of the problem! I hope you can have patience and follow me through to conclusion.

In engineering, when something goes terribly wrong, the cause is analyzed with something called the “5- Why Analysis”. Here is a simplistic example:

Problem: An Airplane Crashes

Why 1:  Why did it crash?  
Answer 1:  The wing broke off.

Why 2:  Why did the wing break off? 
Answer #2;  The supporting beam failed.

Why 3:  Why did the beam fail? 
Answer 3:  It had a structural flaw that cracked because of vibrations.

Why 4:  Why did it have a structural flaw? 
Answer 4:  While the wing design was good, the beam material was bad.

Why 5:  Why was the material bad? 
Answer 5  Because the tests used to look for flaws were not designed or performed properly.

Solution: Correct material tests to find all known possible flaws or correct the process of performing the tests.
Note that the root cause was not that the wing fell off!

To get to the root cause of an issue, you must drill down from general questions to specific questions. Here is a more specific and timely example.

Why 1; Why is violence and looting almost always in poor neighborhoods?
Ans 1:  Because clashes between authorities and citizens are more frequent.

Why 2; Why are clashes between authorities and citizens are more frequent?
Ans 2: Because there is more crime and there is more suspicion between citizens and authorities.

Why 3: Why is there more crime and suspicion?
Ans 3: Because education levels are low, jobs are scarce, and authority is not respected. (And authority is not always perfect, causing suspicion, which could be another 5-Why analysis.)

Why 4: Why are education levels are low, jobs are scarce, and authority not respected?
Ans 4: Because it is not an area with a large base of strong families.

Why 5: Why is this an area without a large base of strong families?
Ans 5: Because less than 30% (example) have fathers in the home to help guide young men and women.

Solution: Devise programs that will provide encouragement, incentive, and training to allow men to be a larger part of raising their children!

In this analysis, the Ferguson ‘unrest’ issue is not about race--it’s about the struggles of the family! I would have no hesitation whatsoever to walk in a Black neighborhood with a large base of strong families at 2 AM . Nor would I likely walk at 2 AM in a white neighborhood without a large base of strong families.

The fault lies with both the police and the community. Assumptions are made that are often wrong! And, unfortunately, the violent acts and images of a few Black men, magnified by media coverage, understandably frighten many--and unfairly tarnish all Black men.

Certainly race is a peripheral issue because there are few Black fathers in the home, resulting in a poor social and often violent upbringing. Subsequently, the profiling will be projected unto the innocent--who look, or act in some ways, like the perpetrators! There are many secondary causes for all of the troubles between police and the Black community. But the root cause is the lack of fatherhood/mentors in Black communities, which is chronically more prevalent than in other racial groups. Only 28% of Black families include two-parents as compared to 70% in white families. If that number was reversed, then it would be white kids having the majority of issues with police.

My opinions will not be accepted by many in the Black or more liberal community. It is up to Black leaders to fix troubled Black youth caused by a lack of good role models. Only the brave jump in, with both feet, to resolve the family issue in any ethnic group. Solve the fatherless family issue and I would predict a much brighter future for all and--much less looting and violence!


 
 
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An African-American young man, Michael Brown, is shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The facts of that case will eventually come out. Concerned citizens protest, as is their right, and they want justice. Many want justice before justice can be properly served—prior to all the facts. Emotions are high!

On the other hand, the facts are out, but the emotion is lukewarm, about the statistics regarding what happens to young men when they are raised without responsible fathers in the home. There has been generations of time to address the clear issue of fatherless homes, but nothing substantive happens at the family level. This is one of the key issues in the looting and constant confrontations with police in Ferguson.

I have never pointed out--in any of my posts—that, 72 percent of African-American children are raised in a single parent home. I only bring it up here because the situation in Ferguson calls for it. If video is a good indicator, the perpetrators of violence and looting of Ferguson, not condoned by truly concerned citizens, are 99+ percent young Blacks. In the first night of looting, reports were that only one Black looting suspect was from Ferguson.

When young people, especially young men, are brought up without fathers, they are prone to prove themselves to other immature and fatherless young men. In his book, Fatherless America, David Blankenhorn states, “For boys, the most socially acute manifestation of paternal disinvestment is juvenile violence.”  This is truly being manifested in Ferguson during the violence there.

The anger is not that a young Black man was killed. It is because a white police officer was involved. Over 90 percent of Blacks are killed by other Blacks. This is common enough that only the next of kin and friends of the victim raise an eyebrow. But when we can blame someone out of that community, concerned citizens raise their voices more loudly. Those not having the same values as the more responsible protesters see this as a great opportunity for violence—for proving themselves to the people they hang out with, and it is not their fathers.

I am white and I live in the St. Louis area. I am very familiar with Ferguson. I have family and friends who live there and my in-laws had a business there a few years ago. I always knew it as a great example of a very proud mixed community. They are surrounded by other communities who are mostly black and low income. But being black or low income is not the reason a small percentage of them are looting and causing issues beyond the case itself. It’s because those young men and women have been fatherless most of their lives!

Did I interview every looter to know this is the situation? Of course not, but I am convinced that it is overwhelmingly true that most do not have involved fathers. Certainly, some single mothers can control their children. What is missing is the fact that while a young man can get love and attention from his mother, and respect her for that, he also needs to find acceptance and respect from a male. If that male is not a father or a respected mentor, that acceptance may be found in the streets. And the streets have a different code of ethics!

The facts will determine whether the white officer was guilty of excessive force and a crime, or if he was in fear of his safety and defending himself from an enraged young man. None of us know that yet. What we do know is that opportunists are making the situation much more dangerous, potentially causing more deaths than Michael Brown’s. The added tensions would likely not have occurred if restraint was shown on both sides. But when the restraint on the part of police was eased, as many agreed should happen, the opportunists moved back in.

Respect for authority is taught in the homes. Sometimes authority oversteps! More often, however, authority is challenged out of a perceived or learned distrust. If you do not trust that authority, violence will never bring trust to either side. The answer can't be solved at this level, it must be dealt with at its root cause.

When you ask why there is violence almost every time an incident like this happens--and continue asking why to the answers of the previous whys-- eventually you will get there. The real problem--the root issue--in Ferguson and America, is the failure to encourage and successfully create more structured two-parent families.


 
 
PictureWalking to school on the first day of Kindergarten
My five-year-old granddaughter started school yesterday--her first day of kindergarten. She was excited! She wore a colorful dress that clashed with her oversized black and yellow backpack, filled to the brim with more supplies than a survivalist flea market. Her grandmother and I came to her house that morning to take photos and walk with her and her family to school. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and cool! On the way there my granddaughter skipped, looked back at us, urging us to catch up, and seemed happily prepared for her new adventure. 

We took pictures in front of the school with her mom, dad, and little sister. Then it was time for the bell to ring so we escorted her into school, then her classroom. We met her teacher, a very pleasant lady in her early forties wearing a blouse, skirt and comfortable flats. My granddaughter had already met her once before, during orientation. Only as she was greeted by her teacher did she get a little quiet, becoming uncharacteristically shy. She sat in her assigned seat, delighted that a friend of hers was assigned to the same table.

PictureMeeting her teacher
We stayed less than a minute, leaving my granddaughter to fend for herself on this first day of a very important phase of her life. She never looked up--just a slight wave of her hand--I assume due to the anxiety of the moment. As we all walked out of the building, I could see that her mom (my daughter), was gently crying. She then said something quietly to my wife that has been said countless times by countless moms, “She’s growing up so fast!”

On the walk back to the house, I held my other granddaughter, a 10-month-old, smiling charmer, who wrapped her legs around my waste and waved to anyone who would look at her. I thought about how fast time goes by the older you get. It would be a blink of an eye and we would repeat this scene with her in five short years--when her big sister enters the 5th grade. 

PictureBackpack or mobile home?
“I like this age!” I thought to myself. I love to see this little one smile and reach for me. I love the rolls in her thighs and her chubby feet. When you play a song she will sway to the music and wave her hands. Her big sister used to be like that! Now her big sister is just perfect in another way. The same girl but not exactly the same girl. We all loved her as she was, and now we love her as she is! We want both, but we can’t have both. It’s the one thing that we can’t change that we really would never change if we could. Yet the melancholy still gets to most of us parents and grandparents, especially the moms!

The melancholy is a signal that you are in love with this moment, and you don’t want to lose it! But you are forgetting that you will be in love with the next moment, then the next moment. A better way to look at your children growing and maturing is to love the process, the process of going from moment to moment--while really living in each of those moments.

PictureMy daughter and younger granddaughter
Life sometimes gets out-of-whack when we get too caught up in lesser thoughts. Things we can’t control, trivia that pollutes our minds, work that becomes a bigger priority than family, all these things and more will rob us of parenting moments if we let them. The melancholy is natural and loving. It’s when you miss moments that can’t be repeated or remembered that fleeting melancholy becomes permanent regret and sadness.

A tear streaming down a mother’s cheek, coming from the deep emotion of love is beautiful. A tear streaming down an absent father’s cheek because his grown children won’t have anything to do with him—is tragic!


 
 
PictureSometimes, you can become entangled.
As parents, two of the most important things we want for our kids are their safety and success. Sometimes safety, especially the kind where you want to protect your kids from failure, has to be sacrificed to gain success.  Still, what if? A safety net would be nice. But safety nets are just as likely to entangle those who use them as they are to prevent their harm.

When it comes to helping others, I think most people believe in safety nets. The disagreements involve how the safety nets work. I’m not just talking about government safety nets, but those we have in our families. While all people are created equal, we know that equality starts to deviate with abilities, circumstances, desire, luck—you name it.

The Truths about Safety Nets

There are two truths involving safety nets. One, they are absolutely necessary and humane for many situations. We must help those that are disadvantaged, mostly by mental and physical health, sometimes for various other issues. The second truth is that there are those who will take advantage of the humaneness of others and use safety nets for personal gain. But I submit that there is a third truth!  There are those that get help too early, unintentionally allowing them to get tangled in the safety net, unable to get out. I think the third truth is more often accurate regarding our children.


How a Safety Net Should be Constructed

How I imagine a safety net should be constructed can be explained best by thinking of an actual safety net. Safety nets are intended to prevent harm. Those in place for high wire acts are obvious examples. What is not so obvious is the fact that those who fall into the net climb out to try again, and to get better, to the point where the net is rarely necessary—their true purpose!

My imaginary safety net would be made of rubber bands, catching the victims in their fall, but slinging them back into the fray with some momentum. This can be done with training, encouragement, and mentoring. On the other hand, if the safety net is strung with the help of shock-absorbers, the victim will sag gently into the net and it will difficult to escape. This happens in government when the assistance is in proportion to the need. More need can mean more assistance and therefore, more need is created by those with who would take advantage of the system. Similarly, this can happen in families when children are overly protected.


For example, allowing adult children to live at home can entangle them if they aren’t working to get out on their own. Paying for older children’s casual expenses instead of them earning their own spending money can be a trap. Not coaxing younger children to face their fears (water, people, heights, etc.) by shielding them from those fears is certainly a form of protection that does not serve well.


Devise Smart Family Safety Nets 

In families, you must construct a safety net, designed to benefit your children the best way you know how. When you do, think about their growth and what you want to accomplish to prepare them for their future. When your children fall into your safety net, think about rubber bands and avoid shock absorbers. For example, if they are overly shy, put them in situations where they can learn confidence finding, then building upon skills. That’s a safety net made of rubber bands. If, instead, you sympathize too much or protect them from their fears, your safety net is cushioned to the point that it is too comfortable—and they will return too often to that comfortable place. That is the third truth of safety nets.

Family safety nets are weak when it is a one-parent household--if there is a safety net at all. In one-parent households there is only parental hand that a child can hold, only one set of ideas to approach problems, only one person to earn, protect, and provide daily care. Real damage can occur and can be irreversible when the family safety net fails. When it does, the government safety net takes over valiantly, yet often without the ability to keep victims from returning. Government safety nets, like food stamps and Section 8 housing, are notorious shock-absorbers. These programs are one size fits all, with no ability to consider individual talents or issues. Because of this, a cycle of need can continue into the next generation.

Avoid using or even allowing safety nets whenever possible. It’s amazing what one can do when there is no alternative. In the U.S. Air Force, I was required to attend survival and POW training to become a combat ready pilot. There was no safety net other than quitting and ruining my career. I didn’t want to do that so I pushed through an experience for which I was really not prepared.  I may not have completed this training if it was optional. However, I would have prevailed even if optional because I did have a personal safety net--pride and determination. There was no way I would not complete something that I knew I could complete with a little grit.

The Three Levels of Safety Nets

Safety nets are meant to help, not hinder. I've discussed three levels of safety nets.--use them smartly! The first level starts with your personal safety net of determination. Determination is a safety net of rubber bands, throwing you back to the task at hand. Determination is a safety net that protects you from failure. If that safety net fails, then the family safety net may help--if properly devised to encourage and support improvement. Lastly is the safety net that one should never want to use, although many seek it, and that is the government safety net.


 Summary

Look at your family situation in terms of the safety nets you may not have even realized were there. Are your safety nets too comfortable? Or do they help those that fall into it--to rebound? Look at yourself as a parent. Do you have a safety net of determination for yourself to raise self-reliant children?   Remember how high wire acts use safety nets as tools to help them become more skilled!

Safety nets can be wonderfully effective. They can also be tragically misused. The best safety net is one’s own personal safety net of determination and self-respect. Less effective, but potentially very valuable, is a smartly devised family safety net. The most ineffective and inefficient safety nets are the government safety nets. With a strong two-parent family there are few reasons, outside of health issues, to ever become dependent on government safety nets--unless personal and family safety nets fail first. If  'constructed' properly, that will not likely happen.



Thank you for reading!

 
 
PictureKaty Perry
Celebrities! Is there anything worse than listening to advice from a celebrity? By definition they are famous, some we like, and a few are even talented. Celebrities are usually known for one thing, mostly in the areas of the performing arts, sports, or politics. Take away that talent or expertise and they are just like the rest of us no-names. Yet an impressionable society will listen to their views and/or comments on just about anything. 

She Doesn't Need a Dude!

In a recent interview, the singer, Katy Perry, announced that she would like to be a mother someday, but claimed, “I don’t need a dude” to have a child. Outside of the obvious biological necessities, she is right. Ms. Perry is rich and can provide quite nicely for as many children as she wants. But maybe her children could use a dude—a dude her children would call…Daddy! 

I understand Ms. Perry’s desire to have a child. It’s natural for a woman to want to be a mother. It’s also natural for a child to have both a mother and a father! Unfortunately, too many children do not have two parents in their lives and they almost always suffer for it--in obvious and not-so-obvious ways! If Perry cannot find a man suitable as a loving mate and responsible father, then she may be too busy making money, or too much into herself.  Good men are out here if Katy and other women look in the right places.


Fatherless Homes are a Worldwide Issue

I was disappointed when I heard a panel of three women and two men discussing Katy Perry’s “dude” quote. The three women discussed the financial aspects stating that, unlike most single mothers, she could afford a nanny and all things necessary to raise a child. Maybe it was alright for Perry, but not for most single women. Not until one of the two men spoke was the child’s need of a father mentioned. This points out, to me, the lack of emphasis on the importance of men being necessary in parenting. Unless you are interested in the topic, few people are familiar with the magnitude of issues involved in fatherless homes. A topic I have addressed quite often.

Single parent families exist for many reasons, many of which are preventable. Couples have children before they really know each other, and eventually separate. Irresponsible people can also have children, but can’t commit to them. But to plan, in advance, to have a child without a father’s involvement in its upbringing is never fair to the child. When impressionable young women hear Ms. Perry say that she can have a child without a father (dude) in its life, it’s a dreadful, misleading message! I would ask her to not sacrifice, on purpose, a child’s right to have two parents just to fulfill a personal desire. 


Role Models?

As a role model, involuntary or not, Ms. Perry should be aware that there are those that will follow her lead, or feel vindicated by their choice to be a single mother. This creates huge personal challenges for the mother and her child and contributes to many growing social problems. Having been raised by Pentecostal parents in a strict religious atmosphere, Ms. Perry’s comments are more confusing. She had a loving mother and father and was raised with values that one would assume would never tempt her to think this way. Maybe saying she would have a child without a father was a way to get publicity. If so, it certainly worked—but at the expense of possibly causing undue influence on young women and their decision on this topic.


Think for Yourself People!

We have enough problems in this world without having celebrities putting their stamp of approval on questionable behavior. Single motherhood is not cool! We don't stutter just because Porky Pig is cute when he does so. So don't  drink beer thinking beautiful girls in bikinis will magically appear. Don't vote for legalizing pot just because Willie Nelson would endorse it. Don't twerk because Mylie Cyrus twerks. You just might look like a jerk when you twerk! They and other celebrities don't live in the real world--especially Mylie, Willie, and Porky! And think very long and hard before purposely bringing a child into this world without all the advantages that are due it. This includes having a father in his or her life!  


 
 
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If this was your daughter, I'm pretty certain that you would tell her she was a terrific dancer! After all, anyone with this much enthusiasm can't be denied. Along with her enthusiasm, she also has an imagination that allows her to be anything she wants to be. Most of us would never think to discourage her.

There is another side to this scenario. Some kids don't have much confidence or enthusiasm--and it holds them back! Their imaginations are more like wishes than goals. We, as parents, need to consciously build their confidence and praise their efforts.

I remember an incident that happened no less than 56 years ago, but it has stuck with me. I was eight years old, learning how to ice skate on my own. It was an indoor rink, in a landmark long ago torn down, called the “Winter Garden”. I had never been on ice skates before and if you were to see me, I would have reminded you of Bambi walking on a frozen pond.

I hugged the railing around the rink with the iron grip of a skinny kid, sprawling every few feet, face down still holding the rail. After a few trips around the rink, I let go for a foot or two, eventually skating maybe 10 feet without holding on to the rail. Of course, I fell along the way, and became very familiar with the hardness of ice!

The Winter Garden once hosted a minor league hockey team and had stands where parents and other relatives could watch the skaters. As I was leaving, with my bruised bottom and ego, an older couple looked down from the stands and said, very enthusiastically, “You did such a good job!” They had been watching me all this time and were impressed, or pretended to be impressed with my progress.

This small kindness had an almost profound impact on me! I remember smiling broadly, amazed that they had been watching and rooting for me. They weren’t praising my skating, they were praising me for my efforts. I grew an inch that day and my confidence in myself grew also. Their comments stayed with me and made me want to try to conquer other new things. 

The Elephant in the Room ... anchored by a rope.
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Just as I was inspired, your children need praise and encouragement also! They need praise for their efforts--and encouragement to try new things or to keep trying difficult things. Without encouragement, a child can become numb and stop trying. If you’ve seen elephants in the circus or zoo being held in place by a rope that they could easily escape from, then you have an example of what I mean. 

These elephants were trained, when young and not yet as strong as they would ultimately become, that the rope was stronger than them and they were not getting away. The elephants soon stop trying and eventually, just knowing they were tethered to a rope kept them in check. Never allow your children get into a situation where they stop trying too soon. And certainly don’t be the rope that holds them back with discouraging words or unsupportive behavior.

When you praise your children’s effort and encourage their will and determination, you make a significant difference in their attitude and likely success. It’s not just helpful towards the goals they are trying to reach, but they realize something very important. They realize you notice, you care, you have faith, you love, you direct, you push, you validate, you empower!

It sounds so logical to praise and encourage your kids so why does it not happen more often? I think one reason is we just forget, especially when our kids get older. Parents miss opportunities to praise, which is natural when they are toddlers, learning to walk and talk. As they mature, some parents forget how important it is to be their kids’ cheerleader, or worse yet, parents can be overly critical. It is also possible that, in an effort to protect them, you may discourage your children from trying things at which you think they will fail. Don’t make these mistakes! Be positive and guide gently.

If you simply praise and encourage effort, and let them know that results are secondary to you, you won’t make the mistake of being a part of their failure. Of course, results are sometimes the bottom line, but not in parenting--not when your children’s determination and will are being demonstrated. With that going for them, your children will find what is right for them—and the results they and others are looking for will come.


 
 
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Mentoring by the Letter

What is a father if not a mentor? He can be a wonderful provider, and that’s good! He can be a fun guy to be around, and that’s good too! A father can be a loving man to his children! I know men who are all that in one package. But if he is not mentoring his kids, then he is not helping to prepare them for the future.

Passively, of course, your very presence is helpful for their learning. They watch how you treat people and handle problems. They ask you questions and you answer them, most of the time. When a son watches you, he mimics you. When a daughter watches you, she assumes that’s how all men act and react. Hopefully, you are an excellent example.

Actively, you can be a teacher of life, purposely guiding them to adulthood. This is called mentoring. A mentor is a guide, supporter, advisor, and a trusted individual that counsels someone usually younger. But what is one doing when mentoring? The letters in the word mentoring can be helpful to help remind a father or mentor what to do.

Motivate

You can be a motivator by introducing new experiences to your children. Notice what they are good at and support them. Teach them about goals and planning. Motivation is the spark that starts any undertaking or adventure. Be the one they know will support them in any honorable endeavor. See Nurturing 101.  


Encourage

Encouragement is what fans the flames of success. Be a cheerleader. Give pep talks when failure makes a surprise visit. Tell them they are good when they are good. Think back to a time when someone’s encouragement helped you. 

Navigate

Help them to take on life’s little, and not so little, lessons. Correct them when they make mistakes. Guide them down the right path regarding social situations, education and friends. See “Will Your Help Make Them Stronger or Weaker?” 

Train

Teach them how to be strong. How to be on time. How to treat others. Teach them how to handle and learn from failure. If you don’t, who will?

Open up

Be approachable. When your children have issues, they need someone to open up to. See ‘How to Talk to Your Kids’. 

Recognize

It’s very important to give your children praise and pats on the back when they do well. Also important is to recognize when they are making mistakes so you can correct them. Both actions show that you care. It’s another way to encourage them to keep on a positive track.


Be the mentor your children need. Be their hero and guardian.Your goal is to help them reach their goals! Future posts will discuss, in further detail, praise, recognition, and encouragement. 

Thanks for reading!


 
 
PictureMe with my brother Steve and sister Susan, circa 1957
Times are different now, as each generation will say without fail.

When I was a kid, especially in those prime years when I was old enough to ride a two-wheeler, yet young enough to still enjoy collecting baseball cards, I would spend some of my summer days never seeing my mom. She was home at that time, but I was outside from morning to dusk. I woke up faster then. All it took was to see the angling rays of the sun peeking in my room and the distant voices of my friends. I would pop-up, put on my clothes, which were likely the same ones I had dropped by my bed the night before, pulled down my cap, and ran outside before my mom could corral me. 

Every day was an adventure, conjured up as the day went along, with the entire neighborhood as our playground. A nearby field of high grass or weeds would be the perfect place for my friends and I to wander into, far enough not to be seen. Then we would stomp down an area that would be our fort, or hideaway. I’m sure there were bugs and heat in the hottest months, but I don’t remember that so much. Creeks were the best ever! My friends and I would make temporary dams to see if we could create a lake. Versions of hide and seek, war--yes war, and exploring were pastimes that came about without planning or organizing. All seemed to happen spontaneously!

Bikes were essential then. Your bike was your transportation, your chariot, your identity. Rarely did I or my friends ride on the seat. We would peddle fast, standing up as the bike swayed left then right. As we neared our destination, we would swing our right leg around to the left side of the bike, then jumped off running—sometimes letting our bike go to land wherever.

Hunger was never noticed--until interrupted, heads tilted, hearing one of the mothers calling out saying, ‘lunch is ready, come home’. Most of the time we didn’t want to stop for lunch. You can’t ride a bike, carry a stick as a sword, and eat a sandwich at the same time! The sandwich had to wait. Besides, what if you or your friends couldn’t come back out?

There were only three TV channels back then. The kid shows, like ‘Captain Kangaroo’ and cartoons, which would be called violent today, were on in the mornings, but not much of a draw unless it was raining. No video games, of course. We did not learn the hand-eye coordination or develop the manual hand dexterity kids currently have. But I bet we could out-run, out-throw, and out-imagine any kid today! The closest thing I had to a video game was when I took a piece of cardboard, taped it on a dresser, drew on some dials, grabbed a chair and a broom handle, and pretended to fly an airplane. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to fly upside down, so I took my shortened broomstick, stood on my bed, and bent as far down as I could to be kind-of upside down, hoping I could handle steering an airplane while blood was rushing to my head. When I stood up erect again, my confidence was shaken a little. It turns out it is easier doing it for real.

We moved quite a bit. Often I lived in the city where alleys substituted for creeks, and hiding in a field was a little tougher--but hiding in general was easier. In one place, we lived on the top floor of a six-unit apartment building. We had a black metal landing with stairs that zigzagged down to the small, common backyard. I was looking out from our third floor landing one morning when I was about 10 years old, watching traffic and counting how many cars were Fords and how many were Chevys. Suddenly but softly, I heard the lady on the second floor singing. I leaned over the rail and could see into her window, the top half opened, as she was taking a shower. It was the first time I recall seeing a woman’s breasts. I remember getting a little weak in the knees and had to sit down, feeling a little guilty for what I had just seen.

My friends and I didn’t have much room to play stick ball, but we made do in the alley. Balls that ricocheted off garages were in play. Bases were often telephone poles or Buicks, and usually a chunk of busted up concrete or a smashed trash can lid became second base. Once, just like one of those old movies you see about Babe Ruth as a kid, I hit a ball (not a real baseball) that was hit high and far, yet foul. It broke a neighbor’s window. We scattered like roaches will do when you turn on the lights--a scene all too familiar to me back then. My dad, who rarely was home with us, asked what happened since I was out of breath--after all, it was the third floor! I sheepishly told him I broke a window. I think he told me to go face up to it. At least I hope he did, but I really can’t remember that part.

In the summer between 3rd and 4th grades, I would walk a little over a mile to Forest Park in St. Louis on my own. I enjoyed the freedom and adventure. To get there, I walked down DeBaliviere Strip, as it was known then, and passed a nightclub that had photos in a glass display of their star attraction. It said ‘Come see Evelyn Wood and her “$50,000 Treasure Chest”’. I knew what that meant.

There are tall apartment buildings on the west side of Forest Park that I remember watching as they were being built. I would sit on a bench in the park across Skinker Blvd and watch, fascinated, as the cranes lifted beams and huge pails of concrete to the higher floors. To see those buildings today is comforting, proving my past remembrances are real. It seems most of my childhood memories are packed between 8-10 years of age. It may have been because they were the happiest.


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I don’t expect parents to allow the freedom to their children that I had back then. I’m not sure the world is more dangerous, but the greatly expanded media gives the impression, true or false, that it is. Moms aren’t home as much either. When they are, half the time the kids are in a minivan being taxied to one activity or another. When todays’ 8-10 year olds grow up, I hope they will have similar memories of fun times, with friends or alone, that are void of parents or camp counselors. I know kids still have these skills of imagination and adventure if left alone. That is the main reason I have a place in the country for my grandchildren to explore as they grow up. There is a large creek nearby, a tire swing, room to run and places to explore. I hope their upcoming adventures become memories that will make them smile as these memories have made me smile deep within.


PS. Just as I published this post, a friend posted this article on Facebook. Parent Trap. Interesting thoughts. Somewhere, there must be a balance.

 
 
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There are men who are fathers, and then there are fathers who are men.

I write about 'fatherhood' in this blog as an overall topic. I write about 'dadhood' as a goal for all fathers.


Dad Blogging


I’m not your typical dad blogger--if there is such a thing. I haven’t had kids at home in 14 years. Neither am I a writer. In fact, I’m the opposite of a writer--I’m a retired engineer. Many dad bloggers are stay-at-home dads (SAHDs). There are dad bloggers that are gay dads, single dads, work-from-home dads and a few dads that fit all of these descriptions. These are wonderful dads by the way! You will find many jokes about dads doing stupid stuff with their kids, but not these guys! Fun stuff? Yes! Taping Bounty paper towels on for diapers? No!

The kind of dad blogger that works full time and blogs about fatherhood is rare because few have the time and/or inclination. I would guess if you asked ten dads if they read, or even know about, blogs written by fathers, eleven would say no! Sometimes I think the only men who read dad blogs are other dad bloggers. Mom bloggers outnumber dad bloggers about 17 to 1. I don’t have a reference handy, but you know its likely true. Women basically own the parenting blog universe. This is understandable and no surprise to anyone, I would guess--but 17 to 1? Many moms read and support blogs about parenting.

So why am I a dad blogger? Well, for one thing, I am concerned about the explosion of fatherless homes having been mostly brought up in one. In my upcoming book, I examine how society is impacted by children growing up without fathers. Another reason for my dad blog may be my narcissistic attitude of thinking I know more than the average male about raising kids. It’s really not that I know more about raising kids, but I did experience it as a father, lacked for it as a young boy, and see the differences. My real goal is to expand the conversation about the crisis regarding fatherless homes in the hope solutions will be found. For more on that topic, see some of my 100+ posts from the past year.

Dadless Fathers


The "Other Dad Problem', a quieter problem, more difficult to see or measure, is ‘Dadless’ fathers. By ‘Dadless’ fathers, I mean men who do not interact with their children in a way that is loving and nurturing. Being a father is a biological act. Being a dad is a social and personal responsibility that should be one of the joys of your life.

In my book, “The Power of Dadhood, A Better Society One Child at a Time, which is coming out in spring 2015, I discuss ‘The Pyramid of Dadhood’.


At the base of the pyramid is the father who is present in his children’s lives and provides for them--absent fathers don’t even rate placement in this pyramid. Being present is the most basic and critical step of fatherhood. Your presence alone, as a provider, prevents or minimizes many childhood issues, even if you aren't an active 'dad'. Of present fathers, a somewhat fewer number of men are also loving fathers. These fathers show their love, protect, provide necessary discipline, and are encouraging to their children. Fewer still, at the pinnacle of the pyramid, is the nurturing father. He is present, loving, and a teacher/mentor. The nurturing father is active in providing guidance, establishing goals, and preparing his children for adulthood. 

Of course, I go into much more detail in my book, but fathers are not just figureheads. They need to be dads too--to be involved, to be loving and to prepare their children to be productive adults. It would be wonderful, indeed, if we as a society, could get more fathers into the ‘Pyramid of Dadhood’, and move those in the pyramid further up towards the pinnacle.


You can be part of the solution, one dad, one child at a time!
 
 
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This is not about kids with guns. Simply, kids should not be around guns, except when expert adult supervision is available. The same could be said about social media.

A gun cannot kill anyone until it is loaded, a trigger is pulled, and someone is in the line of fire. Again, the same could be said about social media. Social media is loaded when it is on your computer or smart phone. The trigger is the send button. And whomever is named in the post or tweet, is in the line of fire.

My analogy may not be pleasant, but it does help to gain attention to a problem younger people have that my generation did not have. Like guns, social media is harmless until it is in the hands of the wrong person--or any person with no guidance. Unfortunately, the similarity continues because social media, like guns, can give leverage to bring much greater harm to those who would do harm.

What has Changed with Social Media
?

Kids these days, as always, need social acceptance. Whereas this used to take place more intimately and privately, social media has made this quest quite public. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or the latest social media craze of which I have not yet heard, kids must have a certain number of comments or ‘likes’, or the kids shrink into a mild depression. “Don’t my friend’s like me?” “Should I be embarrassed--since no one commented?” “Am I losing popularity?” “Am I not funny or clever?” To them, a message with little or no response is missing the target and embarrassing!

Further, an immature or reckless person can ruin their reputation and future with just a push of a button. They will be quite aware of what they are doing, but unaware of the potential current or future consequences. I have relatives, under the age of twenty-five, that are not adverse to using the f-word on social media, and one that has even posted a pornographic drawing. Of course I objected, but it does little to stop them since I have no control over their behavior. Their parents failed, lost or ignored their opportunity to establish reasonable values and limits.

Getting back to the gun analogy, these ‘twenty-somethings’ have administered a self-inflicted wound to their lives. Amazingly, they think they are gaining popularity with this display of crassness! And they may be—but with a VERY impressionable, immature, and unimpressive crowd.

We’ve all seen the photos or 'selfies' of people who are drunk, misbehaving, being obscene, etc. Sometimes they are not objectionable in the right setting or context, but in the sterile setting of a Facebook page or Instagram photo, the context is left to the eyes of the beholder. If the beholder is a prospective employer or father-in-law, you’re done!

Unfortunately, basing your happiness, or revealing your crudeness on a public forum is not even close to the worse that can happen.  Personal attacks occur that can be devastating. Too often we hear on the news that someone, usually someone young, has committed suicide based on a public attack on a social media format. When this occurs, the social media weapon is literally deadly! As deadly as being shot with a gun through the heart.

While you may think I am anti-social media, I am actually a big fan. I frequently post photos, brag about my grand kids, publicize my blog, keep up with relatives who live far away, and love to see the posts of my friends and most of my family. It’s not social media that is bad, it’s how social media is handled.  That's not to say that social media companies shouldn't do their part to minimize misuse.

What Can Parents Do?


It is up to parents to take control of the misuse or abuse of social media! You shouldn’t leave a gun in reach of your children nor should you allow your children to use social media without your supervision. Be the responsible person you should be as a parent. Take a stand, have rules, don’t trust their judgment, have no-notice check-ups of their social media activity. Unattended, social media can ruin your children’s lives or the lives of others. No—wait! Those of us USING social media can ruin lives! Including our own.



 

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    Mike Smith

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