When the glove doesn’t fit

Sports has been different this past year that’s for sure. But with the Dodgers and Lakers winning championships, Bill is happy (he hails from Los Angeles) and we each still follow what we can. As we have finished college football, engage with basketball in the college and NBA ranks, we think about the focus so many have placed on sports competition. One dad asked us, “My son has no interest in sports. Should I be worried?” 

As fellow dads, we understand the concern because it is often viewed as “natural” somehow for guys to be attracted to the competitive, rough-and-tumble wide world of sports. Two questions come to mind: As dads, what might we be worried about? Secondly, what is meant by the word “natural”?

It’s a guy thing

Our guess is that dads don’t get too worked up if little Chelsea finds it more natural to climb a tree or put on a catcher’s mask than play with dolls. Why is that? We think it’s because if Chelsea exhibits interest in what is too often considered a more masculine activity, no worry … she’ll eventually grow out of it. Or who knows—she just may show up the boys! But if Devin isn’t interest in sports, it can be a reflection of dear old dad, and we can’t have that! Dads who love sports often hope their passion for touchdowns, fly balls and dunks will carry forth in their young sons. After all, males and sports are teammates, right?

The world is composed of exceptions, ironies and wonderful surprises. Tom’s uncle, who was not a sports enthusiast, was an accomplished organist. He also crocheted—not a typical activity for a man. He also worked in a funeral home preparing bodies for viewing and burial. He was a creative man of diverse interests. Were they masculine or feminine interests? Does it matter?

More than a baseball glove

If dad’s son doesn’t show any interest in sports right now, he may be a late bloomer. His interest in sports may emerge later. In the meantime, he may become enthralled with the flight of a hummingbird or the magnificent art of the spider’s web. That could indicate a passion for science or photography or nature. What are little boys made of … much more than a baseball glove.

Allow the natural to unfold

Dad, as much as you want your son to fit the mold, you can’t force him into your mold. As humans, we are allowed to cross boundaries and create new ones. We are free to be who we are. If you believe that your children can be anything they want to be … if you have encouraged them to follow their dreams—then you need to step back and allow the “natural” to unfold. It is not within your power to do otherwise. 

Summing up

• Realize that masculinity and sports are not necessarily synonymous.

• Introduce your kids to many pursuits, disregarding gender-specific tags.

• Instill values in your kids, and help them weigh their choices according to their passions and skills.

• Rather than force your son or daughter into stereotypical smaller boxes, encourage them to avoid boxes altogether.

• Allow your kids to grow at their own pace, along their own path—rather than be extensions of you. (It tweaks a nerve to say it, dad … but your kids are not you.)

• Be grateful that your youngster shows interest in positive pursuits, whether it involves a ball or not. 

By dads2dads

Handing Over the Car Keys

Quite a few dads suggested this topic to us: “How do you know when to hand over the car keys?”

Parents go through some gut-wrenching moments during their “tour of duty” as caretakers, protectors and defenders of their children. We certainly did. We anguish over some tough decisions as parents because what we think is best for our teenager is often directly in opposition to what he or she thinks is appropriate and even deserved. By nature dads have a difficult time letting go, giving up some measure of control, particularly when it comes to a child’s safety.

Unsettling statistics

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, over nearly 2,500 teenagers in the U.S. died in car crashes in 2018, far lower than the 70s and 80s but still troubling. Two in three deaths are males.  42 percent were single-vehicle crashes. Car crashes are one of the leading cause of teenage death, slightly below suicide.

So how can parents stay calm while handing over the keys? We’re not sure “calm” even applies here. There is hardly much calm while one’s daughter or son backs a two-ton hunk of machinery out of the driveway and heads down the street and around the corner out of sight. One way to lessen the anxiety, assuming that there has been adequate practice behind the wheel, is to discuss your rules and clearly state your expectations. (Note the emphasis on your.)

Make them your rules

We suggest the following—and by no means do we have the only or best solutions:

• When your teenager first takes the family car—and for the following two to four weeks—insist that he or she not offer taxi service. Many accidents are caused by noisy or disruptive passengers. Be firm—absolutely no riders for a predetermined period.

• After that period, allow your teenage driver to have just one passenger for another month or two. After that, set a permanent passenger limit. We’d suggest never more than three.

• Everyone fastens seatbelts.

• Demand accountability. Where are you going? Who will be with you in the car? When will you be home? 

• Demand that there be no calling or texting ever while driving. (And no proxy driver!)

• No drinking and driving. Period. Call dad or mom or Uber or Lyft.

• A ticket for a moving-traffic violation—speeding, tailgating, etc.—should result in a revocation of driving privileges for a month. (Any drug- or alcohol-related infraction by driver or passenger ought to carry the stiffest parental penalty of all. And, parents, if the offender is your child, you may have a bigger problem to address.)

Make ‘em stick

Every time you come to that stomach-churning moment when your son or daughter gets into the driver’s seat, make sure you say loud and clear: “Be careful. See you later. I love you!” And then … let go.

One final reminder: Be firm, don’t bend the rules, follow through on punishments—and love them no matter what.

By dads2dads

Where’s Your Focus?

Hey, dad, for our third resolution, we suggest that you focus on yourself.  You might say, “Wait a minute … that sounds a little selfish. You guys are always saying ‘Be there for the kids’ and ‘Pay attention to your kids’ needs.’ Now you’re saying, ‘Focus on yourself.’ What gives?”

We don’t mean that you should be self-centered. We mean simply that in order to give freely and generously to your children and spouse, you need to take care of yourself.

Adjust the stress level

A weak vessel holds little. Increase your capacity to be a good husband and an effective father by fortifying your mind and body. Take time to de-stress. If you’re constantly under pressure, impatient or agitated, you’re not going to be a very good listener. And we know these days are filled with pressure and uncertainty. Your ability to be in the moment will not be very strong if you’re distracted by stress. You will be quick to react in the wrong way, and your relationships will suffer.

Get physical

Exercising will help you to slow down, gain perspective and be a more responsive person. Many facilities are open with careful precautions and there are some things you can do at home like using that old elliptical that’s become a piece of furniture, or walking/running outside, or hiking. Physical activity improves your heart rate, blood pressure and ability to handle challenges. Check first with your doctor before you start an exercise regimen. Once you know your limitations … reach them!

We have found exercise to be a key ingredient in keeping us effective. The biggest challenge to overcome is our own list of excuses. (We’re not sure which one of us has the longer list.)  

And mental

Try some mental calisthenics. Make time for yoga, meditation, daily prayer or personal reflection. A destressing process such as this is important in reducing tension and increasing your ability to listen, to interact and to be more centered.

Eat To Live (not the other way around)

The body needs fuel. You are what you eat. All food is not created equal. Make sure your diet is supporting your ability to deal with the challenges you face. The better the food you eat, the better your capacity for meeting all the needs of an active day.

Treat yourself to some TLC. You may think you’re indestructible … able to leap tall sofas in a single bound. Have a frank talk with yourself, dad. You’re not the warrior you might think. You may not get nearly the miles per gallon of gusto that you once did. You need to stop and take the time … to take the time. Do it for yourself. Do it for those you love. Do it for life.

Looking ahead, we recommend that you increase your value. Focus on the three resolutions that we have suggested in this series. (1) Step up to the plate and be a dad. (2) Improve your relationship with your spouse. (3) Focus on yourself. You’ll enhance your focus on everything and everyone else in your life. It’s worth the investment, and we know you can do it. And let us know how it’s going.

By dads2dads

Good Parenting Requires Good Partnering

Dad, it’s important to step up to the plate and be a good dad —  showing up, listening, paying attention … those things that are sometimes challenges for us. Your role as a dad is vital in today’s turbulent world. Effective parenting—being a block for the young chip—can help resolve many of the problems we face. Good fathers help make good kids. You’re probably already doing a pretty good job. Look for areas where you can improve. We all have them.

Strengthen Your Partnership

Parents who become immersed in raising a child also can drift apart and become strangers. They lose the spark, the harmony, the adventure and the reward of a relationship. When their child grows up and moves on, they find themselves married to someone they don’t know. They may discover that the person they thought they knew changed over the years. They are still together but lonelier than they’ve ever been. That’s a lonelier feeling than being alone.

Clear Your Calendar … and Clutter

In order to prevent estrangement, rev your engines. Cherish your relationship. Keep in touch with each other’s feelings. Maintain a sense of your “coupleness” within the larger role of parents. You can do this by spending some time with each other, away from the kids — having a regular night out, taking turns making an occasional special dinner or simply talking together in the evening. The paradox is that “simply talking together” isn’t simple. It requires clearing the clutter, focusing and—here comes that word again—listening.

You’re busy. You’ve got a lot to do and many things on your mind. Just remember, quality counts. It’s not the amount of time so much as how it’s spent that makes a difference. Small changes can produce important improvements. So when you’re listening, listen well. It’s usually more important than talking. Pay attention. Ask questions. Avoid judgment or defensiveness. 

Share household chores. Try to make daily life easier for each other. Understand your partner’s concerns, fears, and, yes, frustrations. Be empathetic. Make your relationship matter. 

View It From Your Child’s Perspective

It’s hard raising a child and the work of being an effective parent really doesn’t get enough attention. Parents who do it well don’t get enough credit. Be one of those who do it well. If you’re married, be grateful for that other person you love. If you’re separated or divorced, try to view your partner from your child’s perspective. It is important to maintain a calm, supportive environment. It’s not about you—it’s about raising a healthy, successful child. (And health is particularly important in this time of a pandemic).

Each of you has strengths and needs. You can be a better parent by combining your skills, balancing your abilities and strengthening areas that needs improving. You already have the desire and the will to raise successful, loving children. Recognizing the importance of your partnership is a key ingredient in this process.

By dads2dads

Three Resolutions

 As we said, the new year arrives and we resolve to make many improvements in our lives. The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on how last year went, and what we want the new twelve months to look like. 

We’d like to talk about reflection and direction in order to chart a slightly new course. We’ll keep it simple because we really can’t handle too many changes all at once. Perhaps you can’t either. And perhaps we just need some fine-tuning.

OK, your first resolution to keep for 2021: 

Be a father.

It sounds simple, right? Well it’s not. Being a dad is a hard job. It requires growing up, being patient, setting an example and showing respect and understanding. It’s truly a tall order.

Being a dad is a unique role because it comprises many parts: cheerleader, teacher, role model and mentor.

Those Precious Fleeting Years

As Steve Martin says in the movie, Father of the Bride:

You fathers will understand.  You have a little girl.  An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in a way you could never imagine.  I remember how her little hand used to fit inside mine.  How she used to sit in my lap and lean her head against my chest.  She said that I was her hero.  Then the day comes when she wants to get her ears pierced, and she wants you to drop her off a block before the movie theater.  Next thing you know she’s wearing eye shadow and high heels.  From that moment on, you’re in a constant state of panic. You worry about her going out with the wrong kind of guys, the kind of guys who only want one thing–and you know exactly what that one thing is because it’s the same thing you wanted when you were their age.  Then she gets a little older and you quit worrying about her meeting the wrong guy and you worry about her meeting the right guy.  And that’s the biggest fear of all because then you lose her.  And before you know it, you’re sitting all alone in a big, empty house, wearing rice on your tux, wondering what happened to your life.

For Starters—Always Be There

So this year, think about what it means to be a dad and how you can be just a little bit better. Fatherhood requires patience, expects maturity, demands discipline, involves setting an example, and calls for respect and understanding.

You can start simply by being there for your child. Try listening better. Be reliable. Dependable. Trustworthy. Pick her up when she falls. Listen when he speaks. And always, always respect your children.

By dads2dads

Resolved:

2020 has been difficult. No doubt about it. The new year arrives with hope for a calmer, safer landscape in which to live. And, we traditionally make resolutions. We resolve to be better dads, to get healthier, to finish projects, etc. The years of fatherhood are littered with resolutions. We don’t keep many of them. We mean well, but we get busy and forgetful — tired and lazy.

Still, now is a good opportunity to conduct a personal review and start those improvements that can make a difference for us and for those we love. The key is to focus on areas of highest interest to us—and to be specific about what we want to accomplish. 

Be a father. It sounds simple, right? Well it’s not. Being a dad is a hard job. It requires growing up, being patient, setting an example and showing respect and understanding. It’s truly a tall order. Being a dad is a unique role because it comprises many parts: cheerleader, teacher, role model and mentor.

Be a listener. Clear the clutter from your mind. Take control of your ego and don’t insist on having the loudest or last word—or fixing something. Cherish the fact that your kid is speaking to you.  ListenGet to know him or her better. What an incredible new start! 

Be a partner. Couples immersed in raising a child can drift apart, lose the spark. When their child grows up they find themselves married to someone they don’t know. Rev your engines, embrace change, and cherish your relationship. Keep in touch with each other.

Be a child. Sometimes it’s good to see things from your child’s perspective. Delve into his feelings. Notice her moods. Ask for their perspective. Be open to listening. Watch for opportunities to connect. You’ll learn a lot.

Be calmer.  Focus on yourself a little. Fortify your mind and body. Take time to de-stress. If you’re constantly under pressure, impatient or agitated, you’re not going to be a very good listener. Your ability to be in the moment will not be very strong. You will be quick to react in the wrong way, and your relationships will suffer.

Get physical. Exercise will help you to slow down, gain perspective and be a more responsive person. Physical activity improves your heart rate, blood pressure and the ability to handle challenges. Check first with your doctor before you start an exercise regimen. And, of course, practice good pandemic habits by keeping distant, wearing a mask whenever possible. Once you know your limitations … reach them!

Get mental. Try some mental calisthenics as well. Make time for yoga, meditation, daily prayer or personal reflection. A de-stressing process such as this is important in reducing tension and increasing your ability to listen, to interact and to be more centered.

Get nutritious. The body needs fuel. You are what you eat. Make sure your diet is supporting your ability to deal with the challenges you face. The better the food you eat, the better your capacity for meeting all the needs of an active day.

By dads2dads

Computer Frenzy

A father writes, “A one track mind—  what do I do about my son’s computer game obsession?” 

Bill remembers the struggle he had with his sons and their attraction to video games. The conversation would go something like this:  “I need you to clean up your room.” “I’m playing a video game.” How much longer will you be?” Just a few minutes.” (30 minutes later) “You need to get off that game.” “Just a few more minutes.” That’s what you said 30 minutes ago.” (20 minutes later) “Turn off that game NOW!” “Dad!” “I said turn it off!” (Sound of feet stomping downstairs) Mom asks, “Aren’t you done with that game yet?” “Mom! You’re never done. You just get to different levels.”

From the Atari 2600, to the Nintendo (1985), to Sony’s PlayStation (1994), and Microsoft’s Xbox (2001) we”ve come a long way. Now we have the Xbox X and the PlayStation 5. We’ve gone from “Pong” to “Angry Birds” and “World of Warcraft,” we’ve seen an evolution of game technology and sophistication. It’s been a wild ride of adventure, conflict, and sports competition. The industry has reinvented itself, and the issues that faced parents in the 80s with Gameboy and Nintendo have grown to bigger issues parents face today with computer games and portable devices. How do you balance the expectations of family, duty and study with computer game frenzy?

Some resources may help

The Entertainment Software Association’s report, Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, states that 72 percent of households in America are playing computer and video games. Games are nothing new. Throughout history, humans have played games. The difference today is the format.

Some books, organizations and agencies can help you manage the battle of the video. Check out The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games by Scott Steinberg, which discusses how to handle kids’ fascination with gaming. 

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) provides ratings for video games that can help you discern what might be appropriate for your child. 

Family Friendly Video Games provides reviews of games, a seal of approval and a report card on tested games at familyfriendlyvideogames.com.

Steps you can take

Be concerned with what your kids are watching – on TV, portable device or computer – especially in these pandemic days. Here are some ways to make the relationship between your child and games a positive one:

  • Check out the resources above.
  • Understand ESRB ratings and use them to select age-appropriate games.
  • Establish rules. Limit interaction to a set time limit. 
  • Make sure your child connects with friends and the outside world away from games.
  • Monitor the games your child plays. Know what is being played, and if multi-player, with whom your child is playing.
  • Be sensitive to the violence in video games and what effect it has on children.

With some rules along with input from your child, games can be a healthy, fun part of family happenings. Oversight and adherence to clear expectations are the keys.

By dads2dads

Schmooze Your Family

All of us enjoy giving advice. Get involved in your community. Join this organization. Apply for membership in that club. Get to know people in high places. Be seen. Press the flesh — at a distance! Interact — safely! Give back. Make a difference. Make something of yourself.

It’s all good advice. All of us, no matter what station in life, can benefit from such counsel. It’s important to increase our circle of friends, expand our network and add to our address book. 

But what we don’t hear often enough from bosses, life coaches, and even parents is that all of us need to renew and increase our involvement with our families.

Thanks for the dough

Hey, graduate, it’s time to recognize those people who helped you make it through. Take some time to get to know them again and appreciate the sacrifices they have made for you. Thank them for being involved in all those school activities in the past and participating in those fund-raising events. Acknowledge their purchase of cookie dough, fruit, restaurant discount cards, magazines, yearbooks, band and sports uniforms, prom dresses, that first car, tuition, your cap and gown.

Sure you have to think of the future and make plans and those plans may take you away from home. But don’t rush. Weigh the value of your support. Look at old photos. Relive some memories. Be grateful that the old folks have watched over you. Tell them how much you love them and how much you appreciate their love. Schmooze ‘em!

Push back against the pull

There is a natural progression of life that seems to pull us away from our roots and our family. We go to school, leave school, search for a job and often leave home. That journey also is often interrupted and accentuated by such things as falling in love, marriage and having children. Again, it’s all good and wonderful. But in so many cases, once we get pulled away, we stay away. We get so busy that we fail to keep in touch, don’t visit, forget to call and only occasionally send a card.

The family glue is you

Our advice as you become busier is to remain an integral part of your family. Get in touch with your folks regularly. Email them, send a text, and post something on their FB wall (if they’re techno-savvy). Stay connected.

Today, with the challenges of the pandemic and the demands of life, we can often downplay the importance of family.  Events like dinner around the table, family devotions, picnics and vacations, game night, even just family night at home, seem archaic. We need to reshuffle our priorities and make the VIPs in our family #1—whether we’re near or far away, safely in person or virtual.

By dads2dads

We Were Inspired

Recently we were invited to speak to students. After reading one of our columns titled, the admissions director, called and wondered if we would talk about setting high standards, doing one’s best, and persevering through thick and thin. We were flattered. And we are glad we said yes.

They’re not looking back

The students ranged in age from early 20s to mid-60s. Many of them have personal stories of lousy breaks, insurmountable hurdles, family tragedies, and personal heartbreak. Whatever their setbacks, they have picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started over. 

They are a brave bunch. You will never meet students with greater resolve to reach beyond their grasp and to achieve their educational goals. Many of the students have lived through nightmares. Today all of them are fulfilling their dreams. It is inspiring to be around them. Their energy and enthusiasm rubs off as soon as you’re inside the door. What you see are a lot of smiling faces happy to welcome you inside.

Good for the soul

Our presentation touched on issues such as perseverance, creating your own personal public relations program, aiming high and higher, fulfilling your dreams, being prepared, and giving back. A few of the students stood in front of the group and told their own personal stories of trials and triumph. Several times the room erupted into applause or cheers as fellow students shared encouraging words and professed how their faith helped them through some tough times. At one point, all of us were brought to tears, punctuated with hugs and pats on the back.

They turned the tables on us

We went to motivate the students and cheer them on. Instead, or in addition, they lit our fire and lifted our spirits. We were moved and motivated. We felt better for being there, for being among those smart, determined and inspiring men and women.

Thank you students for making us feel at home and part of your family. If we left you with any words of wisdom and sage advice, we also walked out your door richer and wiser.

Pep Talk

We love these opportunities … partly for selfish reasons. Who wouldn’t want to do something if it made you feel better? That’s why we speak to groups—youngsters, oldsters, in-betweeners. No matter where you are in life, everyone can use a pep talk. 

By dads2dads

The No-Vacation Nation

If you like to take lots of vacations, the United States is not the place to work. In fact, according to a report titled “No-Vacation Nation” by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the U.S. is the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee its workers annual leave.

Vacation . . . What Is It Good For?

We’ll say it right up front – dads need vacations. Many countries realize this. Yet, even when provided with vacations only 57% of American workers use all the days to which they are entitled. When we do take the two or three weeks that may be allocated to us, we’re often tethered to our cell phones, tablets, and other personal devices so that we’re often not really on vacation but rather just at work in another location. 

Quite often American workers say something like this: “I gave up over a week of my vacation last year – I just couldn’t get away” — as if it is a badge of honor. Or this:  “Why should I try and take a vacation? I have to work twice as hard before I leave and then when I get back, I’m faced with three or four times the work. And when I see the bills from my trip, I wonder how I’m going to pay them. It’s just not worth it.” Now that many of us are working from home, this takes on a another dimension.

Vacations are an essential component for effectiveness on the job and in the family. You’re a better dad and a better worker if you employ some down-time. Just because you might be working from home doesn’t mean you don’t need a vacation. It might even be harder for you to distinguish between working & not working.

Finding the Balance

We’ve often talked about balance and how vital it is in the lives of dads. Sure our work is important. It provides us with a sense of identity, a way to contribute and a salary to support our lifestyle. But it is equally important to have balance in life. It is essential to shift gears downward—to enjoy calm, change the scenery, experience an attitude makeover and re-energize. Truly vacating from the grind puts duties and deadlines on hold and provides us the opportunity to strengthen the relationship with our family.

The dictionary defines “vacation” as a respite from something, a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest or relaxation, a break from regular work or routine. It need not be exotic, expensive or ambitious. The good ones are simple. The best ones are the ones taken. 

Getting Your Life Back in Alignment

Smart companies know that providing vacation time allows their employees to gain perspective and refuel. When workers return to the job, they do so refreshed, recharged and ready for new challenges. The payoff is equally great for the family. A vacation removes distractions, provides time for reflection and gives you the gift of reconnecting with those you love the most. 

Plan something simple. Whether you stay home, really focus on the kids, and explore beautiful places nearby, or go on a camping trip or to the beach, keep logistics to a minimum. And remember to practice proper precautions during this time – wear a mask, keep a distance, wash your hands. The return on investment for both the family and the company from time off will be substantial.

By dads2dads

Hang on, Dad—It Gets Better

If you’re a young father with adolescent or teenage children, then you are in the midst of the typical headaches and heartaches (oh yes, and the joys) of parenthood. You are trying your best to cope. You are often biting your lip, muttering under your breath, trying to understand, and restraining yourself from saying or doing anything that you might regret. It’s even harder during a pandemic!

Good luck. Because you’re human, there will be moments when you let something trip off your tongue that you wish you could take back. You may regret some of what you do and say. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Most of us have the best intentions. We’re just not perfect yet.

Magic-moment memories

Both of us recall instances when we wish we could go back in time. Today, we have the advantage of hindsight. Reflecting on the past has its upside and its downside. We think back to those magic moments when we connected with our teenagers, when they listened to our advice, when our counsel was actually on target—and everything turned out well. (Ah, we were so wise!) The outcome may have been accidental or due to the grace of a higher power; nonetheless, it felt good when all was right with the world.

Those other memories

We also recall those times when we were not friends with our kids, when we felt unappreciated, taken for granted or simply dismissed. Or the times when we spoke in haste, said the wrong thing, let our patience slip, or simply made the wrong decision.

Always, we cared about our children. That never changed. At the time, however, we faced our kids on the battlefield of egos and control. It did not feel good to be disrespected and brushed off. Looking back, we realize that as hard as we were working to be effective dads, our teenagers were working at being teenagers. Sometimes they also felt brushed off and disrespected.

Here’s what we’ve learned, over and over and over. No one talks on a battlefield. There’s just a lot of combat.

Some sermons stuck, some stunk

It does a father good to see his son grow and say something that reflects a core value that once was the subject of too many parental sermons. Or to hear his daughter condemn behavior for which she herself was once admonished. We have learned that most—not everything—of what we tried to teach and instill in our kids actually stuck. And we confess that not everything we preached should have stuck.

We share these reflections to reassure you that, in most cases, you and your kids will come through these turbulent years with a greater appreciation, understanding and, yes, respect for one another.

Take heart, dad. That day will come.

By dads2dads

Polarized

We have been stunned yet again by the death of another African American man, and we struggle with how to explain a state of affairs to our kids that seems so senseless. How do we bring this event home to our children? How do we make meaningful such a confusing and uncomfortable situation?

When we were working on our project of interviews with African American fathers a while back, we were surprised to hear the same story told over and over by each of the dads – I tell my son be watchful, don’t be idle, if you’re driving, have your ID out, put your hands on the steering wheel, don’t reach for anything unless you let the officer know, and be respectful. Each of these fathers had conversations with their sons we never had to have. And, it turns out, these fathers had much the same conversations with their fathers. Their worry was palpable. It got us to thinking.

Two worlds

We live in a society that is quite polarized today and includes two separate perspectives. When we speak to white friends, many are surprised and outraged by the recent events that have taken the lives of black Americans. However, when we talk to African American dads they express no surprise. They have lived a different experience as they have negotiated their daily lives. It is an experience we, as white fathers, do not face and can find hard to understand.

 

Moving forward

Our kids have witnessed too many losses of black Americans in our society. They may know some of the names, like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castille, Tamir Rice, and now, George Floyd. How do we explain the deaths of these men at the hands of those who are commissioned to serve and protect? It is a long and difficult process.

Facing ourselves

 But we need to learn and talk about these two perspectives. We need to face the discrimination that people still experience because of the color of their skin. We need to listen to the frustration and worry of our children and the concern they may have for black friends. This is a crisis in our country, and we need to help our children understand that we are all one human family. It does no good to think of some as “other.” We are not two ball teams, we are all on the same team.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

It is time to face the problems that pull us apart. We are the solution, and it is up to us to help our children by listening, modelling, and having the conversations we need to heal our division.

 

By dads2dads

A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

How do two ordinary dads write about COVID-19? We’re not doctors or healthcare workers. Our medical knowledge extends to being at the other end of a scalpel for surgery. We’re two of millions of people absolutely in awe of the power of this raging virus—one that does not discriminate according to age, gender or status. It is merciless as it carves out paths across the nation and world and selects its hotspots to ravage specific populations. It is a reminder of how small and powerless we are.

Fond “regrades”

Dad, first of all, we hope you are instructing your youngsters and older children through this disease maze. Our families haven’t shown their faces for quite awhile in their neighborhood. We have all become creative in our isolation. We’ve received videos of our grandkids jumping off the sofa into a pile of stuffed animals, over and over. We’ve split our sides laughing at a 4-year-old grandson, pounding away on the piano keyboard and improvising a tune to “Give my regrades to Broadway!” (No, that is not a typo.) We’ve watched our granddaughter frolic in a camping tent, set up in a living room with no room to spare. Under ordinary circumstances some of the indoor behavior would be forbidden. Currently, however, almost anything goes, minus access to the knife drawer and the cat’s litter box.

How to be close apart

At this writing, staying home has been extended at least through April. Right now, it’s still kind of fun for the kids because their world of concern starts and ends at the toy box and the video library. Dad, you’re well aware of the world of hurt outside your front door. You know people who are alone in their homes, whose only conversation is with their cat. Maybe they are your neighbors or members in your church.

What a wonderful opportunity to impart values to your children, especially the older ones. If you can take the gang on a walking tour, we suggest conducting a “window waving” campaign. How many elderly people do you suppose are sitting at a window right now and just staring out? You might be surprised. Walk by, catch their attention, and wave. Step closer to the window and ask. “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”

Get the kids involved

If you can locate their address, send them a card from your family. Or have the kids make and decorate a homemade card. If you are able to track down their phone number, call them, let it ring several times, and let your kids say hello. It’s no nosedive off the sofa into a mountain of stuffed animals, but one small gesture like that just might mean the world to an elderly person who lives alone.

“We’re all in this together” has become the new catch phrase, even as we avoid togetherness. Perhaps when this is all behind us, that statement will truly become words to live by.

By dads2dads

Keeping The Kids Engaged

During this time of the pandemic, we have become all too familiar with kids getting antsy, bored, maudlin, fussy, or just downright irritable and hard to live with. The space gets tighter and the nerves get touchier. What can we do to keep kids involved, still learning, and relatively calm?

Bill’s son built a fort in his living room for his kids. He cleared out a pretty large space and put up the big tent he’d bought for camping. His kids could carry toys and dolls in and out, play peek-a-boo, take naps, and hold pretend conversations. That provided days of fun. It was really special when they were able to get the dog in there.

With the richness of computer resources, you can reach out far and wide for encouragement and engagement without putting up the big tent.

For example, several zoos have virtual hookups where you can see their animals, roaming, eating, and resting. The Cincinnati Zoo has a Home Safari where they highlight one of their animals each time and conduct an activity for kids. The program appears on Facebook Live and is posted later on the Zoo’s webpage and its YouTube channel.

http://cincinnatizoo.org/home-safari-resources/

 

Two excellent zoos – the Smithsonian National Zoo and the San Diego Zoo – have set up web cams so you can visit with their animals.

https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams     https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams

Kids can engage in activities on Crayola’s create and learn page. You can sort by tools you’d like to use, the occasion, and the age of the child (or adult!).

https://www.crayola.com/athome

Cooking with your kids can be fun and is made easier by Food Network. They have kid friendly recipes, kitchen tasks, and tips.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/packages/recipes-for-kids/cooking-with-kids

Aquariums are a great place to connect. Sites like Aquarium of the Pacific, the Georgia Aquarium, and the Tennessee Aquarium provide links to their exhibits.

http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/exhibits/webcams

https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/ocean-voyager/

https://www.tnaqua.org/live-cams/

 

Check out your local library online. Many have access to a variety of free books you can check out electronically and read from home.

 

Our state has the Tennessee Electronic Library which is a large virtual collection for Tennessee residents. Your state may have something similar. You can sit in your lounger, stay in your comfy pants, and access hundreds of books.

https://tntel.info/content/about-tennessee-electronic-library

 

The Indianapolis Library has a free video read-aloud service. Just click on one of the dozen books you would like to read and have at it. No library card necessary.

https://www.indypl.org/blog/for-parents/free-video-read-alouds

The site weareteachers.com highlights some virtual field trips on their website. Kids can have a learning experience without ever leaving home, fighting in the car’s back seat, complaining that they are hungry or asking when they are going to get there.

https://www.weareteachers.com/best-virtual-field-trips/

Check out a museum. The Boston Children’s Museum provides many online learning opportunities

https://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/learning-resources?mod=article_inline

Try investigating the International Space Station (ISS) and stepping aboard this incredible vehicle, meeting the current station crew, and taking part in STEMonstrations – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math demonstration on the ISS.

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/suni_iss_tour.html?mod=article_inline

It’s important to engage with kids, keep the learning going, help maintain their mental health, and keep up their spirits. Hopefully these diversions will help during these trying times.

By dads2dads

Viral Impact

Like you, we have been stuck at home, social distancing, and scrubbing our hands frequently. The Coronavirus has left us isolated and worried. And it’s not just the elderly and infirm that it is affecting. Bill has a relative who died from the virus – 34 years old – after returning from a business trip. How could it have happened? And how do we prevent that sad outcome for others?

A teen’s environment is already a minefield of uncertainty, anxiety and worry. Add to those the volatility of a viral infection whose spread and cure are unknown.  Counselors have been dealing with increasing teen anxiety and depression over recent years. This indiscriminating and mysterious disease only adds to the load.

Listen, learn and teach

This is a time when we need to control the interactions of our kids and listen to them even more carefully. We suggest following:

Follow regulations of the Centers For Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html)

Talk about the virus and its impact on your teen, their friends, and the world. Provide for balance in your discussions. Don’t become consumed with media reports but strive to remain informed.

Ask open-ended questions about how your teen is feeling and how friends are doing. Provide space for your child to respond—and listen carefully without judgment.

Watch for changes in teen behavior, such as withdrawal, obsessive focus on a recent event, even uncharacteristic silence.

Parental involvement can be key to the health of your child. Don’t hesitate to seek help from a teacher, counselor, minister or mental-health professional.

The known unknowns

We need to provide strong love and attention for our kids, know what is going on, and seek outside help when needed. In this uncertain time, perhaps that is the best knowledge to have – the knowledge of what we don’t know.

Developing resilience

Teens who are resilient adapt to bad things in their lives and possess the capacity to recover and move on, maintain perspective, think of things in a constructive way, and take care of themselves.

The American Psychological Association provides some tips for building resilience:

Communicate. Find someone to whom you can express feelings. This could be a parent, sibling, counselor, pastor, teacher, or community or school group.

Cool down. Find peace. Practice mindfulness. Take a few moments each day to let your mind find peace, where you can see the issues you are dealing with and let them pass you by.

Consistency

Find a routine for your day. Although we’ve been limited in our activities, the comfort of even a limited routine provides a sense of security. 

Care. For yourself and for others. Get enough sleep. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Look for ways to help neighbors, family, and friends, even in these trying times.

Control. Set a few modest goals. Think about a time when you overcame a challenge. This success will help increase your confidence. And limit your intake of news, which can increase your stress.

Developing resilience doesn’t eliminate stress or anxiety. But it certainly prepares you to handle it more successfully.

By dads2dads

Walk the Walk

The poet Carl Sandburg once said, “I won’t take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth.” Sandburg’s point crosses all disciplines and certainly is a precept that dads and moms can share with their teenagers: Talk is cheap. If you want to get ahead in the world and make your mark, you have to get involved and invest sweat equity. It’s popular to say, “If you talk the talk, you must also walk the walk.” It’s popular because it’s true.

The following is not original, but for the life of us, we can’t find the source. So we share it anyway because the message is important:

A story about everybody and nobody

There were four persons named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to pitch in. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.

Holding the bag

If you need to pause here to clear your head, that’s fine. Then ask your teenager if or she has ever been the victim of an unfinished job—or has ever been left “holding the bag,” as another popular saying goes. It is especially unsettling when the job may have been someone else’s in the first place and all he or she got accomplished was to talk about doing the job. Then somehow the expectation became someone else’s burden to carry.

Loose ends

Things go wrong and projects fall through because someone assumes that someone else will gather and tie up the loose ends. What if the stage crew at school failed to fasten down the flats for the school play? What if your teenager’s teacher graded only the first two pages of the term papers? What if the football team practiced offense all day and never worked on defense?

Work or watch

Following through when you say you’re going to do something can be a positive ID tag. Leaving loose ends dangling can be a negative label. We all know people who are eager self-starters—they start jobs but never see them through. You’re familiar with those professional movers—those who pick up the load and move it to your shoulders?

Remind your teen that leaving a job unfinished is a bad habit that comes with a surefire guarantee. When a person fails to finish the job, s/he seldom is called upon for another job. S/He becomes a spectator, watching others reach success.

By dads2dads

Be Mine

Note to Dads: 2-14-20 is Valentine’s Day. There’s still time to get that special someone something but you’re running short on time. Just make sure it’s more than a cheap card you pick up at the gas station while you’re filling up. Give it at least a little thought this morning and take a few minutes during lunch to run the errand and put yourself in good stead.

Make a card, write a poem, buy a special book, pick up some flowers or candy. Just do something special for that special someone.

Why?

Because it’s important. Sure it’s traditional. But if this day didn’t exist, many of us wouldn’t get around to expressing love for that special someone.

We’re talking about love and we’re going to focus on your spouse. If you happen to be separated, then honor your child by showering love on him or her.

We often hear “Oh, my wife already knows that I love her.” Or “It’s just some made-up holiday. I don’t like to be dictated to.” Or “It seems so contrived. I think there should be a good reason to say ‘I love you.’ ”

Well, brother, we’re here to tell you, “Get into it!” Today, show how much you care.  Say “I love you”. Kids need it, spouses love to hear it.

Expressing Love

We sure don’t tell our teens enough that we love them and we don’t tell our spouses often enough either. As we’ve said before, it’s free, it’s needed and it’s highly effective. On Valentine’s Day, it’s ok to say, “I love you.” Your special someone need not have done anything special. There doesn’t need to be a reason. Valentine’s Day is the reason. Watch the reaction.

Children watch how parents treat each other. They learn that way. As they grow it’s a pretty good bet they will treat their special someone that way. The important thing is not what you do but that you do something to show your love. Re-connect with your spouse on this special day. You’ll thank us tomorrow.

The Art of Kindness

Love is its own power. How often are we loving and kind? We stumble through many days, besieged by challenges, obstacles, and competition. Sometimes it seems like a war zone. Some of us are in a war zone, far away from loved ones. But as the Bible says, love is patient and kind. It doesn’t keep score. It always hopes, always perseveres, never fails.

This is the day to try it out. And don’t let it end today. As Shakespeare wrote, “Love lives not alone immured in the brain but with the motion of all elements,
courses as swift as thought in every power,
and gives to every power a double power, above their functions and their offices.”

So don’t let Valentine’s Day go by. Create something special with a gift you’ve made or purchased. Say “I love you,” and watch the reaction. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

By dads2dads

Goof Off With Your Kid

Hey, dad, ask your teenager if the school principal ever said, “It’s about time you started goofing off.” Or has your boss at work ever said, “Quit working so hard. Goof off a little”? When was the last time someone at home ordered, “Get with it—goof off some.”? Sounds ridiculous, right?

We adults give each other that kind of advice all the time and it seems perfectly acceptable. We say things like, “Hey, it’s time you stopped working so hard.” “You deserve a break.” “Quit taking everything so seriously.” “Lighten up!” or “Relax! You need a vacation.” All of us get too caught up in the daily, hourly, minute-by-minute grind of living. We do take many things much too seriously.

Dad, go ahead, tell your teenager to goof off a little, to take a break. And goof off right along with him or her. Join forces and do something fun, silly, off the cuff. Find the nearest arcade. Play golf or tennis or go bowling. Rent a tandem bike. Blow the dust off the ball and gloves and play catch. Visit the nearest elementary school and get dizzy on the merry-go-round. Top it off with three scoops of ice cream … or flag down one of those musical ice cream trucks that haunt some of the suburbs.

Pull mom into the fray. (She may resist because “someone has to fold the laundry.”) Help her. Make a game of it. Play catch with socks … put them on your ears … tie several together and try shooting hook shots into the clothes basket. When mom throws a fit and bars you from the room, hit the frig and build a tall scrumptious sandwich. When mom threatens you with the iron skillet, promptly grab the sandwich, vacate the kitchen and have a picnic under a tree.

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Are you guys nuts? Well, maybe we all need to go a little nuts. Goofing off requires skill, imagination and finesse. It’s not malicious and nor ever intended to harm anyone. (Mom’s really laughing to herself.) It’s merely a prescription for letting off steam—for putting some life into your life. Doctors tell us that laughter produces a positive physiological effect on our bodies. It releases tension. And because of the changes it creates in our body chemistry, laughter can actually heal. So self-medicate. Goof off a little.

By dads2dads

A Thicker Skin

It seems more frequent that the news includes a story about a young person lashing out at society because he or she feels that life has done him or her wrong. This behavior isn’t limited to teenagers. Adults, too, are quick on the draw when they are challenged or involved in some kind of dispute. We are quick to fix blame on anyone else but ourselves. We are fast on the draw and ready to “shoot now and ask questions later.”

Humankind seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. People have lost jobs and homes. Investments have risen only to plummet. People have drawn lines in the sand and dared others different from themselves to cross those lines. Rulers across the world are killing their own people because of the lust for power and riches.

It’s all in the family

There’s not much we can do as individuals to control or change the behavior of governments. However, at the core of every society there is a building block—the family. Good teaching, role-modeling and seed-planting begin within the family unit. If the family is strong and parents instill values within the walls of their homes and the minds of their children, then our foundation will remain strong—even while life chips away at the brick and mortar.

Give your teenager tools

So let’s focus on the foundation. Dad, here’s where you can ply some wisdom and mental muscle toward your teenager—your son or daughter who is still relatively receptive and somewhat malleable. Help your teen develop a thicker skin. Throughout life your son or daughter will encounter ridicule, scorn, perhaps prejudice. There will always be insensitive people. Your challenge is to teach your child to absorb it, hold steady and move on. Confrontation requires at least two opposing sides. Not everything—not every disagreement or harsh word spoken in haste—requires a showdown.

And the rest is history

Remind your teenager of a few noteworthy individuals who, as objects of ridicule and scorn, chose to be proactive and constructive rather than reactive and confrontational. Walt Disney was once fired because his boss felt he had no artistic talent or good ideas. Beethoven was told by his music teacher that he would never compose anything worthwhile. A young man named Hershey was laughed at by businessmen because he insisted he could make a lot of money selling a chocolate bar. Fifteen year-old Albert Einstein was told he might as well drop out of school because he lacked interest and personal discipline. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for more than 25 years because of his opposition to apartheid and later became president of the new South Africa. Comedian Eddie Murphy’s brother and friends used to make fun of him when they saw him performing on a pretend stage and telling jokes to himself.

Remind your teenager that true strength comes from restraint. True genius lies in the ability to ignore ridicule and scorn and rise above it. People who pump themselves up by putting others down have to live with themselves. Your kid gets to live with a genius.

By dads2dads

Just Getting By

Ho-hum is not a goal

Too often in life many of us choose just to get by … do a ho-hum job or put forth just enough effort to meet minimum expectations. There’s no future in that. Opting for mediocrity is a sure-fire way not to stand out, not to be singled out for a special achievement, not to exceed. This time of year your teenagers may be looking for a summer job, serving as a camp counselor, perhaps preparing for college in the fall. Emphasize to them that in pursuit of a new life challenge leading toward adulthood, if they put forth their best effort and reach beyond their grasp, they will never be considered just mediocre.

Expect it and you’ll get it

Mediocre. Ugh. Even the word sounds average, less than desirable. Have you ever watched a mediocre show, eaten a mediocre hamburger, received mediocre service? If you have, hopefully it took only one lousy experience for you to look at other options. Mediocre quality and service exist only when we expect nothing better—when we don’t demand excellence.

Dad and Mom, your expectations of your children should be reasonable but also remain high. And your children’s expectations of themselves should reflect those same high standards. If your son or daughter is approaching a milestone in his or her life—college, a new job, the start of a career, a position of leadership, a business venture, a promising new relationship—it is important to make clear that quality stands out in the choices they make, the effort they put forth and the ultimate outcome. If your teenager settles for mediocrity—just does enough to slide by—it will stick like glue.

It’s everywhere!

This is difficult because mediocrity surrounds us. Too often we remain complacent or unmoved by it. The mediocre teacher or professor reads from the same yellowed notes year after year. The committee meets, hardly anyone attends and nothing ever gets done. Let’s face it. It’s quite human to shrug off mediocrity because to improve or change something is too much hassle and will create a fuss or hurt someone’s feelings. We think, nobody cares so why should I?

Kick it out of the house, under the bus

Dad, Mom, don’t accept mediocrity from yourselves or your teenagers. When we take life simply as it is dispensed to us—when we are satisfied with ho-hum people, products and service—we endorse it. Mediocrity thrives and becomes the norm. Dad, can you imagine a worse epitaph than “He lived a mediocre life”?

Expect excellence. Model it for your kids. Set high standards and take aim at them in everything you do as an individual and as a family. When you demand excellence from yourself and refuse to settle for less, your teenager will follow your example. Face it, our kids have a lot of examples out there, and they run the spectrum from good to OMG. Parents need to be the gold standard.

Reject mediocrity. Strive for excellence. Live it. Give it. Expect it from others.

By dads2dads

How We Got Started

Hey, dad, how often have you wished that you and your teenage son or daughter lived on the same planet? Spoke the same language? On some days, liked each other? How many times have you felt puzzled, frustrated, angry, hurt or just plain perplexed but weren’t sure where to turn?

Our friendship and collaboration took root over lunch a few years ago when we were exchanging war stories about fatherhood and discovered that our teenagers were raising us in the same identical manner. And we did not appreciate some of our upbringing! We were stuck by how common our feelings (some not so admirable) and challenges (some monumental) were regarding our relationship with our kids.

Throughout many more lunches, the floodgates opened and out poured all sorts of issues and concerns. We met with other dads and learned that all of us shared many common frustrations and doubts about our role in the family and our relationship to our teenagers. We just needed permission to air those feelings and a venue where we could be open and honest.

So we moved out of the café and on to the page. We write for dads about dads by dads. It’s practical advice from guys who have managed to survive the typical minefields of “Dad-hood” and emerged scarred but alive.

We focus mostly on teenagers because that’s where our kids were when we started this journey – Tom with two girls and Bill with two boys – all about the same ages. We offer some tips and introduce some perspectives through our syndicated column, this blog, and our workshops. They say that confession is good for the soul. We sometimes serve up some soul food as well. And, yes, moms are welcome, too. In fact, Mom, you may need to tap Dad on the shoulder and introduce him to us. Use your elbow, if necessary.

We want to emphasize that we are not professionally trained therapists or counselors. If you are experiencing a serious problem with your teenager, something beyond the typical pitfalls of generational misunderstanding and misfires, then the extent of our assistance, if warranted, will be to refer you to an appropriate agency or organization.

It’s a rare event when fathers share deep feelings. It seems to us that moms have more opportunities (and are more inclined) to share with other moms. Dads, on the other hand, don’t seem to have either the will or a way to open up to one another. We appreciate and are grateful to The Daily News Journal for this opportunity. Dad, we hope our posts will provide you with a guide to the uneven road of fatherhood. And we hope you’ll join us. Let us know what’s on your mind. You can reach us at tomandbill@dads2dadsllc.com.

Now back to posting.

By dads2dads