Sunday, May 19, 2019

Connection Starters

The moment that I decided to become a father, I knew my life would change forever.  I still remember the surreal feeling I had when my wife gave me the news that she was pregnant for the first time. All kinds of questions ran through my head. Things like, “Am I ready for this?” “Am I going to lose my wife to this needy child for the next 18 plus years?”

I was a little overwhelmed because I knew there’d never be another waking moment that I would be able to only think about the needs of just my wife and myself. I was about to embark upon a situation where an entire human being needed me 24 hours a day 7 days a week in order to survive. Ready or not a connection had started with a person that I had yet to see, yet to hear cry or yet to touch.

You see that first connection was pretty easy back then. Fast forward 11 years and things have changed a lot.  Connecting with them when they were babies is way different than dealing with these critical thinking intellectuals that I currently have on my hands. My life is filled with many two-way conversations that are laced with some interesting perspectives from two very opinionated young ladies.  There have been plenty of times that I wished for a playbook to help me when I’ve responded in a way that caused the connection between my daughters and I to be briefly challenged. I feel like apologizing just comes with the territory. There’s nothing I want more than to tell you that I’ve been a perfect father. Unfortunately I can’t. What I can tell you is that I’m 100 percent determined to improve as their dad. 
 Maybe you haven’t been as connected with your children as you’d like to be, well I have some good news for you. God created children to be super resilient. If you stay involved in their lives and work hard not to make the same mistakes they usually bounce back from the failures we dads tend to make. So keep going man! You can get better at connecting with your children today.

Here are a few connection starters below that you can you use to kick your fatherhood game up to the next level. (I've also included some links to resources that you can download from the National Fatherhood Initiative to help you.

1.     Forgive yourself for your own fatherhood failures and move on.
2.     Schedule weekly (at least) uninterrupted One-on-One time with each of your children. (One-on-One Resource Download)
3.     Be actively involved with their educational and spiritual growth.
(Involved Dad Resource Download)
4.     Provide financially for both your children’s needs and some of their  

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Keeping the Connection

To say she was scared out of her mind would be an understatement. She tried everything she could possibly think of. She hit the power button what seemed like a dozen times. She even pressed it and the volume button as hard as she could ,but got the same results each time....NOTHING. Her mother's phone was broken and it was all her fault. A few minutes earlier she'd been doing something that most nine year olds do. She'd planned on streaming a little background music to do homework to  when the phone slipped from her hand onto the cold hard concrete of the driveway.  When she picked it up it was dark with no signs of life. My youngest daughter ran to grab the charger and plugged it into the wall hoping her mom wouldn't ask for the phone any time soon. As she waited for the screen to show some sign of life she whispered a faint prayer for God to perform a miracle. As she did a tear ran down her eye. Still NOTHING!

At this point my daughter had to go face the music and tell her mom. She prepared herself for the oncoming wrath. On her way downstairs to fess up she grew weak realizing that she'd also have to hear me give one of my lectures on being more careful...with a little yelling thrown in as well. In her mind with this one act she'd committed would be the cause of the entire family being mad at her...ruining the entire weekend. As she told my wife the truth of what happen with a panicked shaky voice something weird happened. My wife simply said, "ok thanks for telling's no big deal."  "What in the world did she say!!!?", my daughter thought. When I arrived home instead of lecturing her or screaming, I reminded her that she's more important than a cell phone. Some would say my wife and I would've been within our rights to yell a little bit about dropping an expensive iPhone. Maybe on a different day we would've. In this particular case there were two take aways for my wife and myself to process through:
1.) There could be something we needed to work on with our parenting style if our child was so terrified of us because she dropped an inanimate object.
2.) I'm pretty happy that she tried to problem solve her way out of the situation before panicking.
3.) She ran to us with honesty when she needed help.

For all the days that I've blown it as a parent, I'm glad that for some reason I was on my "A game" that day. Only time will tell but I think something powerful happened in my daughter's heart that day. I know something happened in mine when I looked into her little relieved eyes.

The Dad Days go by quickly. Let's work hard to make sure they are filled with moments like this where we keep things in perspective. Our wives and children are the most important parts of our lives...not the job, not the latest gadgets, and not the clothes. Make sure your loved ones know that they're a priority.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Dads, Deployments, and Discipline

I think  a lot about my friends who are away on deployment around this time of the year. While many of us are slowing down to spend more time with family folks in the military don't get that option at times. I tip my hat to my many friends in the armed services. I've seen some of my closest buddies spend months away from family and it's not easy at all. Their life of deployments is something I don't know if I could ever get used to. Military families have to make lots of sacrifices and adjustments in order for brave soldiers to do their jobs. Yet most of the soldiers I know along with their families make their lifestyle look easy. Deployment after deployment means these families have to adjust and re-adjust constantly. In speaking with some of my friends they've consistently mentioned parenting as being one of the struggles they face as they return home. Not only has their child matured since the last time they saw them but the parenting technique that their spouse has been using might have changed as well. That brave father or mother can return thinking one way about parenting that might have evolved while they were out to sea for the past 17 months. This dynamic can cause a fair amount of conflict. The spouse serving on the home front can easily have some discomfort as the returning deployed spouse comes back home seemingly messing up their program. The truth of the matter is that when a dad (or mom) is holding it down on the home front, they kind of operate like a single parent playing the part of mother and father. The opposite is true for the deployed soldier who is finding themselves in a pseudo-single person's way of life with only themselves to keep up with. Being able to turn off that switch is not that easy for either spouse once they return home. Making that adjustment isn't always easy.  How can the happy homecoming be a bit smoother? That answer isn't a simple one, but here are a few suggestions that might help:

1. Establish Rules of Engagement-Parenting isn’t exactly warfare…well maybe if you have a teenager….but having a good plan can help make things smoother for all involved. Using tips from a book or working TOGETHER to create your parenting rules of engagement can help create accountability for the deployed spouse and the spouse at home. Hopefully, this could lead to less confusion and less disagreements.

2. Be a Unified Front-It’s no surprise that kids sometimes try to play parents against one another. Keeping this in mind is vital when returning home from a deployment. The parent that’s been away will likely be viewed as the hero which means the child might try to exploit that unassuming parent to get his or her way. The recently returning spouse might also not want to see their child that they’ve missed for so many months get into trouble. You might hear them say, “oh cut him some slack,” or “she’s just being a kid.” If this is the 5th time that little Johnny has pushed his sister over the past couple of months, punishment might be in order. This is where the deployed spouse needs to make sure they’re on the same page with their partner. Supporting the at-home spouse’s decision to discipline the child in a situation like this works to keep the unity between both parents.

3. Resist Radio Silence Being away for months can naturally challenge the communication skills of any couple. Sporadic emails, video chats, or phone can help maintain a relationship during deployments. Once the deployment is over the day to day communication can seem extremely intense compared to when one spouse

4. Call for Back-Up There’s no shame in calling for back-up when a solider is on the battlefield. The same is true when it comes to parenting and family relations. Sometimes we just need someone to help us get out of a tough spot. There are resources out there for those families that might have a hard time with reintegration after a deployment. Several branches of the armed services have programs to help soldiers and their families. If you or someone you know is in the military and needs some support, get in contact with a unit in your area.