Wednesday, January 22, 2020

It's 2020... So....What Are You Doing?

This week we've commemorated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which I think serves as a good opportunity for us as fathers to reflect on our impact. I was recently at an MLK event and the speaker challenged us to  answer the question, posed by Dr King, "What are you doing for others?" As I look over the canvas of my life I had to reflect on my own legacy in this regard. Encouraging fathers is the top of my list for what I'm doing for others. I've worked, volunteered, listened, and read in the name of becoming a better father while helping others do the same. Whether you're a married dad, single dad, black, white, brown, I'm here for you.

So I ask you the same question. Dad, what are you doing for others? If you're a father, there should be something you're doing for someone in your community. Your children should obviously see you doing something for them, but they should also see you doing something for people outside of the family. One of our main goals as fathers during our Dad Days is to raise our children to be assess (NOT LIABILITIES) to our communities. In our "it's all about me" social media age, it's important that we remind our kids that not everyone has the luxuries that they take for granted. At the same time we have to make it firm in their minds that they have the power to help change someone else's destiny. The only way to do that is to be proactive about it. So here are some ways that you can model the way to your children.

1. Coach Sports-Whether you're coaching your child's team or not, letting your child see you interacting and helping others will put a high price tag in their minds on the value of service.

2. Mentorship Programs-Spending regular time mentoring a child that's not your own can be a rewarding experience in so many ways. It can help you as a father see fatherhood through the eyes of your mentee. Many times I've seen the effectives of poor fathering on folks that I've mentored. This caused me to make an adjustment to how I dealt with my own children.

3. Charities- When it makes sense to do so, taking your children along as you volunteer for a charity in the community will help them see and feel the direct rewards of helping other families that are in need.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

3 Steps to Managing Stress for Dads: Get Away

Ok world I'm alive and well. After a long hiatus from posting, I'm ready to share some more from my thoughts and experiences on fatherhood. Over the past couple of years I've gone through an awakening where I had to reconcile who I have been, who I am, and who I want to become. Midlife crisis? Maybe. Maybe not. The main thing is right now is that I know who I am. It's kind of fitting going into 2020, because I feel like I've got 20/20 vision for my life more than ever. So on to the point of the post...

Much of my blogging has been focused on spending more time with your children. I will still advocate for that, but I'm going to strive to be more balanced about examining the importance of spending some intentional time AWAY from your little ones. I know plenty of fathers who have immersed themselves into fatherhood to the point of almost losing themselves. One such person is one of my  co-workers. He and I get together on a regular basis to discuss fatherhood wins and challenges. Lately, we've re-discovered how healthy it is to just be in your own head space without your wife and kids for a few (or several) hours. Just mentioning this will cause many women to have a strong, "wait just a minute bruh," response. Many women will argue that they need their man to do more...not less. I get that, and I'm not negating that this is true in SOME cases. I think it's wrong to think this about ALL men. I think the actual deadbeats out there cause us involved fathers to be held to almost abusive standards that ignore our efforts. "

"The non-stop churn of working late, shuttling kids to practices in the evenings, and constantly helping loved ones move furniture (on your only day off) can take its toll."

What do I mean? Since the airwaves are filled with male-bashing that portrays men as being either uniformed or uninvolved, it makes it easy for women to latch on to this perception. I've seen it in my life on a few occasions. After having to work late a few nights there have been times where I'd get the low-key accusatory question: "You haven't left work yet?"  text from the wife. Thankfully, my wife gives a lot of leeway for me to be away from the house and rarely has a negative response to it. Notice I did say rarely.  I do recall her really struggling one time though. It was when I was working on finishing up my Masters degree. I'm the guy that has to have perfect library silence to study...which meant long hours at the library. She once said that she felt like a single-parent because I was always gone in spite of the fact that I was either at work or at the library. Here I was laying myself on the altar of trying to provide for family and I'm getting lectured about my absence. It was a bit hard for both of us to deal with, and I was actually thankful for her honesty. 

It's this type of expectation that can be societally put on even good fathers that can be a source of added stress. We men are up against a lot working in this world and in order to cope we just need some time to recreate. At times, our wives and kids can send a message that says doing anything on our own is wrong. The opposite is true. Recently, my daughter complained because I was going to catch up with a buddy of mine. She talked about how unfair it was.  Thankfully, the guilt trip didn't work because I'm keenly aware of the time investments I regularly make in her life. At the same time part of my ego loves the fact that she wants me all to her self.

So, my message to fathers is to be balanced in spending time with your family and with yourself. Go hoop it up for a few hours. Go on that hiking trip with the guys. Your family will survive for a few hours without you. Ladies, examine yourself to make sure that you give your man some space (at least once a week) to do something for himself. Yeah he's a man that can take a lot, but respect him by letting him do what he enjoys without you and the kids every now and then. His emotional health depends on it. 

Here are 3 practical ways to "get away" and beat stress:

1.) Use Your Days Off-Almost all of us have days off which most of us use to take family vacations or sick days. What's wrong with using a vacation day as a man to simply take a day trip alone to go hiking or spend some uninterrupted quiet time tinkering in the garage? If your wife likes to plan your days off for you..then either tell her you're not doing anything other than what you want to do or don't tell her you're taking off. A "mental health day"is just as important taking off for the flu in my opinion. If you're stressed that can be just as contagious as being physically sick. When I spend a few hours or days away from my wife and kids, it causes me us to miss and appreciate one another a bit more.

2.) Get a Hobby Most family men are constantly looking for ways to meet the needs of their families while negating their own needs. The trade off is usually something that the guy enjoys.  IF you've spent adequate time with your wife. and/or kids, don't let emotional manipulation keep your from a hobby that helps you ward off stress. Over the past couple of years I've taken on kayaking, fishing, and a little time at the gun range. Embracing these hobbies is like hitting the reset button and recharges me to be a more balanced family man to those around me.

3.) Connect With a (Male) Friend-Part of managing stress isn't about always going at it alone. Guys need to spend time with other guys. The non-stop churn of working late, shuttling kids to practices in the evenings, and constantly helping loved ones move furniture (on your only day off) can take its toll. We have to do the things I just mentioned, but you need to INTENTIONALLY allow yourself some time each week to catch up with a male friend.  I stress choosing a responsible male friend who is pushing you towards being a family man...not someone who's tempting or pushing you in the opposite direction.

By following these 3 practical steps on a regular basis, I believe you could reduce your overall stress level, which will benefit everybody around you. Your Dad Days go by quick, make sure you take a little time to get away and actually enjoy them. The advice given here isn't meant to replace professional counseling. If you are facing extreme anxiety or depression, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help from a licensed counselor in your area. You can also follow this link for more professionals standing by to help you:

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Dad for the Win!

I love soccer. I love the beach and I love my kids. A few weekends ago I found myself in the middle of this triple play of my favorites. We spent the entire day at the beach as my youngest daughter competed in a huge sand soccer tournament. It was good because it had been a while since we visited our favorite beach. In between games the whole family was able to get in some much needed relaxation time. At one point as we’re chatting it up with fellow soccer moms and soccer dads, I noticed that my oldest daughter wasn’t so happy. She was all of sudden a bit withdrawn and had 'that look' on her face. I asked her what was wrong. Her reply? “Nothing.” I’m experienced enough to recognize the “nothing technique” that females use to test the male species. So, I suggested she and I excuse ourselves for a walk down the beach to check out the adult soccer games at the main stadium. 

Walking hand in hand I asked her about what was  really going on. She finally opened up and 
shared an emotional crisis that she was currently going through. Part of me wanted tell her to get over it. As our toes splashed in the crashing surf on this perfect beach day I thought about avoiding any further discussions on anything less than positive. I could’ve easily said, “We have all of this awesome beach to enjoy and you want to focus on this issue right now!!?” I brushed those thoughts aside because I knew I couldn't take the easy way out. She needed me. So, instead I  listened ...I mean I truly listened. 

At first, I did try to solve her problem but she made it clear that this conversation wasn’t about solving her problem. So I gave relinquished full control and let her speak. As she poured out her heart on that sandy beach I remembered that this conversation was an example of what the Dad Days are all about. This was what a father is supposed to do. She could’ve shared what’s going on in her heart with anyone, but at this memorable moment in time that I was chosen to be her emotional hero. She trusted me with the truth that was in her heart about a situation she was trying
to deal with. 

I hope she’ll always feel comfortable talking to me about the tough stuff life throws her way.
For now, I will just savor as many of these awesome conversations as possible. Oh by the way, we also managed to get to enjoy seeing some amazing soccer players from around the world do amazing stuff. Right now, it appears that I'm dad-winning!

Fellow dads be on the look out for these types of moments. They come when you least expect them and when they do, make the right choice resist the urge to wiggle your wait out of it. Encourage your kid to talk it so that you can help them navigate this crazy world. You might not hear them say thanks for listening every time but best belief that some day they'll look back on your heart to heart conversations and feel good about it.