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HOLDING: The Day My Son Thought He Had Died

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Psalm 18:16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

 

 

I have recently begun to view HOLDING my children as so much more than just physically carrying them.  Holding has become something that is physical, emotional, and psychological.

Two summers ago for about 2 hours my son thought that he was dead!  It was a beautiful day.  My wife and I took our family to a community swimming area, we were able to relax and watch our kids swim with their older cousins.  Near the end of our time at the lake two of our sons approached us in the water.  The older one appeared completely calm and said, “Dad I was freaking out!” The other was literally freaking out; he was yelling, screaming, and crying.  Apparently one of his siblings had taken a water toy from him and he was very upset.  My wife and I both gravitated to the screaming child.  We acknowledged the older one but picked up, consoled, and helped to manage the screaming one.  Both children moved on and we left the lake a short time later.  As we arrived home my wife and I remarked to each other how enjoyable the day had been and what a fun time we had had.

The older cousins joined us at our house and we settled the children downstairs to watch a movie.  As my wife and I discussed the enjoyable afternoon, our older son came upstairs noticeably upset.  He was in tears and could hardly speak through his emotions.  He climbed into my lap and I attempted to understand what was going on.  He explained in short tearful phrases that he was afraid he had died.  Slowly the story of his “freaking out” emerged.  He explained that he was playing on the floatilla of fun in the deep end of the lake.  He saw an older kid with no life-jacket on swim underneath an inflatable “bridge” that was about 3 feet wide.  We had told him previously to never swim under this bridge.  As he saw the older kid do it with such ease however, he decided to give it a try.  In his attempt to swim under the bridge he plunged his head under the water and swam with all his might expecting to resurface on the other side.  His life jacket forced him to the surface earlier than anticipated and became caught on a seam of the rubber floatilla.  In realizing he was not going to make it he freaked out and attempted to return from where he had come.  He said that he had to swim as hard as he could to release himself from the bridge before he popped up above the surface gasping for air.

I was shocked by his story and confused by his concern about being dead.  It seemed that although he had escaped drowning he was afraid that what he was now experiencing was death.  I was freaking out and feeling overwhelmed at the outcome that could have devastated this beautiful day.  I had failed at this moment to physically protect him and it was now time to emotionally and psychologically HOLD him.

I stumbled about attempting to elicit his entire story while simultaneously working to maintain my composure.  Praise the Lord he was safe! But what is a parent to do?

After two years of on and off again reflection regarding this very scary experience I have deciphered what has become my way of HOLDING to protect from harm.

Physically Holding:

            My son climbed up into my lap to tell his story, he desired physical closeness as well as strength to contain the convulsions and shakes of his emotionally charged body.  Physical proximity during times of fear and pain can be very comforting to children.  The natural rhythms of a parents breathing, heartbeat and voice serves to calm and regulate.  I have learned to become more open to physical contact.  Whether it’s holding hands, scratching a back, or applying sunscreen holding touch is a crucial ingredient in protecting a child from present and future harm.

Emotionally Holding:

            My son was overwhelmed with emotion.  He could not contain his feelings of fear, and uncertainty.  He needed a parent to be a container for these overflowing emotions.  As emotion pours out of a child and into the parent he needs to feel that the parent can handle it.  The parent can manage his own emotions in the face of the child’s very powerful emotions.  My son was also confused about what had happened.  Emotional holding helps a child to make sense of confusing emotions and circumstances.  Emotional holding seeks to fully understand the experience of the child without judgment.  For the child telling the story enables him to make sense of the experience.

Psychologically Holding:

            In the weeks following this incident I began to wonder if it might impact him long term.  He loved to swim, but would he refuse to get back in the water?  Would he have nightmares, irrational fears, or ongoing questions about death?  I continued to talk about the situation hoping to communicate that it was ‘ok’ to talk about and that recurring thoughts were normal.  At one point he stated that he thought about it often, so I wondered about his thoughts and even consulted a therapist.  Psychological holding is being your child’s therapist.  It is knowing when to talk and when to listen.  It is knowing when to seek outside help for your child and possibly for yourself.  Psychological holding is a parent’s ability to know a child in their mind, and heart.  It is the ability to mentalize the child’s inner experience and respond appropriately.

My son is OK, we talk about this day every once in a while but mostly it is just part of his story.  As his parent I am reminded that I cannot protect him from every danger, but that HOLDING him can help him to get through the scary things he encounters in life.  I can be his secure base to which to return when times get rough and life is difficult.

What scary/painful things have your kids experienced and how did you help them through it?  What was the hardest part about helping them through this difficult time?

Do You Feed Your Kids Crack?

0927f-10833195_s“Do you feed your kids crack?”  The Sunday school teacher asked.  “Oh… no, they are pretty energetic though aren’t they” I laughed.  I entered the room to gather my three boys while one of them was sliding head first down the plastic slide, the second was leaning off the edge of the fort as though it was a ship at sea, and the third was chasing a girl around the room.  I quickly gathered my clan rushed them off to the car and buckled them in their seats.  My main thought on that day was, “my boys require a lot of structure.”  We headed home and I chalked it up to another day in the life of a high-energy family.

A few weeks later I started to think about the question that this teacher posed to me.  Like many things the more I thought about it the more frustrated I became.  Don’t get me wrong I am the first to admit that my boys are active.  They love to run, jump, wrestle, and get dirty.  I am also the first to state however that I have great children and this is where the frustration came in.  I started to wonder what this teacher thinks of my boys.  My guess based on her question is that she views them as out-of-control, untamed, crazy, or scary.

I know that ultimately it does not matter what this person thinks about my children.  I believe strongly however, that the way we experience children is the way they experience themselves.  So, if this teacher experiences my children as crazy, out-of-control, or scary then that may be the way that they feel in her presence.  I begin to wonder if she is overwhelmed by their energy.  I sense that maybe she does not know how to contain them or is unsure of how to discipline them.  If I were honest with myself I would admit that at times I feel these things.  I feel overwhelmed, out-of-control, and scared of someone getting hurt.

Unfortunately when I feel these ways I tend to rely on my more primal parenting skills.  Sometimes this includes yelling, sometimes annoyed tones of voice, other times checking out.  Of course these skills do not work very well and actually communicate even more firmly to my children that I cannot handle them.  I wonder what it feels like to my children when I am out of control?  How do they feel when I am yelling, using my annoyed voice, or checked out?

At times I can see the answers on my sons face.  The feeling seems to be either hurt or humiliation, whatever it is I know it when I see it.  In my best moments I slow down, apologize, and acknowledge my mistake.  In my worse moments I move on without giving it a second thought feeling justified in my frustration.

My sons truly do require a lot of structure.  I find that things go better when I provide simple activities to help provide this structure.  It might be playdoh, drawing, coloring, a task, or a walk.  No matter what it is when I take action and help to structure the time they respond well.  The best part is that in most cases when I start the activity and engage with them for a short time I can leave the activity and they will remain engaged beyond the time of my involvement.  The hard part is staying calm, remembering that they need the structure and providing it before I become overwhelmed and out of control.

One thing that I have learned to do when things get tense at my house is to ask myself, “What do they need from me right now?”  Many times the answer is structure and when I provide it things seem to calm down, and so do I.

What activities do you use to provide structure for your children?

Why Would A Good Guy Go to Hell?

 

79a85-10444504_sMy sons ask some really tough questions. They are so inquisitive, and curious about how the world works and why people do what they do.  Many times the questions they ask let me know that there is much more going on in their head than I realize.

The oldest has been working on a school assignment to memorize the Apostles Creed.  At breakfast one morning my wife was quizzing him on the phrase, “He descended into hell; and on third day he rose again from the dead.” After a few moments of thoughtful silence he dropped the bomb on us.

“Dad, Why would a good guy go to Hell?”

I could see the connections being made in his brain.   He was thinking, “Mom and dad have been telling me all along that this Jesus guy is good, they say He is perfect, He is God, He loves me, and that I can trust Him.”  “I also know that hell is a bad place.  I know that there is fire; pain, hurt, and that I do not want to go there.”

So his little brain reasoned quite logically, why would this good guy go to such a horrible place?

 Isn’t this the question on which the whole world hangs? Why did Jesus die on the cross descend into hell and come back to life?

I attempted in my feeble way to share surprise and wonder with my son.  Isn’t it amazing that Jesus went to hell on our behalf?  Imagine how horrible it would be if you and I had to go to hell for all the bad stuff we do?  Or, what if the only way for us to be right with God was to live a perfect life?  How good does a person have to be to be ‘ok’ in God’s eyes?

This question from my son revealed to me anew the wonder of salvation.  I AM NOT GOOD, NO ONE IS GOOD apart from the sacrifice of Christ and it is only through his life, death, and resurrection that I have hope for the future.  This good guy went to hell so that I don’t have to.

Thank you Lord, for teaching me through the thoughts of a young boy.  Thank you for working in my child’s heart and planting the wondrous seed of faith.  Grow in him this seed of faith allowing it to blossom through trust in the powerful work of Jesus Christ.

Daddy Will You Hold Me?

acb60-14063358_sI used to be a cruel and sadistic parent.  I was selfish, tired, resentful, and overwhelmed.

       My first son learned to walk when he was around nine months old.  At about 18 months I figured he had had enough practice and I expected him to walk everywhere he went.  When we went to the store he would slowly climb his way out of the car seat, I set him on the ground and expected him to walk to the store.  He would start to whine about halfway there, when his little legs struggled to keep up with my full strides.  As he plopped himself on the ground crying, “daddy hold me” my frustration would start to boil, I attempted to provide a logical choice, “You can walk, or you can ride in the cart.”  However, logic was thrown out the window when I expected an 18 month old to walk the length of a parking lot.

            8 years and 3 kids later I was reminded of my cruel and sadistic past.  My five year old is high energy and high emotion.  By the end of the day he has run his tank dry and seems to have little energy left for any self-care.  As we finish reading books he plops himself on the floor and asks, “daddy will you hold me?”

            When I scoop him up and carry him to bed I realize that “holding” a child is so much more than bringing that child from point A to point B.

Holding a child is:

  •             Protecting from harm
  •             Containing feelings
  •             Softening your heart
  •             Anticipating needs
  •             Accepting uniqueness
  •             Caring for hurts
  •             Enforcing limits
  •             Sacrificing self
  •             Creating safety
  •             Seeking to understand
  •             Being present
  •             Offering grace

Over the next several months my posts will be discussing questions about  “holding” your children.  Is it possible to drop a child emotionally while holding him physically?  Is it possible to hold a child while not physically touching him?  How do fathers hold differently than mothers?  What are the consequences of never being held and how can one learn to hold if they never experienced it themselves?

Please join me in the discussion and offer your own reflections or questions about your experience as a parent.

My Wife Went Out of Town and I Asked For Help

b4a26-14993164_sSeveral months ago my wife started preparing me for the inevitable.  A long time friend was getting married and she floated the idea of attending the wedding. She would be a plane flight away while I stayed home to care for our four young children.  My normal response in these situations is silence.  I am trying to remain calm, and avoid totally betraying the feelings of anxiety and frustration that immediately crop up.

I love my kids, I am a very involved father, and I am passionate about impacting the lives of my children.   When it comes to parenting alone for a weekend however, I am a mess.  I really desire for my wife to have time of her own, I desire for her to connect with old friends, and I have had many chances to take such trips.

My problem is that I get overwhelmed; there is just so much to do.  There are moments when things are going fine, and then there are moments when it feels seconds away from implosion.  As I move through the days doing my best to stay one step ahead of the chaos the feeling becomes more powerful and out of control.

So, with this trip on the horizon I asked for help, my mom came into town and my sister and her pre-teen daughter spent time lending an extra hand.

Somewhere in the middle of the weekend I started to wonder if I was betraying my fellow man.  I have read several articles lately and am aware of a pretty significant movement of dads looking to improve the image of fathers.  I have felt that I am a part of this movement.  I do desire to demonstrate that men are capable parents.  So, I wondered if asking for help made me a sell-out?  Had I become a hypocrite in the world of active fathers?

After some reflection I have decided that no, I am not a sell-out or a hypocrite, I am just me.  I am laid back, low energy, low structure, introverted, reflective, and male.  When I enter a group of people I hang around the edges, observe for a while, and then settle into a conversation with 1 or 2 warm personalities.  My wife is outgoing, high energy, high structure, extroverted, logical, and female.  When she enters a group of people she jumps right into the mix, moves from group to group, and meets many new people.

I am struck by the fact that our different personalities also reflect our different styles of parenting.  She is perfectly comfortable managing and directing the crisis of taking four children to the grocery store.  She responds quickly in many situations and is adept at moving from child to child, while maintaining focus on the task at hand.  My reflective personality causes me to respond more slowly.  I want to think things through.  I wonder how my words in this moment may impact the future development of a fragile psyche.  I analyze motivations, body language, and tone changes all in the hopes of responding perfectly as to avoid any further complications.

Isn’t it amazing how who we are as people, so totally impacts who we are as parents?  I am very thankful that my wife is not like me.  I am also thankful that I am not like my wife.  Our personalities and parenting styles are complementary and we have become a really great team.  She is a force of energy, passion, excitement, and structure.  I am steady, thoughtful, calming, and relaxed.

I am beginning to realize that my anxiety and frustration with parenting on my own may not be the result of deficient skills.  I think it is more like losing a valued teammate.  I think I am a better parent in the presence of my wife.  We work well together and support one another.  She gives me strength and I give her stability.  Asking for help is like inserting a sub, the new player can never replace the trusted veteran but neither does it reduce the value of the remaining player.

 The weekend with my wife away went much better than I expected.  It was a nice opportunity for my children to spend time with their grandmother and cousin.  I enjoyed having new team members at my side and am thankful to have learned a lesson about accepting my weaknesses and strengths.

Oh, and my wife points out that it took three of them to replace the one of her!!

This Post originally appeared at The Good Men Project

Before We Talk Gun Control, Let’s Talk Self-Control

 

d4a89-8281447_sI see the video of students running to embrace their parents after the Columbine shooting.  I hear the 9-1-1 calls from Aurora Colorado.  I fear for my child’s safety following Newtown Connecticut.  The images of these tragedies continue to raise serious questions in my mind, what is wrong with our society?  Where does this violence come from?  And what can be done to protect my children?

In the months following the Newtown Connecticut shooting my questions have been societies questions.  The issues have been discussed on news shows, experts have weighed in and there are all sorts of opinions.  Recently however the discussion seems to have focused on gun control.  Who can own them?  How many rounds should they hold? What is the difference between hunting and military style weapons?  And should there be a national gun registry?

I am afraid that these discussions about gun control miss the more important point.  If we are seeking to answer the questions, “what is wrong with society?” “Where does this violence come from?” and “How can we protect our children?” then we must instead be talking about self-control.  We have become a nation of self-indulgence.  The Centers for Disease Control reports that over 1/3 of American adults are obese.  The collapse of the U.S. housing market revealed a pattern of gross overspending and irresponsible lending.  In my work as a school counselor I see many parents indulging their child’s every desire while expecting very little responsibility.  We are surrounded by technologies designed to make life quick and convenient while avoiding the arduous and difficult.

Our children are told that happiness comes from living in the moment, following their heart, and being themself.  Yet according to the U.S. census bureau between 1990 and 2009 for every 6.8 marriages there were 3.4 divorces.  The emphasis placed on self-indulgence does not seem to create successful relationships. What if this over indulgence of self actually makes it easier to discard important relationships?  What about the influence celebrity?  In 2012 Americans spent $1.37 billion on movie tickets.  Many look to these movie stars as well as athletes as role models for success.  However, based on the number of front-page mug shots and court appearances even these cultural figures struggle with self-control.    I am very concerned that my children are growing up in a nation that views impulsivity, selfishness, and self-aggrandizement as virtues rather than vices.

Why are we surprised when a product of this culture does exactly what he was taught to do?  He follows his angry heart, disregards the value of others, and impulsively, irrationally, and selfishly murders innocent people? The real solution for the gun control problem is a radical shift in our national values.  Self-control must not be viewed as an attempt to limit individual freedoms.  Instead, it must be viewed as the ability to choose what is best rather than what is immediate.

Self-control provides a person the power to direct ones life.  I have encountered many students who do not know this.  They seem to believe that self-control is a position of weakness rather than strength.   They are convinced that limiting themselves will result in limited freedom.  What they don’t realize is that controlling ones self is the ultimate in freedom.  The ability to control our impulses, emotions, and desires may be the most difficult task of life.  However, as we learn to harness these inner experiences we are set free from the ups and downs of inner volatility.  We realize that others have absolutely no control over our inner world and thus no control of us.  “I am the only one who can control me.”  What a great freedom and responsibility.  The freedom provides the path to make life what I want it to be.  The responsibility requires that if life is not what I want it to be, I have no one to blame but myself.  Man Life is tough!

My guess is that those who perpetrate mass shootings never learned the lesson of self-control.  They never realized that they were ultimately in control of their thoughts, emotions, fantasies, and actions.  I would guess they felt a sense of their life being out of control.  I imagine they felt provoked to commit these crimes and saw no other escape from their prison of anger, hurt, and loneliness.  My hope is that as we shift from a culture of self-indulgence to self-control that the would-be murderers will regain the power to direct their life.  I hope they will find freedom in valuing others, connecting in relationships, and living in reality.  That is the best gun control only an individual can create.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project

The Facade of Manliness–a discussion with Chopper Poppa

Chopper Poppa is Kyle Bradford a father of two.  He is passionate about his children and fatherhood.  He recently invited me to join him for his podcast Fatherhood Wide Open.  We discussed a post I had written when I first started my blog.  “The Fortress of Solitude” was a post I wrote while thinking about what it means to be a man and how I can best influence my boys to reaching this ideal.  Kyle and I discussed the difference between authentic manhood and a facade of manliness designed to emotionally isolate oneself from others.  We discussed how parents unintentionally lock their boys into a fortress of solitude and some important ways to protect them from relational isolation.  Follow the link below to hear more of the discussion.

Fatherhood Wide Open–The Facade of Manliness

Permission to Laugh

7bec8-5335004_sThis morning was a little different than normal.  I was taking the boys to school.  My wife was leaving early to drop our daughter at daycare.  She had to dress professionally in preparation for her clinical training day.  The boys had slept in a little longer than normal and we parents had taken advantage by sleeping in ourselves.  Things were going OK but we were late and nerves were running hot.

The boys were eating their biscuits and jelly, while my wife was holding our daughter and trying to prepare her breakfast at the same time.  She needed to rinse a bowl in the sink when it happened.  She flipped on the faucet, the sprayer nozzle stuck and water went flying across the kitchen soaking her, our daughter, and the floor.  The surprise of the cold water caused my wife to let out a loud high pitched scream, which scared the 9 month old daughter causing her to cry.

The boys and I sat eating breakfast not knowing quite how to respond.  The 3- year old covered his mouth trying to keep his breakfast from spewing out as he stifled a giggle.  The 5-year old let out one lone giggle and then shut up quickly sensing that mom might not appreciate his response.    I stood there dumbfounded remembering the night before when I had the same problem but was too lazy to find a solution.  The 7-year old forced out the obligatory, “don’t laugh, it’s not funny!” reprimand of his younger brothers.

Now, this situation could have gone a number of different ways, but thanks to a patient and playful response things took a positive turn.

My wife paused a moment, seemingly to gather her super human strength, took a breath and said playfully, “well, it was kinda funny!”

                  The boys burst into laughter!  They let loose with belly laughs and howls that are normally reserved for only the most hilarious moments.  The previously tense feeling of the morning had been shattered, nerves had been instantly cooled and we shared a family laugh in a stressful time.

As I reflected on this moment I was struck by the importance of giving children permission to laugh.  They desperately wanted to laugh, but they needed to know it was safe.  My wife could have responded with anger, and continued the morning with increased tension and pressure.  In her patience and playfulness however she sent the signal that she could laugh at herself and they could follow suit.

We have laughed about this moment several more times in the days to follow.  We remember back with our boys about the time mom got sprayed by the sink.  We share mini moments of laughter in the midst of the daily grind.

What a blessing we were given, a moment to laugh on a busy hectic morning and a lifetime to remember that wonderful feeling of connecting in joy through the power of laughter.

What are your funniest family moments?

I Hope My Son Drops Out of High School…

03a60-5372669_sI hope my sons drop out of high school if they find it to be a total waste of their time.  I have long considered schools unfriendly environments for boys and a recent article in the New York Times only confirmed my hunch.  The article sights a study finding, “that boys across all racial groups and in all major subject areas received lower grades than their test scores would have predicted.”

The researchers attributed the discrepancy to, “noncognitive skills”: attentiveness, persistence, eagerness to learn, the ability to sit still and work independently.”   As a father of 3 energetic boys I know that “noncognitive skills” can be very challenging for young boys to master.

 I was reminded of two recent interactions that fueled my frustration as I considered the educational challenges many boys face in the coming years.

            The first interaction was an enrollment meeting for a student that was returning to our school after having missed most of a semester due to truancy, spending some time in the department of corrections, and being “home schooled”.   He sat silently and solemnly as we spoke about his need to take responsibility, complete his work, attend regularly, and have a positive attitude.  He barely acknowledged us but with a shrug agreed to the expectations.  I was struck by how horrible it must feel to be stuck for days and years in a place that seemed purposeless.  Had this young man just traded a prison of bars and guards for one comprised of textbooks and teachers?

The second interaction was a fourth grader who has not done good work at school for years and has done minimal work for the last few days.  His acting out had grown worse and his unpredictable behavior required one-on-one supervision.  He is a wonderfully likable boy; his hands are stained black from his hobby of fixing and selling broken bicycles.  He knows more about an engine than I ever will.  Every time I enter the room he pretends to pull the thumb off my hand.  We joke around, I act surprised and he puts it back as we say hello.  Today’s interaction was like many others but I was again struck by his imprisonment.  He has 8 more years of school before he will be able to make a living doing what he enjoys.  He will likely work with his hands fixing cars, building houses, or driving machinery.  My guess is that he will be very good at it, but until then he is stuck inside pushing pencils and causing “problems”.

These boys do not want to be in school, they discovered a long time ago that it does not work for them.  They do not see how math, english, and science are going to help them in the real world.  They do not care about following rules, sitting still, or reading a loud, these skills will not help them survive their environment.

My mind immediately moved to solutions.  How can these boys be re-engaged in the learning environment?  What can be done to provide an increased sense of success? Here are my thoughts.

Provide a sensory rich educational environment.

Fewer recesses, cuts in P.E., pressure to perform on standardized tests, and limited budgets all contribute to sensory deprivation in schools.  A lot of classroom instruction is limited to the senses of vision and hearing.  Many boys learn best by touching, smelling, tasting, and especially doing.  A varied and dynamic learning environment could engage all the senses and cells of a child’s body.  Reasonable breaks for large muscle movement, snacks, and social interaction could also reinvigorate a student.

  Increased parental support

Many people would like to blame the parents for not providing enough support.   It is true that many parents do not have the emotional, psychological, or financial resources to provide the support their children need to find success in school.   Many of these parents are struggling to provide for basic needs, they may be preoccupied with personal difficulties, or have had bad experiences in school themselves.  For whatever reason many parents struggle to emphasize education as a family priority making it extremely difficult for their child to succeed.  Parents need to step up!  Too much responsibility has been placed on schools and teachers.  Parents teach values, self-control, and work ethic. Abdicating these jobs to schools creates an impossible task and an adversarial environment.  Parents must trust schools and work to reinforce the shared goals of hard work, responsibility, learning, and growth.

Create clear connections between future work and current curriculum

I have found very few boys that were not willing to work hard as long as they could see the purpose in their effort.  It may be difficult for boys to see how toiling for years in math, english, and science books will prepare them for careers as a welder, carpenter, business man, or engineer.  Some boys desire skills, hands on training, and practical experience.  What happened to vocational schools?  Can a 15- year- old apprentice with a plumber for his last two years to earn his high school diploma?  Learning outside the classroom, in real work situations could provide purpose and engagement that cannot be found in a book.

   A realistic valuation of college vs. career paths

Is it true that everyone should go to college?  I think not! Not all students are interested in or capable of continued studies.  Students are warned that they won’t be able to get a good job without a college education.  This is just not true.  Many times college-educated students struggle to find work while those with practical skills are in high demand.  The skills of hard work, perseverance, and intuition can be just as valuable as a college education.  I hope that we will begin to see careers in the trades as equally honorable as compared to a professional career.

            I am hopeful that my sons will graduate from high school.  However, without a sensory rich educational environment, increased engagement from yours truly, clear connections between future career and current curriculum, and increased valuation of the trades they may not make it.  If they choose the path of GED and trade training, I am confident they will find success.  I will be proud of their hard work, honesty, and integrity.  I will be honored to be their father.

What has school been like for your son or daughter?

The Original Dad 2.0

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This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend and speak at the Dad 2.0 Summit.  It was a gathering of bloggers, brands, media, and authors interested in changing the perception of dad as buffoon to dad as valued parent.  I had no idea that there were so many dads from a wide variety of backgrounds passionate about raising their kids and making the world a better place.

            I was especially surprised to meet the most inspiring Dad 2.0 on my ride from the airport to the conference.  One of the sponsors of the event was Honda and they provided attendees with free rides from the airport to the hotel.  James provided my ride and my inspiration was provided by his story.

            I am not sure how we got on the subject but the entire trip from the airport was spent talking about life and fatherhood.  James’ story was like many I have heard before.  He described his father as physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive.   His father was powerful and never let anyone disrespect his name.  Living in one of the toughest neighborhoods in town James quickly figured out what it took to be safe.  He discovered that if he intimidated people they would join him rather than fight him.  After being kicked out of his house at a very young age he started down a self-destructive path.  He met a girl, broke the law, and ended up in jail.

            “I always knew I wanted to do it differently.” James said.  He inherently knew that hitting, yelling, and aggression were not the best way, but he struggled to find other approaches.  As he fought to free himself from prison that girl he met remained committed.  When he was finally released he set his sights on making life for his children different.

            James told me more stories of how he raised his kids differently.  He described himself as strict but loving.  He told me about the long hours he worked to establish his own business.  He beamed with pride as he shared about the accomplishments of his daughter.  We joked about his desire to have another child so his family name could live on.

            This original Dad 2.0 inspired me.  He did not have a model of positive fatherhood.  He had made some serious mistakes.  Had he given up his kids would have added to the statistics about fatherless children.  But, he was committed to doing it differently.  He was not going to let his negative experiences and decisions forever impact the lives of his descendants.

            James is what Dad 2.0 is all about.  It is about breaking the cycle of fatherlessness, disengagement, and hurt.  It is about dads being vulnerable, taking emotional risks, and leading families despite the hard times.  Dad 2.0 is about supporting one another, encouraging one another, and challenging one another to raise the bar.  Fathers that “babysit” the kids are no longer good enough.  This world needs fathers that are committed to doing it differently while being actively involved with the next generation

How are you doing it differently?