Last week, I had an opportunity to speak at a briefing hosted by Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL). The purpose of the briefing was to present these findings
of the Commission on Paternal Involvement in Pregnancy Outcomes, a project of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. A key aspect of the commission is to determine ways to reduce infant mortality, which is surprisingly high in the US.
As a member of the commission, I had an opportunity to share a pretty personal perspective on how, as a very new dad, I first learned just how important fathers are to the health and well-being of infants. A reporter wrote this story
about my remarks. Are you ready for some football?
It was good to see that an NFL team was smart enough to draft Myron Rolle. Despite being the top high school recruit in his class year and an All-American at Florida State, many pro teams were lukewarm and questioned his commitment to football because Rolle choose to forgo playing his senior year to accept the Rhodes Scholarship, thus keeping the scholar in scholar-athlete. (Check out the video here
to see just how impressive this young man is.)
With the considerable money at stake, I certainly understand concerns that Rolles skills may be a tad rusty after taking a year off but some of comments by NFL prognosticators were just nonsensical. For example, former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick said Rolle's intellect could be a hindrance on the field: "If you want to create hesitation on a guy, make him think. This guy can't help but think." Huh???
I played football in college at Princeton and I raised a son who was a scholarship football player at the University of North Carolina. One thing that I remember vividly is that whenever I made a bone head mistake, my coach would admonish me to get my head out of myshall we sayhindquarters and get it in the game. Thats coachspeak for think. So, it makes me wonder if there is not something else going on here. Could it be that some dont want other college players to follow Rolles lead and take full advantage of their scholarships by making their studies a priority? That would certainly make life more difficult for college coaches because practice times usually conflict with biology lab times. Well, I hope this is not the case, especially given the dismal graduation rates in many top college football programs and the need for more African American men--football players or not-to earn college degrees.
Interestingly, its not hard to see why Rolle has taken the path that he has. On hearing Billicks comments, Rolles father, Whitney, said, "These people, they feel as though you can show commitment in only so many ways. We have taught all our kids if you're going to do something, do it 100%, so to hear these people say that they question his commitment to football, it's a disgrace.
I couldnt agree more
Fortunately, Rolle has gotten some good coaching at home over the years.
So Men Health's recently published a list of what they consider the top ten worst fathers. The line of reasoning was, "Well, even if you aren't perfect - at least you aren't this
bad." The list includes everyone from Michael Lohan
to David Hasselhoff
to Eliot Spitzer
to Woody Allen. It also includes some less well-known folks who beat up their kids' Little League coaches or produce 78 kids (to date).
This is interesting on multiple levels. First, it's good to know there is still some sort of standard for what it means to be a good father. Granted, after this list, the bar isn't too high but if you did the opposite of everything on this list (ie
: care about your kids more than yourself and don't physically or emotionally harm them), you're headed in the right direction.
Secondly, I think Men's Health might have forgotten another entry on the list: the intentionally absent father. Obviously there are situations where a father cannot, for various reasons, play an active role in his children's lives. But in the majority of cases, as difficult as the father's presence might be, a father's absence certainly doesn't make for a painless childhood either. It's simply a different category of pain.
Perhaps we and Men's Health can agree on one point - fathers do need encouragement. Not perhaps from the legacy of outrageously ridiculously bad fathers, but from working on their fathering skills and knowing that their presence is an irreplaceable wonderful benefit to their children!
As the recent news of the earthquake continues to come in, the Haiti situation
looks grim. When serious events such as this happen, kids (especially younger ones) naturally turn to their parents for explanations and reassurance. Here a few pointers on helping guide your kids through the emotions resulting from serious natural disasters:
- Ask them if they've heard about these events. If they are in school, they might have also discussed it there. Ask them what they think about the event, and if they have any concerns related to it.
- Assure them that you care for them and are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Answer any questions they have for you; it is important that children have a sense of hope and perspective on natural disasters.
- Work with your kids to develop positive and constructive action steps to respond to the disaster. Children like to do things that make a difference in the world. Be creative. Encourage your children to write letters or donate "piggy bank" money to relief efforts. Pray with your children for the people who were affected. Help them focus on helping others in their time of need.
Do you have additional thoughts? How do you help your kids with difficult situations in the news?
Maxim magazine (yes, that Maxim) published a list of "10 Things Every Father Should Teach His Son." Here is their list:
1. Never Fight Over a Woman
2. Never Let Anyone See You Punch Inanimate Objects
3. Buy the Women in Your Life Flowers
4. Know How to Make Scrambled Eggs
5. Always Buy a Laid-off Friend a Beer
6. Never Get Mad ... Get Even
7. Silence Is Golden
8. Drink Liquor Straight Up
9. Own a Roll of Duct Tape
10. Never Be Afraid to Dance
Now, some of these are pretty
good (2, 3, 7), some of them are not so good (6, 8), and some of them are downright silly (1, 4, 5, 9, 10). Given the questionable content on their website, I will not link over to the list, where they provide brief explanations for each item.
All in all, I would classify this list as "how to be a man in the way 21st century manhood has been defined." You can take it for what it is worth from that perspective.
But we at NFI, of course, think there are a few important things that Maxim
left off the list when it comes to the real, actual things that sons need to learn from their fathers.
A few suggestions, from the mundane to the profound:
- Work hard, even when no one is watching.
- Know how to fix a flat tire.
- Don't have children until you are married to their mother.
- Honesty actually is the best policy.
- Know how to cook.
- Have a good strong handshake.
- Always look people in the eye when you talk to them.
- Serve your community.
- Be willing and able to do house chores, like vacuuming, ironing, dusting, and washing dishes.
- Treat all of the women in your life with respect.
- Don't be afraid to experience and process the full range of emotions.
- Always keep an updated resume.
Do you have any more suggestions? What lessons will you share with your sons?