I think most folks who know me wouldnt dare commend me on my sartorial tastes although Ive been known to look nice in a suit or two. I always admired watching my grandparents go out on their dates when I was much younger; my grandfather loved nothing more than a crisp button-down shirt and an expertly matched tie. I quietly envied his ability to always look sharp no matter the occasion.
I didnt know how to put on a tie when I was a kid. For church, my mother gave me a array of clip-on ties to choose from and for a while, thats all I knew. I didnt learn how to wear a necktie until I was 22 years of age. I can even tell you the month. It was June of 1995. It was the day of my very first official job interview to work at a mailroom for a large corporation in Washington. I thought that it was time I graduated from clip-on ties to a real one. All of my friends were just as clueless as I was about ties, so I called my father in a long shot to ask for his help.
My father and I, to this day, are not close. We were especially estranged at this point although he lived just 2 miles north from me. I took a chance calling him, after so many disappointing days and nights he would promise to see me and wouldnt show up. The pain of his absence and the longing for my father still exists today. However on a hot summer day, my father heeded my call.
He came to my mothers house, beaming. I wanted my dad to be proud of me. I tried to tie the necktie myself, making a mockery of it. My father, with his big laugh, stood in front of me and said, son, let me show you what to do. He doesnt know this but it was like being five years old again. When I was in kindergarten, my dad took me to see the classic Sci-Fi film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
. To this day, Ill watch the movie and Ill pretend Im at the Landover Drive-In in his big sedan watching it with him.
Much like that moment, I hold on to the tie lesson because it was one of the few times my father showed he cared about me. He actually was close enough for me to hug him but I feared I would push him away with my emotions. I just held all of those feelings of wanting my dad deep inside. The lesson was a painful reminder of all the things I wish he taught me as a boy that I missed out on in the 17 years he left our home.
Its been nearly 17 years since that moment. 17 years Ive been putting on my necktie the same way my dad showed me on that day. I refuse to learn any other method for the most selfish reason in the world. Its the only thing tangible of my father I have, the only proof that at some point my father may have actually loved me.
It doesnt hurt as much these days to know all I have are brief memories and small moments with my father. Im slowly trying to heal from the absence although Im not out of the woods yet. For now, I find satisfaction in putting on my tie and knowing my dad taught me a skill that Ill value for life.
I joined the National Fatherhood Initiative in early December as a recently married man of five months. Coming to work for NFI as a newlywed has given me a pretty unique experience. Before getting married, my wife and I had talked about our hopes for a family and being parents. Working in an environment that affirms and builds up the role of the father, Ive had time to think ahead and prepare for my hopefully growing family.
Hearing and sharing stories in the NFI office of our experiences at home, and also of our fathers, Ive had a lot of time to reflect on my youth and childhood. I had a very happy childhood and am blessed with the parents I have. But there is one thing that I keep to myself mostlyhow much I wish I could have known my grandfather better.
I only had the privilege of seeing my grandfather a couple times before he passed away. He was, as I remember, a quiet man. Not serious, but quiet. He had experienced a lot in his life. In hindsight, what I thought was a serious grandfather was more a man, who in seeing his son happy with his children, found peace in reflecting on his own life.
Perhaps he found consolation or healing in seeing his son carry on a tradition. I think he found joy and was proud of my dad for all that he had accomplished. He was a man who knew that it was not the material things that make a man wealthy, but the richness in his love for and from his family. Im sure my grandpa was proud of my dad.
I owe a lot to my grandfather. Listening to my dad talk about him, I can see that he showed my father how to be a man, how to be a father, and how to love. My grandfather taught my dad everything that my father has passed on to me. Because of my father's example and his daily service to his children, I learned what fatherhood is. My father laid down his wants, desires, needs, and sacrificed his own life for us. I hope I can be the same kind of father to my children as my dad was to my brothers and I.
The most important thing my father taught me was how to love my wife. Yes, like all families, my parents disagree from time to time. But there has never been a doubt about just how much my father loves my mother. Ive heard it said, "The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." I believe that to be true. My dad showed me how to love my wife by his loving and steady example. And again, I hope I can love my wife, Lacy, as well as my dad has loved my mom.
While I give great thanks to my dad and grandpa, I also am deeply grateful to my mother. Witnessing her gentleness, mercy, and care for my father, I have learned how to be loved. My mother "completed the picture" and witnessed to me how I should accept love from my wife. I saw how happy she made my dad, and she showed me that as a husband, I too one day deserved to be loved in the same fashion.
I am excited for what lies ahead. With the great examples my parents have given me and by Gods will, I feel that I will be ready and prepared to be a father for a growing and loving family.
Last week, NFIs Director of Military Program Support Services Tim Red sent out an email to our staff in where he bravely and candidly spoke of a moment shared with his oldest son, Travis. After attending the funeral of his sons good friend, it gave Tim and Travis a moment to reflect and reconnect the bond between father and son. Inspired by his bravery, I too shared a bit of my own fears and concerns regarding fatherhood with the staff and felt enlightened by Tims ability to open up about such a private matter.
When I think of devoted dads like Tim, I always imagine they have all the answers and because of his background, I expected that he handled tough times with flair. With 30 years of military service, I was certain Tim had seen it all. I originally asked Tim if I could share his story on our blog and he was gracious enough to allow me to do so. I called Tim last evening and what was initially meant to be a quick phone call turned into a 30-minute conversation that changed my life.
Tim and I had an honest and open discussion, which allowed me to learn that part of being a father is also realizing your shortcomings and showing vulnerability. To hear from Tim that raising his oldest child had been difficult for him just astounded me. I was listening to this strong man admitting that even after being a dad of 21 years, hes continuing to learn lessons about fatherhood.
I had to fight back my emotions hearing Tim tell his story of the trials he faced with Travis although I hung on to every word. Tims fearlessness inspired me to devote myself to what I do here at NFI, and to also apply the lessons he shared with me in my own life. Being an involved, responsible and committed father became an even greater responsibility to me by way of our chat.
Although tragedy had to happen in order for Tim and Travis to find a new way to reconnect, stories like this are precisely why Im proud to be a part of the National Fatherhood Initiative family. As I grow as a father and as a man, I can always look back fondly to the chat Tim and I had, realizing that you can never learn it all in one lifetime. Dealing with the ups and downs of fathering can make even the mightiest of us feel stretched thin. However, its good to know that we have an entire lifetime to get it right.
The Internet, especially the fast moving realm of social media, has given thousands of people a voice they once never had. The Web grants us access into a persons life by way of keeping tabs on the various social media tools, to homepages, and the ever-present pool of words known as blogs. The voiceless can now be heard or seen without fear of censorship or retribution. In the case of folks leaving comments on blogs and YouTube sites, this could be seen as both a gift and a curse.
Daddy blogs, such as the clever Fatherhood Is
, clearly knows how to poke fun at the learning curve of a new dad with comedic flair. The man behind the blog, Adam Brown, is a new dad of twins Greyson and Charlotte. His blog is possibly my favorite of the many daddy blogs around.
One particular funny video
Brown placed on his site features his baby girl Charlotte. In the video, Brown makes a razzing noise that frightens little Charlotte, thus causing her eyes to cutely and comically widen. In just a scant two weeks since the videos release, it has garnered over a million and a half views on YouTube (the clip is definitely a family favorite in my home).
While nothing more than a harmless game of dad being silly with his baby (which some dads do), it appears that the Internet-famous and now-viral clip is subject to mean critics who seem to relish in levying nasty and offensive comments. Using the cover of the keyboard, these individuals have heaped on opinions about Browns parenting style and even resorted to calling his baby unattractive.
Brown doesnt seem bothered by the comments, but was self-aware enough to put up a following post
that highlighted some of the mean remarks people made. Sidestepping the negativity, Brown even pondered on his post whether or not Charlottes twin brother would be jealous of his sisters growing fame. Humor is a great shield for one to wield in this world we live in. Learning how to laugh when most would resort to defensive anger diffuses negativity much easier than meeting it head on.
I love a cute baby video just as much as anyone else. I really enjoyed this video
of the babies tasting lemons for the first time. However, it pains me to witness people using words to hurt a dad who simply wanted to share the world a precious and cute moment between he and his newborn. Cute baby videos and cruel comments dont go together and if you cant say something nice, to borrow from the old adage, try not saying anything at all.
It seems par for the course that fathers seek to bond with their kids especially boys playing the age-old game of catch, whether with a football or baseball. Theres something innate about that activity between fathers and sons; perhaps its an instinctive reminder for Dad that he once did this with his own dad or at least wished he had. Its something I definitely wished I shared with my own dad.
When I read the tale
of MLB All-Star pitcher Chris Perez, and how he and his dad Tim bonded over Chris inclusion in the big name lineup last year, I confess I felt a tinge of envy. However, Im glad to see that there are sons who look up to and value their dads even as they trudge along into adulthood and families of their own.
with sports website The Bleacher Report
on how he gifted his father with his 2011 All-Star ring, making it five sizes larger so that his dad could wear it.
Perez on the trying to surprise his father with the ring:Before entering the brunch, they handed out All-Star rings. When I picked mine up, they asked me to try it on. (I already had planned to give the ring to my Dad, so I had told them to make the ring 5 sizes too big for me.) My Dad was right next to me and noticed how big it was on me. I tried to play it off, but he kept making a deal about it. Flash forward to after the game, my family and I are relaxing back in the hotel, and I pulled out the ring and gave it to him. He was shocked/surprised/happy/speechless. I couldn't think of anyone else that deserved the ring more than him; he's the reason I love the game, and the reason I became an All-Star.
Chris Perez didnt enter the game last year at the Midsummer Classic, but its a neat story showing that no matter how old you are as a son, you always want to please and gain the respect of your dad. Sometimes its tough to show our dads how much we love and adore them as adults, but I know as I speak for myself and other fathers that it never gets redundant to know that your children love you.
Tim Perez summed up his feelings about getting the ring from his son in a quick interview last summer. I wasn't expecting it. We were in the room, and Chris just said 'I want to give you something,'" Tim Perez said to the Bradenton Herald. "My first reaction was, 'Son this is your ring. And he says 'No, dad, I wouldn't here without you.' I wasn't expecting anything. I was just a dad supporting his son.
Tim Perez and his amazing humility is the very reason why fatherhood has to return to the forefront of the conversation when talking about combating societal ills. When a father does the right thing for his children, they become adults who respect the value and importance of what it means to be a dad when their time comes to be handed the torch.
Sure, I may pine for a time for my dad and I to have a similar bonding experience and I still have my baseball glove and ball from when I was 12 years old at the ready. Hopefully one day soon, my dad and I will have a moment to share and call our own just like Tim and Chris Perez.
Until then, I can only admire them from afar.
Greetings, Father Factor readers!
To quote a song I Know You Got Soul from legendary 80s rap duo Eric B. & Rakim, Its been a long time, I shouldnt have left you but were back to regularly updating our blog after the holidays shifted everyones schedules around a bit.
Speaking of rap music, have you seen NFIs nifty new Daily Dad News section
? Its the latest feature on our homepage full of daily news bits about dads, families and related stories. One of the news items posted last week
focused on popular Atlanta rapper T.I. and how he balances his career with his family time. During an interview with MTV News, the rapper born Clifford Harris spoke proudly of being a dad but carefully stating that he has to still maintain an edge to his character due to the industrys hes in.
When I go home, that's who I am, what you see on the show. Now, what you're gonna hear through them records is when I hit the streets, when I'm out movin' and groovin' this is the person that must maintain this personality because it's a cold world out here, T.I. offered in the interview.
Now Ill admit that Ive listened to a bit of his T.I.s music in my spare time, and a lot of it isnt family friendly stuff. However, on his cable reality show with his wife, T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle,
T.I. reveals his softer side as a doting and devoted dad. T.I. and his wife have also given to charity, provided scholarships to the Boys and Girls Club and he even famously talked down a suicidal man from committing the fatal act.
The flip to T.I.'s good and giving side is that he raps in songs about his violent past as a former drug dealer nestled deeply "in the trap" what some in Atlanta refer to as the open air drug market. Since having found fame, T.I. has been long removed from the trappings of the streets but his music at times serves as the soundtrack for those still in that lifestyle.
T.I.'s jail record and federal gun charges also haunt him, being sent to prison just after performing a star turn in the Hollywood action flick Takers
alongside another beleaguered male entertainer Chris Brown. He was well on his way to mainstream stardom and chose to "hug the block" (as the kids say) instead of focusing on his budding acting career and music. T.I. has injected positive messages in some of his work, no less energetic and infectious as his normal fare.
The question is, which is really tougher? Is it tougher to still rap about guns and what you'll do to someone if they cross you in the streets? Or, is it tougher to rap about being a devoted husband and father, writing a few lines about how you went to see your sons play Pee Wee football? Is it tougher to rap about how you sold drugs or would it be tougher to drop a few verses about how you love coming home to your wife?
I don't happen to think T.I.'s a bad person, but I do think he's caught up in the hype of being tough when in actuality, he'd be seen as a greater figure if he promoted his family life more. Perhaps his television show is his pathway to doing so, but a man of T.I.'s responsibility and fame would appear tougher to me if he paused to "hit the streets" less often and revealed that there's nothing soft about being a father who loves the family life.
Ive been trying to avoid cliché topics while blogging about fatherhood: easy, male-oriented things like sports, cars, and other supposed notions of manhood. However, its difficult to avoid, especially with the 2012 NFL Playoffs set to go underway next week. Ill be the first to tell you, I am not a huge football fan these days. The years of being a Washington Skins fan have begun to take their toll on my enthusiasm for the game.
To seriously date myself, over twenty-two years ago in 1989, a classic video game was born. To older gamers like myself, Tecmo Bowl a clunky simulation of NFL football was one of those iconic, male-bonding games that you just had to have if you owned a Nintendo Entertainment System. In high school, I can tell you that my studies suffered as result of playing this game to the point of aching thumbs and sleepless nights.
Although I wasnt a Chicago Bears fan, I played them in the video game because I admired late Hall Of Fame running back Walter Sweetness Payton and I got a chance to meet him in Washington, D.C. during an event for teens and sports in 1990. He was still a vision of health, much stronger looking in person than on television and I didnt get to say much to him. But I walked away thinking that I may have met the greatest running back of my time.
Payton played all 13 of his NFL seasons with the Bears, entering the Hall in 1993 after retiring in 1988. He unfortunately passed in 1999 at age 45 as a result of rare liver disease that made the muscle-bound Payton wither away. In the years gone by since his passing, books and articles have been written about Sweetness, but a story I recently came across
nearly crushed my image of him.
Cleveland publication The Plain Dealer
ran a piece last week focusing on an upcoming biography from writer Jeff Pearlman which digs deeper into Paytons life revealing dark secrets that could mar the legacy of the Bears legend. Infidelity, a child out of wedlock (that he reportedly didnt acknowledge), drug addiction and a hidden affinity for fast food are all laid out for fans to read. I didnt want to leap to judgment, but I couldnt ignore what I read.
Pearlman, a former Sports Illustrated
writer, was an old-school journalist who undoubtedly fact-checked with the best of them. Clearly hes not accepting vague accounts from the reported 678 interviews he conducted to complete his book. I trust the writer to have interviewed close friends of the player and write the truth. The truth, it appears, was less than glossy but does it take away from the fact that Payton did leave behind some sweetness along with his legacy?
In a series of interviews last fall, Connie, Paytons widow, disputed Pearlmans claims. She didnt deny that her husband was troubled, but she also didnt throw her husbands name into the gutter, nor confirm any of Pearlmans other claims. Mrs. Payton is also set to release her own memoir.
On the positive side, Walter and his wife started a foundation, which serves underprivileged children, and there is also a cancer research fund in Paytons name. His oldest child, Jarrett, assisted with running The Walter and Connie Payton Foundation
in the past.
The truth is, none of us will know what truly happened during Paytons life except for the parties involved which is immediately rendered one-sided because Payton isnt here to defend himself. Until then, Ill continue to think of Sweetness as one of the best ever to play the game and remember what his own son said during Paytons Fame induction, I am sure my sister will endorse this statement, we have a super dad.
Payton was not only a role model for many in his sports position, but as a husband and father he was a role model at home. Thats why NFI places such an importance on helping men understand the value - and difficulties of - entering the union of marriage. Men considering marriage, or those organizations working with young men, may want to consider NFIs Why Knot?
program, a perfect place for men to start before making the vital leap into matrimony. Learn more at www.fatherhood.org/why-knot
Earlier this month, ABC News profiled Miami Heat star basketball player Dwyane Wade
before the start of the NBA season. This time however, the high-flying Chicago native wasnt showcasing his crafty moves on the court. Instead, Wades dedication to fatherhood was the centerpiece of the story.
While fans across the globe gleefully counted down the days leading up to the Christmas Day start of the NBA season as a gift, Dwyane Wade kept true to his Twitter bio line which I absolutely love: I'm a father first and everything else after that and D-Wades devotion was hard to ignore in the ABC News clip.
What stood out to me was Wades unflinching pride about being a father, even under the tough circumstances that led him to becoming a single dad. Marrying his high school sweetheart Siohvaughn, the couple had two sons together, Zaire and Zion. After a bitter and very public divorce, Wade won sole custody
of his boys back in March of this year. Fighting hard to remain in his childrens life, Wade proved that his sons were a top priority.
Along with Zaire and Zion, Wades nephew also lives with the hoops star full time. The ABC clip showed D-Wade and his family bonding via horseplay, but there are some ground rules and a focus on schoolwork that is also enforced with care. And while Wades hefty NBA contract is often fodder for discussion, he is clear in letting folks know that hes much more than a sports millionaire. It is not about the money I have or don't have," shared Wade. "It is about the time I am willing to sit down across the table from my kids and if they don't get something right, helping them get it right.
Through various community programs and his own Wades World Foundation
non-profit group, D-Wade takes time out to assist other fathers wishing to bridge the gap between themselves and their children. Another highlight from the news segment was that of Wade and his ex-wifes willingness to co-parent, despite the media fallout from their divorce proceedings and emphasizing that his sons still needed their mother.
D-Wade is aggressive, brash and downright intense on the court, but away from the game the 29-year old gives off a serene calm especially when talking about his dad duties with glowing pride. Although he can employ a dizzying catalog of spin moves and perform fearless drives to the basket, Dwyane Wade already hit the game-winning shot as far as fatherhood goes.
An interesting video report
appeared on ABC News site the other day regarding men who become new dads, stating that the responsibilities that go along with the job caused lowered testosterone levels in men. Earlier this year, NFIs Vincent DiCaro wrote a blog post in response
to a New York Times
piece regarding the very research that led to this discovery. Vinces blog highlighted key points that affirmed why this hormonal development may in fact aid fathers in their parental duties.
ABCs report follows the same angle in showing that dads who dote on their children have lowered testosterone levels but state that science supports this being good for the family unit. In generations past, men were often cast as pillaging nomads intent on exacting their aggressive will upon women and challenging other men in silly egotistical contests. Rare was it that fathers were shown to be in the house with their children, cooing to them or caring for their progeny.
Emmy-winning London-based ABC News correspondent Nick Watt led the latest report, injecting himself into the story as a father of two small boys himself. Watt playfully jabbed at himself for having lowered hormone levels, with various shots of the reporter playing lovingly with his boy. Harvard professor Peter Ellison, also quoted in the Times
piece, reacted to Watts assertion that his modern day dad duties were making him less of a man. Ellison refuted the thought, simply saying that its an incorrect way to look at this startling phenomenon.
The action then cuts to Watt profiling a local rugby team, one of the most brutal sports on the planet. Highlighting a star player and coach who were both dads, Watt reported that their testosterone levels, while lowered after fatherhood, spiked back to normal while engaged in their contests. Watt also mentioned aptly that human parenting is easier when mom and dad are both involved. Watt was also candid in sharing that his own father was not as caring as he is with his sons, noting that dads in the 70s modeled themselves into alpha-male caricatures instead of involved parents.
Watt closed out his report mentioning his wife just had a second baby and that with two small children, he joked that his testosterone levels were in the basement. Watt ended the segment with two really awesome quotes Id like to share with the Factor Father readers.
This is, in fact, more manly than leaving wife and kids at home to go skydiving and skirt chasing, said Watt while being shown spinning his eldest son around. Watt ended the clip by saying, Im at home in the nest, as nature says I should be.
Amen to that, Mr. Watt.
Greetings, Father Factor readers! My name is D.L. Chandler, a recent addition to the National Fatherhood Initiative staff in the capacity of Web Editor. I joined NFI officially on December 5, and it has been a wonderful experience so far. Everyone on the staff is not only committed to our core mission of increasing the viability and visibility of involved and responsible dads, but its such an inviting environment as well.
Originally, I wanted my inaugural blog posting to be a resonating piece that highlighted my joy in being a part of the NFI mission and how I intend to assist in increasing the online reach of our important work. However, I was taken off that that path this weekend after my required reading in joining the staff led me to figures that highlighted the very issues father absence causes and all the while, my own fatherless childhood memories were being triggered.
24 million children in America, one out of three nationally, are residing in biological father-absent homes. Children who grow up without a father in the home are 54 percent more likely to be poorer than their dads. Teens are at a 30 percent higher risk to abuse drugs and alcohol when dad isnt present. A study of minority youth ages 10-14 showed that contact with their biological fathers decreased their risk for delinquency, even when dad didnt live in the home.
As I continued reading the sixth edition of NFIs Father Facts reference manual, I began to recognize how the numbers and facts related to my own life. After my parents split in the late 70s, I was without the man I admired. I can say with certainty that when my father left the home, my mother, my then-infant brother, and I spiraled into poverty even becoming homeless for a spell. My father went on to earn a high profile law enforcement position and found other successes while my mother barely kept our lights on.
Growing up as a teen without guidance from dad, I went to the streets to find solace. I dabbled in drugs and drinking and petty crimes all attempts to feel like I belonged to something. The truth was simple: I wanted my dad to come rescue me. I wanted him to eliminate the pain by simply showing up. I hoped that my behavior would inspire him to pay some attention to me. Sadly, it never worked. I did have a man in my life that fulfilled the father role I sorely needed my grandfather. Without his firm talks and loving guidance, I would have been lost to crime or worse.
In my further reading of NFIs Pops Culture fathering attitudes survey, I learned that ninety-one percent of the respondents agreed that father absence is a national crisis. I know firsthand that father absence has had a detrimental impact on my own life. The question remains then is how do we make father absence a larger conversation for dads across the board.
If you need any motivation to embrace the importance of eliminating father absence, just look at the numbers. The data alone suggests that something must be done to bridge the gap between fathers and their children. But for me, Im solely motivated by my own past and I feel encouraged that together we can turn the numbers around in favor of dads being presently involved with their children.