If you havent seen them yet, you have to watch LEGOs most recent TV commercials
. They really sell the father-son connections that can be made through building together" with LEGO products.
For me, these commercials strike several chords! First, I have always been a huge Star Wars fan (although the prequels have soured things a bit
or a lot
). Second, I loved playing with LEGOs when I was a kid.
And finally, I am a dad now, and my son is just starting to reach the age (he is 23 months old) where he is interested in LEGOs. My parents got him the Duplo LEGOs
, which are larger than regular LEGOs so that younger kids (and less dextrous fingers!) can play with them.
My son -- Little Vinny as we call him -- calls his Duplos his bocks; he cant quite get the "L" sound right, but he is close enough. He often walks up to me holding out his bocks, and we work together to piece a few of them together. He will then carry our little creation around the house with him for hours.
We havent actually built any recognizable objects yet, but we are building something much more important (and I think this is LEGO's point) we are building a bond with each other that will be stronger than any physical structure we will come up with.
But dont get me wrong I am looking forward to the day when we get the Star Wars LEGO sets and build an awesome TIE Fighter or Death Star together. Then, we will rule the galaxy as father and son! (only Star Wars fans will get that reference)
If you have any great LEGO stories, share them with us here or on our Facebook page
; photos of what you built together would be even better! In the meantime, go "build together" with your kids!
This Thanksgiving, I had a few conversations that made me especially thankful.
During a car ride to my churchs Thanksgiving eve service, my 26 year-old son, Justin, told me that he knew that sometimes it must be especially challenging to keep motivated doing the work that I do. But, he offered that he wanted to encourage me to keep doing it. He said that I have touched so many through my time at NFI. He also said that it really matters that I have been a father-figure for several of his friends. And, interestingly, it really meant a lot to him that I attended nearly all of his football games, from Pop Warner through college. He said, Dad, you are laying up treasure in heaven
Then, as we were cleaning up from Thanksgiving dinner, my 29 year-old son, Jamin, told me that so many of his many friends tell him that they dont really know their parents. He offered that their parents spent so much time working to give his friends material things that they failed to give them the most important thing of all
their time. He said, Dad, you struck the right balance
Kids do say the darndest things.
Ironically, my sons comments could not have been better timed. You see, I turned 50 years old in October and, frankly, I have been reflecting quite a bit about the choices that I have made in my life, especially when it dawned on me that I likely have more yesterdays than tomorrows. I have often wondered if I have invested my life wisely so far. Social change, like parenting, is hard work that requires steadfastness.
Alas, one can grow weary of doing good, no matter the rightness of the cause. So, it was good to hear this type of affirmation from my sons. Their words were a tremendous encouragement to me and I am hopeful that they will serve as a motivation for other dads, especially those with young children, who read this.
As I am fond of saying, kids spell love T-I-M-E. And I know that being a dad, at times, can seem like a thankless job. But if you hang in there and choose to be a father who provides, nurtures and guides, there is a wonderful treasure that awaits you.
And for this, like me, you will be thankful.
The 11/21/11 issue of Time magazine did its "10 Questions" feature with Sting.
In it, Sting reveals that the first time his father ever complimented him was when he was on his deathbed. How could this happen? How could a father never compliment his son, especially one as "successful" as Sting?
I think part of the answer may have been revealed in the rest of Sting's answer. He says:
"My dad and I had the same hands. I hadn't really noticed that until he was on his deathbed, and I mentioned it. And he said, 'You used your hands better than I did.' My dad was a milkman. And I realized that was probably the first compliment he'd ever paid me, and that was kind of devastating."
Maybe I am wrong, but what I read into this is that these were two people who had mutual contempt for each other's professions, and it likely damaged their relationship.
Sting's dad was a working class guy - a milkman. Is it possible that he was jealous of his son's success doing something as "frivolous" as pop music while he worked hard every day for a modest wage? Why else would he never compliment his famous son?
And is it also possible that Sting had contempt for his "working stiff" dad who didn't use his hands right? And could this contempt have shown?
If my speculation is correct, they were both wrong. Sting should have respected his father for working to support his family. And think of all the families who had milk every day because of what Sting's dad did. And Sting's dad should have respected his son for using his remarkable talent to entertain the world. Every person has value, and each person is given gifts to be used to help others. While Sting and his dad had very different gifts, both of their contributions should have been valued, especially by each other.
Instead, we end up with a "devastated" son whose father paid him only one compliment. The lesson: find the value in the unique gifts your children have, as inconsequential as they may seem on the surface, and compliment them often. You never know when your time will come.
This is a post by Tim Red, NFI's Director of Military Program Support Services. After spending 30 years in the U.S. Army, Tim now leads NFI's efforts to help the U.S. military add fatherhood programming to its work to support military families. Tim and his wife have four children and live in Texas. Tim contributes this blog post as part The Thankful Campaign and shares his personal experience about realizing that sometimes the things we're thankful for come out of the hardest experiences of life.
I am thankful for my improved relationship with my oldest son (Travis). My mobilization/deployment from July 2005 through December 2006 affected him more than any of my kids. It put distance in our relationship that I did not know or understand. He told me three summers ago that he quit praying the day I got on that plane to go overseas. In the last four years there has really been calm only once for about a two month span in the spring of 2009. Things got very ugly in July of this year - so bad that I had to give an ultimatum that changed his life.
Since then, we have talked more in the last three and a half months than we had in the previous four years. I am thankful for the changes he has made in his life and continues to make. We have still got a long way to go, but if you would have told me we would be at this point after the events of July, I would say you were crazy. I never thought we could come so far so fast. So I am very thankful for having my son back.
I am also thankful for the young men and women that serve our country all around this world. I am thankful for their military families who support them. And I am thankful for the services that are provided by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to support our military families.To learn more about NFI's work with the military, visit www.fatherhood.org/military
Welcome to the fourth installment of our 10-week podcast series, "Dads Playbook featuring NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell."
This week, NFI president Roland C. Warren sits down with Mark to talk about raising sons.
Since boys and girls are different, being a father to them presents different challenges and opportunities. Mark, a father of three boys and one girl, has some great advice for being a great dad to your son.Click here to download the podcast on Marks game plan for being an All-Star Dad when it comes to raising sons.
In keeping with NFIs July theme of hitting the Great Outdoors, I hit the Mediocre Outdoors with my 18-month-old son last week. We went into my backyard.
Being the thoughtful father that I am, I actually had a real goal in taking Little Vinny back there. It was a nice day out, he had been watching an Elmo video for a while, and I figured he needed some free play in the fresh air in order to develop properly.
So, there we were in my fairly large, fairly green backyard, and I just let him go to see what he would do. I had visions of him scurrying across the grass, wind blowing through his hair, giggling at the sheer joy of experiencing the wonders of suburban nature.
In addition, there was a dog in the backyard (his name is Junior and he is our dog), there were toys on the lawn, and the property has a few shaded corners under tall pine trees. Lots of great places for a curious kid to explore. This was going to be Great (or at least Mediocre).
Instead, Little Vinny decided to head right for the ugliest, most dangerous place in the entire yard a small pile of sharp rocks underneath the deck.
This pile of rocks comes complete with a rusty iron rod sticking straight up out of the ground, whose purpose I have yet to determine in nearly three years of living in this house. There is also the rusty outdoor faucet sticking out of the concrete wall. And last but not least is the scramble of electrical wires populating said concrete wall. It would have been disastrous had he pulled on one of these dangerous, live wires I would have lost my DirecTV service. But I digress.
So this is where my child decided he wanted to play.
My first instinct was to pick him up and move him into the middle of the lawn. I did this. He promptly turned around and returned to the dangerous pit in the darkness of the decks shade.
Then he started picking up the sharp rocks and throwing them. Some of them were hitting the concrete wall and bouncing back in his direction, missing his bare (chunky, adorable) legs by inches.
Then he started walking around the perimeter of his private quarry with one of the larger rocks in hand. I pictured him opening his fragile little hand, revealing a deep, bloody gash across his palm, smiling sinisterly at me and asking me to perform some tribal rite. Although that didnt happen, I continued to operate under the illusion that he just hadnt yet noticed the big, beautiful backyard.
So, I once again picked him up and placed him in the middle of the grassy yard. The sun was shining in his light brown curls. There was a glimmer of hope. I even recruited the dog into my effort to make the grassy part of the lawn fun. I did this by pointing at the dog and then pointing at Vinny. The dog looked at me stupidly. As I contemplated his dumb look, Vinny returned to his pit.
At this point, I gave up.
But after a few moments of reflection, a peace came over me. I reminded myself that if I was really interested in him exploring and having free play, then I would have to deal with whatever it was he decided to do. I saw that he probably liked walking on the rocks because it was a very different surface than what he is used to uneven, a little shaky, and the rocks made neat sounds as they scraped together under his feet. He also likes to touch things, and the rocks would actually be sort of interesting from a toddlers point of view. They were black, cold, and fit perfectly in his eager hand.
He was happy. So, I decided to be happy, too. I just sat back and watched him start his mining career. So, this is what it is like experiencing the great outdoors with your child, I thought to myself. As I thought this profound thought to myself, I also said, Myself, are those mosquitos biting you? I then came to a sudden realization that my legs were an itchy mess. I was getting killed by mosquitoes, so I decided to cut our excursion short and take Vinny back inside.
When I picked him up, he still held one of his rocks in his hand. I made him put it down on the deck before we went inside, and it is still lying there, a week later, as a reminder.
A reminder of my wonderful time in the backyard with my son?
No, a reminder that, for unknown reasons, I have a pile of sharp rocks under my deck! Why are those even there?! While I look into this, I wish you many grand adventures in your little piece of the outdoors, wherever, or however dangerous, it may be.
This is a post by Mike Yudt, NFI's Director of National Programming. Mike is a married father of two young sons. Mike shares his thoughts on encouraging your kids to participate in outdoor sports as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."
As a father of two boys (ages one and three), I am often dreaming of who they will become as they grow older. Like most dads, I would love to see my sons take an interest in sports. Growing up, I played soccer and ran track (with a little bit of basketball mixed in). If Im honest with myself, I would love to see my sons show similar interest in the great game of soccer and in running. But I often will catch myself as I want to make sure that I am not living vicariously through them and imposing something on them that they are not interested in. I firmly believe that as fathers we should expose our children to a variety of activities (not just sports) to determine where their interests and abilities lie.
My wife and I recently enrolled our three-year-old son, Caleb, in a four week program that introduced him to the basics of three sports: soccer, basketball, and t-ball. It was a great opportunity for him to enjoy these games, learn from people other than mom and dad, and play with other kids. At the end of the day, Caleb seemed to enjoy t-ball over soccer and basketball. In fact, one of my proudest moments came when he picked up a ball that was hit and threw it all the way from shortstop to third base to get the lead runner. Im sure he wasnt thinking about getting the lead runner, but his throw was spot on and I could not have been prouder.
Caleb is also currently enrolled in a swim class. In fact, he has his second to last class tonight. I am proud of him for getting in the pool with someone other than mom and dad. At this age, thats a huge step for him and I know someday he will be swimming laps around me. And Im sure his little brother Joshua will be as well given how hard it is to keep him out of the pool during Calebs swim class.
The journey of teaching our children to love sports can be a difficult one. Ive had to check myself along the way to make sure that I am not placing unrealistic expectations on my children. The last message I want to send to my children is one of me being frustrated with them because they dont take an interest (or show an ability) in what I enjoy. So the conclusion I have come to is this: as fathers, we should challenge our children to excel at all they do. But we should never push them too much so they cease to enjoy their childhood and dont have free time to just be kids.
Over-programming our childrens lives is a phenomenon that is frankly not healthy for our children. Yes, kids need structure and programs certainly serve a purpose. If I didnt believe that, I would not have registered Caleb for the sports and swim classes that he has enjoyed this summer. But my wife and I also make a point to allow him and his brother to have ample time to use their imagination and to make up their own games. And were constantly amazed at what they come up with.
Lets allow our children the flexibility to be children, rather than scheduling every minute of their lives. Lets be patient and encourage our children to try new things that can challenge them to grow. But lets not give them an unnecessary burden to carry at such a young age. Just one dads thoughts
This is a post by Nigel Vann, Senior Director of Training and Technical Assistance for the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. Nigel shares his memories of camping and hiking with his son Jesse as part of NFI's "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer" campaign. In addition to the generational legacy of outdoor adventures that Nigel shares, notice the great work-family balance technique he practiced - using business trips as opportunities for family memories!
Reading Mikes recent blog
took me back to when my son was younger (hes now 26). We had great fun going camping although we didnt start as early as Mike! I really like the way that Mike emphasizes how what we do with our kids at an early age can have such a lasting impact. For me, its a key part of establishing a family legacy. Although my parents didnt take me camping as a youngster, I was lucky that they were avid hikers and I have many fond memories of short family hikes as I was growing up. Thats certainly a tradition Ive carried on and been able to pass on to my son.
Besides many hiking adventures, three camping trips with my son stand out in my memory:
The first, which may have been Jesses first camping experience, was at a local campground in Maryland when he was probably 5 or 6. I remember him being fascinated with the fireflies and enjoying the rangers campfire presentation, but my main memory is that it rained overnight and flooded the tent so we abandoned the campsite and drove to a nearby restaurant for breakfast! That didnt dampen his enthusiasm for the outdoors though at least until he hit the teen years!
My second memory is of a camping trip north of San Francisco in 1993 when he was 8 years old. I was working with one of the Young Unwed Fathers Pilot sites in Fresno and took Jesse and his mom along for the ride. After my work was completed, we spent a day in Yosemite and then drove 2-3 hours north of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway. We camped near a beach and spent the evening wandering around there. As we prepared to settle down, Jesse suddenly proclaimed I saw a meteor! His mom and I missed it and were never able to verify what he saw, but he still talks about it to this day.
The last time I remember camping with Jesse was also associated with a work trip for me. I was attending a Child Support conference in Phoenix, Arizona in 1997. Jesse was 12 and I took him along to see his birthplace in Tucson. Afterward, we camped at Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona for a night and then camped at the Grand Canyon for 2 nights. We spent a day hiking down in to the Canyon. Previously, Id hiked down as far as Plateau Point a few times (about 12 miles round-trip). In fact, one time, a few years before Jesse was born I actually ran most of the way (I was running a lot at that time). Unfortunately, those memories clouded my judgment in 1997 we started out later than we should have and I ignored the signs saying something like if you reach this sign after such and such a time, you are advised to turn round now because it will be too hot later on. Needless to say, by the time I realized we couldnt make it to Plateau Point (around the 4 mile point) and we turned around, our return trip was hard, hot, and pretty unpleasant. The good news is that there were a number of water stations along the way and we did make it out but I worried that Id turned Jesse off hiking for life. However, that night at our campsite he was still enthusiastic and we vowed to do a father/son hike to the bottom one day.
He did lose interest in hiking and camping during the interesting teen years that followed, but he and his fiancée are now keen hikers (they actually completed a 2-3 week camping trip in California, Arizona, and Utah last year) and he still reminds me every now and then that we have to make that father/son hike soon. When that happens, well do so in memory of my dad, who also hiked part of the way into the Grand Canyon with me one time he would have loved to be with us.
You know youre a dad when
your wallet starts emptying. Im joking. Sort of.
As my 18-month-old son continues to grow, and my wife and I fall into our respective roles as parents, I feel like an anthropologist watching male-female gender role patterns play out before my very eyes. Which means my wife is doling out kisses and I am doling out money.
Of course, being a dad is more than just spending money. I cherish doing my share of day-to-day care for our little guy; I read books to him, play silly games, and I show him lots of affection. All in the hopes that someday he will have enough money to pay me back for all of this. Just kidding!
And of course my wife doesnt just shower our child with love - she is as much a financial provider for the family as I am, and she spends money, too. Like when she bought that Kiss-o-matic 76, which allows her to kiss our child more. Again, I kid such a machine does not exist
But in all seriousness, we just opened a college savings account a 529 plan for our son. It was yet another in a long line of events that have made it very real that I am a dad. You mean, one day I am going to have a child in college? And it will cost how much? (For those of you wondering, the average cost of one year at a private college is estimated to be $76,406 in 2027; public college, here we come!)
The interesting thing about this process is that my wife really pushed me to take the lead in opening our account. Like it was dads job to do this. And I think, on the whole, dads are the ones who take care of this sort of thing for their families. Thats why most investment and insurance companies market to men and/or fathers. It speaks to our instinct to provide for and protect our families.
Interestingly, the guy who I worked this all out with is a new dad himself. You may know him as this guest blogger on this very blog
. Sean and I observed together that now that we are dads, we have to take very seriously the need to plan ahead for our families.
And that is a central part of being a dad sacrificing the now for the future. Gone are the days of using that extra money to buy cool (but useless) gadgets, fancier cars, and expensive nights out with your friends. That extra money is for our kids now.
Do you have any examples of how you had to sacrifice in the present to make for a better future for your kids? Please share!
At NFI, Julys theme is "The Great Outdoors," with the tagline Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids this Summer
. With this in mind, I was reminded of a compelling commercial by Zebco,
a leading provider of fishing tackle. It's titled Dont let your kids be the the ones that get away." (Check it out here
What a powerful reminder to all dads this summer that life is not so much about what you do, but rather, it's about who youre with, the memories and the relationships that are formed and strengthened.