This is a post by Mike Yudt, NFI's Director of National Programming. Mike, his wife Kelly, and their two sons are avid campers. Mike shares his thoughts on camping with young kids as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."
I often hear many people say that they do not like the idea of camping and cant understand its appeal. Ill be the first to admit that camping is not for everyone. And among those who do camp, there can be a sense of competition as to what is really camping and what is not. To me, that whole discussion misses the point.
The beauty of the outdoors is that it's something that all can enjoy in some form or another. In a day and age when so many jobs keep people tied to an office, it is critical to impart a love for the outdoors into your children at an early age. It will bring balance to their lives and a sense of rejuvenation. After all, who doesnt like a breath of fresh air after a long period of being indoors?
So, as a father of two young boys (three and one), I along with my wife decided to break them into camping at an early age. With both of them, their first camping trip came within their first five months of life. Ill never forget those first camping trips and the ones that have followed. Children, especially very young children, have a way of expressing awe at the beauty of nature in ways that we as adults cannot fully understand or appreciate. My wife and I are getting glimpses of this as we watch our boys respond to every sound of nature, point to every animal, and pick up every stick or rock around them for a close examination.
The beauty of camping, especially for children, lies in this: its a break from the routine of sleeping inside in the comfort of a bed. It represents an adventure
An adventure that your kids will surely love if they are introduced to it at an early age and with a positive attitude.
If a child grows up camping, he or she will undoubtedly like it because they dont know any different. I understand that for some adults camping is a stretch. The idea of roughing it in the woods apart from a bathroom facility, water or electricity just doesnt sound like a good time. My encouragement is to find a form of camping that meets your needs. Maybe thats pitching a tent in your backyard or in the yard of someone you know. Maybe you secure a camp site at a state park that has all of the amenities you need: restroom facilities close by, running water and the option of reserving a site with an electrical outlet.
Whatever you do
commit to exposing your kids to the outdoors as much as possible. If you do, Im convinced that in the end we will have happier, healthier children who can someday be in a better position to find those quiet , peaceful places to turn to in order to decompress from all that is happening in the world around them. Just one dads thoughts
Some time ago, I was speaking to a gentleman who did a fair amount of consulting for General Motors in the area of auto safety. He recounted how, in recent years, GM had shifted its focus and philosophy for auto safety from crash resistance (making cars that withstand crashes with minimal damage) to crash avoidance (make cars that can sense and avoid crashes before they occur).
As I listened, it stuck me that this was a wonderful and challenging metaphor for fathering. As dads, are we trying to build children that can avoid societal crashes (e.g., drugs, crime and teen pregnancy) before they occur? Or are we satisfied to try and salvage their broken lives, hoping for minimal damage once the crashes of life occur? Something to think about...
It seems if you want to be a superhero these days, you need to have some drama with your father.
The title characters in the two big superhero movies I have seen this summer, Thor and The Green Lantern, are motivated primarily by their relationships with their fathers.
This is noteworthy, because I think it is part of a larger trend in Hollywood that I started tracking when I wrote my masters thesis 4 years ago on the depiction of fathers in blockbuster movies.
In Thor, brothers Thor and Loki compete for their father Odins love and attention. Thor, the older of the two, is the rightful heir, which causes jealousy on Lokis part. Nevertheless, Odin banishes Thor from their home planet of Asgard due to his reckless behavior, which he sees as making him unfit to be king.
Without spoiling the film or going into too much detail, one of Thors primary motivators for the remainder of the film is to prove to his father that he has what it takes to follow in his fathers footsteps and be king.
In The Green Lantern, hero Hal Jordans humble beginnings include seeing his combat pilot father killed in a jet crash. Right before the horrific scene unfolds, young Hal asks his dad Are you afraid? to which his father replies, Its my job not to be.
Thus, Hal spends the first few decades of his life behaving recklessly to prove that he, too, is not afraid of anything. He also becomes a daring fighter pilot, like his father before him. In fact, the very reason he is chosen to be a Green Lantern is because he is seemingly fearless. He of course is not fearless, but is successful in his superhero endeavors because he has a certain humanity, provided by his stark memories of his father, that allow him to overcome his fear.
I enjoyed both films, although they certainly had their flaws. The strong fatherhood themes made them interesting enough for fun summer entertainment. The fact that I saw both films in stunning Real 3D had, of course, nothing to do with my enjoyment of them.
The question I have for our readers is this: What do you think it means that the writers of these stories (which of course got their start as comic books many years ago) decided that the most compelling motivators for these superheroes were their relationships with their fathers?
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven; A time to be born and a time to die. --Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
My beloved black lab Zeke died this past Saturday, and it was a very difficult experience for me. He was 15 years and 7 months old105 in dog years so I knew that it was just a matter of time. But, as my wife, Yvette, and I comforted him as he breathed his last and as my tears began to flow, I realized why Zekes death was impacting me so deeply. It wasnt just him who was dying. An important part of mea season of my lifewas dying too.
You see, when I brought Zeke into our family many years ago, he was a present for my young sonsJamin and Justin. He was to be their dog and taking care of him was going teach them a critical life lesson
how to be responsible for another. But, Zeke was not your ordinary dog. He was a special bundle of joy and a veritable love machine, and it wasnt long before he was not just theirs but he was mine tooone of my boys.
Somehow, he had firmly and permanently leashed himself to my heartjust like his two-legged brothers. In fact, its pretty hard to think about being a young father with my sons without thinking about Zeke.
And, thats why his death was so hard for me. My sons, now men, left their season of boyhood years ago. Alas, it was my job as their father to make sure that this was so. However, truth be told, while I was so pleased to watch them become the men they are now, I mourned the loss of the boys that they once were. But Zeke, a faithful and constant presence, was my solace.
Now he is gone and I will miss him. He was such a good boy.
So, we buried Zeke in rich black topsoil in our backyard, just outside our kitchen window. My wife, ever the green thumb, has already planted flowers and bulbs that are sure to bloom for many seasons to come. These blooms will be bitter as a daily reminder of loss, yet very sweet as a memorial to a life, and to lives, that I love.
In the weeks and the months to come, I will make my peace with this new normal, just as I did when my other boys left. Seasons change and life must always goes on. That is the way of time.
This months focus at NFI is Dad Cents, and our plan is to give dads sound advice about ways that dads can improve their kids financial literacy.
Since I worked in banking, this area is near and dear to my heart. Indeed, I often use financial lingo when I am discussing fatherhood principles. For example, I talk about how important it is to invest in your childs life and how critical it is for dads to make regular, substantial, and consistent deposits in their childrens relationship bank accounts. After all, chances are that one day like when a daughter wants to date a junior member of the Hells Angels or a son wants to tattoo the name of his most recent girlfriend across his forehead you may have to make a huge withdrawal. Frankly, if you have not made these deposits, the conversation could sound something like this
(SceneYou rush into the lobby of the 'First National Bank of Your 15-year-old Daughters Heart' and quickly approach her window.)
Your Daughter: Good afternoon. How may I help you?
You: Hi. I need make a big withdrawal fast!
Your Daughter: Ok, sir. No problem. Could you please let me see some ID?
(You hand her a copy of her birth certificate where you are listed as Father.)
Your Daughter: Everything looks in order, Dad. Please wait just a minute while I check your account.
(She turns away from you but then gets a strange look on her face.)
You: Is there a problem?
Your Daughter: Yes, sort of. I clearly see that you opened an account here a long time ago, but it doesnt appear to have a sufficient balance for you to make a big withdrawal. When was the last time that you made a deposit?
You: Well, I dont remember. I guess its been a while. You know, I have been very busy working and stuff like that. But, my wife has been making lots of deposits. Seems like every time I turn around she is heading here. Since we are married, cant I just make a withdrawal from her account?
Your Daughter: Dad, no you cant because we dont offer joint accounts here.
You: Oh yeah
I remember hearing that. What about a loan? Can I get one of those?
Your Daughter: Im sorry
We dont offer loans either. You can only withdraw what you have deposited.
(You start to get a bit upset
You: Well that just doesnt seem fair! I clearly have an account. And, well, I need to make a withdrawal. Cant you make an exception? After all, I am DAD.
Your Daughter: Dad. I am sorry. I just cant help you...
(You are becoming more upset
You: Well, doggone it, I am not going to take no for answer.
(Your daughter gets a concerned and stern look on her face and you can see her reaching under the counter to push the button for security.)
Your Daughter: As I said, I cant help you. You knew the rules when you opened the account. How can you expect to withdraw funds that you didnt deposit? Thats just not the way it works here. All you had to do was make consistent deposits. Even small ones would have been fine because interestyour interestwould have compounded these deposits substantially over time. Taking deposits that dont belong to you is, well, robbery. So, I need to ask you to leave now. Or, do I need to call security?
A few nights ago, while I was doing my P90X
workout (yes, thats a shameless plug.), I decided to check out the latest The Simpsons episode on Hulu. Ironically, the title of the show was Angry Dad: The Movie, so I knew that I was in for a treat
not. You see, The Simpsons show has made millions for decades buffoonorizing dads in the form of Homer Simpson. Thanks to the shows handy work, when millions of adults and kids are asked to name a TV dad, Homer is sure the top the list. Not Cliff Huxtable. Homer.
Lets face it. When it comes to TV dads, we have gone from Father Knows Best to father knows nothing. The vast majority of dads on TV, in series or commercials, are portrayed as dumb, dangerous or disaffected. Generally, fathers are not just the butt of the joke, they are the butt
In any case, in the episode, an executive visited the Simpson home because he came across an animated cartoon that Bart created titled Angry Dad, which chronicled Homers immature antics. The executive thought this cartoon was great, so much so that he convinced a Hollywood studio to make it into a movie. So, the family headed to Hollywood to get it done. Interestingly, as Bart and the executive were heading in to see the movie producers, the executive assured him that the movie had real potential. In fact, he said, Everyone has an angry dad
even me. And then the scene showed a flashback 'thought bubble' of the executives dad yelling at him as a small boy.
Well, it turned out that the executive was right. The Angry Dad movie won a Golden Globe and an Oscar, of course, with Homer playing the part of the angry and inconsiderate dad through each award show.
Now, I like a good joke as much as anyone. After all, I recently blogged
about my deep affection for the much-maligned fanny pack. But, I really think that there is a problem here, especially since the show's success is built upon the notion of the idiot dad that is so prevalent and damaging in our culture. Indeed, media has power to shape norms, attitudes and behaviors. (Just think about how many glee clubs have formed recently due to the success of Glee.) Also, its worth noting that in our recent national survey of fathers called Pops Culture
, dads cited media/pop culture as the second biggest obstacle to good fathering.
Moreover, as I have watched the show over the years, I have detected a very clear pattern. If you rank the characters based on who is responsible and competent, the list goes like this:
3. Maggie (a non speaking infant)
6. Abe (Homers father)
Interestingly, in a non-fiction book called The Psychology of The Simpsons: D'oh!, which analyzed the psychological themes in the show, authors Alan Brown, Ph.D. and Chris Logan described Abe Simpson as follows:
Abe has the least amount of "power" in the Simpson family, and he is treated as little more than a child and is often ignored.
Doh! Indeed. And, come to think of it, the one dad on the show that really cares about his kids, Ned Flanders, is often made to look like an idiot as well, even by Homer.
So, before the legions of The Simpsons fans tell me that I am overacting and Dont have a cow, man, I need to hear from the fathers. Are you an angry dad? I wasnt before watching this The Simpson episode. Now
I am not so sure.
I just watched the film, What Doesnt Kill You, with Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke. Ruffalo and Hawke play childhood friends (Brian and Paulie) who get involved in Bostons organized crime scene, landing them both in prison.
In addition to the obvious victims of their crimes, Brian leaves behind a few other equally important victims his wife and two children.
His relationship with his wife is frayed before he even goes to jail as a result of his drug habit, violent outbursts, and lack of involvement in his childrens lives. When he leaves prison after a 5-year sentence, his wife seems willing to give him a second chance. Unfortunately, he starts falling into the same habits again, and is on the brink of completely ruining the second chance he has been given.
Paulie is now out of jail, too, and they are about to attempt an armored car heist. But shortly before the day of the heist, Brian has a conversation with his older son, Mark, who is about 10-years-old. Mark is sitting on the front step of their house, looking kind of sad, and Brian tells him that he is sorry for messing up. He tells his son that he is very proud of the man he is becoming, and then asks him what he can do to be a better father. His son simply says, Dont leave us again.
Where do I start?
First, if you know any 10-year-old boys, you know that they are often not very talkative, and especially not when it comes to emotional situations like this. So, for Mark to make this admission this way is very powerful.
Second, we often overcomplicate what it means to be a good father. Sure, there are skills that are needed, and habits that must be formed. But the most important thing -- the thing that children (the real experts on what fathers need to do) often articulate best -- is simply dads presence.
This is not to be underestimated. In a world where there are so many things competing for our attention, and in which there are so many temptations to succumb to, especially for men, it is easy to forget just how much a dads presence in the home communicates to his children.
A dads presence tells his children that there is nothing else in the world more important to him than them. Roland Warren, NFIs president, calls it thereness. No one else can do this for you. The best role model or mentor in the world cant show children what it means for their own father to actually be there.
The night before the heist is to take place, Brian envisions himself getting caught and being sent back to jail. After talking to his son, he knows this is not an option. He tells Paulie he cant do it. Fortunately, Paulie understands.
The movie then closes with a scene of Brian sitting in the stands at his sons football game. Mark makes a good play on the field, and then looks into the crowd and sees his dad stand up and raise his fist in the air to cheer him on. Cut to black.
What doesnt kill you? Being the kind of father your children need you to be, thats what.
There once was a dad named Roland
Whose name sounded a bit like Holland
He often wore a pack
Near his fanny, in fact
And now the fashion world says
That he’s stylin'
Last week, this WSJ article
informed us that the much maligned “fanny pack” is all the rage on catwalks from New York to Paris. NFI posted this article on Twitter and the tweets began flying quickly about how no self respecting dad would be found dead or alive in one of these.
Well, as a dad and fan of said pack, I felt compelled to come clean and "represent."
Now, it has been a few years, but when my sons were young and we were traveling, I proudly called the fanny pack my faithful and convenient friend. Granted, our relationship was more about substance than style. It enabled me to always have exactly what I needed for my very active sons at my finger tips, yet still be hands-free.
Let’s face it. The fanny pack has some other impressive and quite manly fans, such as rock climbers and first responder EMTs. It makes sense. As a dad (especially a new one) on many occasions I certainly felt like I was hanging on for dear life. And, good dads are nothing if not first responders to their children’s needs.
So, there you have it. I have laid myself bare--with my fanny pack strategically positioned, of course. And, in the slightly modified famous words of Martin Luther, as he stood before an inquisition, I say: “Here I stand. I can do no other…”
This past weekend, disgraced financier Bernard Madoffs oldest son, Mark, took his life in a dramatic fashion. He hung himself with a dogs leash from a ceiling pipe in his living room, while his toddler son slept in a nearby bedroom. No doubt, Mark Madoff had been deeply troubled for some time since he turned his father over to law enforcement almost two years ago from the day of his death. Indeed, his dreadful end was yet another poignant example of how the sins of a father can impact his children and his grandchildren as well.
Ironically, a few weeks ago, I was reading a Wall Street Journal article about the problems that Mark encountered trying to find work in the financial services industry. Despite decades of experience and his considerable connections, no Wall Street firm would touch him. There is a proverb in the Bible that says, A good name is more desirable than riches; to be esteemed is better than silver and gold. Unfortunately, Mark was a Madoff and, in the minds of many, his name was now worthless, useful only as an expletive or the punchline of a late night comedians joke.
I think that there is an important lesson from the Madoffs family tragedy that all dads should heed and consider daily, especially when they are tempted to behave immorally. The very first and most valuable gift that any father will ever give to a child is his name. But, his name only has worth to his child if it reflects of a life that is lived with integrity and good character. Remember, good character is more easily kept than restored. So too is a good name
With the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat are favored by many to win the NBA Championship this year. Wade is ranked as one of the top 5 basketball players, was contracted with the Heat for $14 million, and has over 750,000 Twitter followers. He certainly has a lot of pressure and high expectations riding on him. However, off the court Wade has much more on his shoulders -- the future of two little boys.
Wade has two sons and is in the middle of an extremely public and messy divorce. More important than any championship or million dollar salary, Wade has a responsibility to teach his boys about being good dads, good men, and about treating the most important woman in their lives with respect.
When asked about divorce, 76% of children think it should be harder to obtain. It comes as no surprise when you look at the impact of divorce on children. Financial status aside, children who are the product of divorce are three times more likely to divorce themselves in their adult lives. Additionally, children of divorce suffer from increased emotional and behavioral problems.
Dwayne Wades $14 million salary will not be a solution for the future of his sons. More importantly, he has to model what an involved, responsible, and committed father looks like, and he has to treat his sons mother with respect, regardless of what they may think of each other. How both mothers and fathers model their parenting and relationships before, during, and after divorce is what their children will learn and pass on themselves.
Parents owe it to their children to treat each other with respect and to cooperate in the best interests of their children. With that task ahead of him, Dwayne Wade has something more important than an NBA championship to focus on.