Friday, April 30, 2010

Getting sacked from “the blind side”

Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President, had this to say about the Sandra Bullock divorce:

Few are surprised that Sandra Bullock filed for divorce last Friday from Jesse James, who admitted to having an affair while Bullock was filming The Blind Side. It's ironic and sad that Bullock's husband abandoned his marriage vows while she won an Academy Award for a movie about a strong, intact family. As we’ve said numerous times on The Father Factor related to Tiger Woods, Jon Gosselin, and Steve McNair, when celebrities violate their marriage vows, it’s not only publicly humiliating, but it leaves a hurtful legacy for their children.

What makes the Bullock-James divorce unique from other celebrity splits is that they were in the process of adopting a 3 ½-month-old boy from New Orleans named Louis, whom Bullock will now raise as a single mom. James has said that losing Louis has "left a huge hole in [his] heart."

Interesting choice of words… NFI President Roland C. Warren often says that children have a hole in their soul in their shape of their dad, and when their dad is not able or willing to fill that hole it leaves wounds that aren’t easily healed.

Little Louis will now join the ranks of the 24 million children growing up without their fathers, and, given the actions of the man who almost was his adoptive father, the hole in his heart could bring some unique pain.

New York Times columnist David Brooks addresses Bullock’s simultaneous cinematic success and relational troubles, and more specifically what family breakdown says about our culture’s priorities, in an article titled "The Sandra Bullock Trade." Brooks connects the dots between marital happiness and overall well-being – a connection that he says our culture doesn’t make very well in how we educate our youth, where we focus more on preparing for careers than preparing to make social decisions.

NFI agrees with Brooks that we need to invest more time in preparing youth to make good decisions – and we think marriage is one of the most important ones. Thus we created Why Knot?, a marriage-readiness program designed to prepare young men to make the decision to get married and subsequently to be good husbands to their wives (and by extension, good fathers to their kids). For pre-teen boys, we created Boyz2Dads, an interactive CD-ROM that helps boys prepare to make good choices related to relationships and peer pressure.

Jesse James’s behavior has not provided a good example of a husband and father to his children, but he seems to be on the right road toward fixing that by admitting his faults and seeking help. Meanwhile, NFI is working to promote a culture that prepares youth for the important responsibilities of being a husband and father – a mission we take seriously when so many children like Louis lack that role model. We don’t want to see other families, as Brooks puts it, “getting sacked from the spiritual blind side.”

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Council of Dads

Yesterday, an amazing new book about fatherhood was released, The Council of Dads (Harper Collins), by best-selling author, Bruce Feiler.

NFI has had the pleasure of getting to know Bruce over the last few months, and there are several things in the works to link our "missions." Stay tuned for more on that....

As for the book, The Council of Dads is one of the most moving tributes to fatherhood I have ever read. It deals with life, death, love, cancer, male friendship, and the profoundly positive impact of a loving father and husband on his children's lives.

You can buy the book here. I could not more strongly recommend this book!

To give you a better idea of the amazing man and storyteller Bruce is, check out his segment from The Today Show yesterday morning.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

There is a Reason for the Gaping Hole in My Trousers

Ah, the joys of fatherhood!

This morning, as I was dropping my little guy off at day care, I bent over to pick up his diaper bag and heard a thunderous roar come from behind. No, it wasn't that. It was the sound of my pants splitting.

So, there I was, in a room full of infants, toddlers, and women, with a six inch tear right down the buttocks of my nice pants. Fortunately, I was wearing a jacket, so I could conceal the "important stuff," but it was still embarrassing.

It was 8:20, I have to be at work at 8:30, and home is 25 minutes away. Doesn't take a math genius to figure out that I would be late to work. And I had someone coming in for an interview at 9.

So, I finished handing the baby off to the kind day care people (who were shielding their eyes), and headed home to change my pants.

If this happened to me a year ago, I probably would have been a lot more flustered and upset by the situation. But the fact that I ripped my pants open for a noble cause - getting my son safely in the hands of his caretakers - made it seem not so bad.

The lesson here, if there is one, is that having a child does indeed change everything. It made an impatient guy who hates being late not care about being late.

Tomorrow, I plan to have my shirt burst open while I lift my child out of his car seat.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Keeping the Father in the Family & Keeping the Scholar in Scholar-Athlete

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 Rolle’s 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 my—shall we say—hindquarters and get it in the game. That’s “coachspeak” for think. So, it makes me wonder if there is not something else going on here. Could it be that some don’t want other college players to follow Rolle’s 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, it’s not hard to see why Rolle has taken the path that he has. On hearing Billick’s comments, Rolle’s 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 couldn’t agree more…Fortunately, Rolle has gotten some good coaching at home over the years.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Absent children?

I just read this on "Motherlode," the parenting blog of The New York Times: "A recent poll in Great Britain found that one in 10 adults speak by phone with his or her mother just once every four weeks... Why are grown children so absent?"

If grown children speak so infrequently to their moms, think about how little they speak to their dads! After all, we know that in both Great Britain and the United States, it is more often fathers who are absent from their children's lives than mothers.

So, at least with fathers, my guess is that absent fathers breed "absent" children. Makes sense. But what is the explanation for children being "absent" from their moms' lives?

Interestingly, we know from research that father absence can also play a role. Bear with me...

Studies have found that children whose parents are married, have, on average, better relationships with both their mothers and their fathers. Further, children of divorce, when they become adults, are less close to both their parents than children whose parents remained married. How about elder care? Yep - children whose parents divorced are less likely to offer their elderly parents co-residence.

So, it seems that at least part of the issue with children absent from their moms' lives is that their fathers were absent from theirs (in the case of my illustration, as a result of divorce, which impacts about 1 million children per year).

This may sound like a stretch. What do you think?

Monday, April 19, 2010

First Day of Day Care

This morning, my wife and I dropped off three-month-old Vinny for his first day in day care. It is also, of course, my wife's first day back at work since January. It was an emotional morning, especially for my wife. Really, this episode highlights one of the differences between moms and dads.

For the most part, I was excited to see the little guy in a new environment with all kinds of new things and people to learn about. I, of course, was a little sad to be leaving him with someone other than mom, who has been the greatest caretaker he will ever have.

But while I was "a little sad," my wife was very sad. There were tears. She is going to miss the baby very much. She has been caring for him every day and night for three months, and now someone else is going to be in charge of that. I imagine she is going through some very complex emotions right now. I did my best to comfort her, but I know it is going to take a few days, or even weeks, for her to get used to leaving her "prince" in someone else's hands.

Or maybe she will never get used to it. In fact, it is probably a healthy sign for a mother to always believe that she is her own baby's best nurturer. After all, I would not want to live in a society that is too comfortable with the idea of parents offhandedly leaving their children for other people to take care of in their place.

For now, we simply understand that this is an economic reality for our family that we both have to work. Fortunately, the baby is in very caring hands. But it still does not make it easy...

Does anyone remember the first day they left their little one in day care? Any stories?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lifelong Commitment

Mike Yudt, NFI's Director of Donor Relations, and his wife, Kelly, just welcomed their second child, Joshua. Mike shares his thoughts on his growing family and meeting his little guy:

How quickly things can happen… It was the night of Sunday, March 28th and my wife (Kelly) and I went to bed getting ready for another week. We were nearing the due date of our second child and little did we know that he would come that very night. Kelly woke me up around 12:30am to let me know that she was having some contractions. However, I didn’t think much of it as she had been having sporadic ones over the course of the past couple of weeks. So, not convinced that this was the “real deal”, I quickly fell back asleep. :)

About 30 minutes later I was awoken from a deep sleep to the sound of “I’m not kidding you.” Hearing the tone in my wife’s voice, I sprung to action. We scrambled throughout the house; the contractions were coming faster and faster each time, and increasing in intensity. It really felt like a scene out of a movie.

After arriving at the hospital, we learned that Kelly was pretty far along and that she would likely start pushing in 10-15 minutes. After hearing all of these things and trying my best to help Kelly with the breathing techniques, I almost did the stereotypical thing and pass out in the delivery room. However, after I sat down and caught my breath, I was able to pull it all together to be there for my wife. (Needless to say, I will never again look down upon guys who actually do pass out in the delivery room.)

When the big moment arrived with that final push (4:26am), I had the privilege of welcoming our son into this world by being the first person to say his name: “Joshua.” Prior to that moment, my wife and I did not know whether we were having a boy or a girl. (an intentional decision on our part)

It was such a joy to hold Joshua for the first time. During that precious moment, I took the opportunity to verbally affirm to him that I will always be in his corner and by his side. That’s a commitment that is sealed in my heart, just like the one I made to my first son Caleb and the vows that I made to my wife on our wedding day. I have great hope for my children and believe that God has big plans for their lives. As their father, I believe it is my responsibility to see this belief and desire become a reality. And that is not something that I take lightly…

Now that I’m back at work after two weeks of paternity leave, my commitment to the National Fatherhood Initiative’s (NFI’s) work is as strong as ever. My passion for NFI is fueled by my desire to see more and more fathers throughout the country make lifelong commitments to their children…. While seeing this type of societal change can at times be an uphill battle, it’s a mountain worth climbing…

Mike and his son, Joshua.

Monday, April 12, 2010

AT&T and Father Unfriendly Ads

I saw this commercial at the gym this weekend and almost fell off the treadmill in disbelief. What self-respecting marketing pros still think it is ok to portray dad as a bumbling idiot? Imagine the commercial with the roles reversed - would it still be funny? Of course not...a mother who can't soothe her child isn't really funny. But looking like a moronic dad is somehow still ok to the folks in marketing at AT&T. Lovely.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tiger and Nike...Really?

So while we're on the theme of of father-friendly or father-focused ads, Nike released a new Tiger Woods ad yesterday, featuring the voice of his late father, Earl Woods. Here are the pearls of fatherly wisdom that he shares during this commercial (in which Tiger is eerily still and silent):

Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion, I want to find out what your thinking was, I want to find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything?

Oh, there are so many things we could say here - and many of those things are already being said. It's too soon, it's poor taste, it's ill-conceived, it's creepy. Not to mention the fact that who knows what Earl (with transgressions of his own) would say to Tiger.

You know what is interesting here? It's still all about Tiger. Flash back to his press conference a few months ago:

I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn't apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself.

And now an out-of-context quote from his late father asks to know what Tiger has learned and what Tiger is thinking? Has Tiger asked the same of his children? His wife?

No, I'm not saying I want an ad with Tiger and his family and no I don't think they should be followed around paparazzi-style as they work through these issues. But, Tiger's "indefinite leave" to focus on his marriage and family and recover from what would appear to be a pervasive, rampant sex addiction has not even lasted six months.

No one can know if Tiger's heart has changed or how his family is healing...but I have a hard time believing that everyone is already well on the road to recovery and ready for tournaments and ad campaigns...even ad campaigns that are selling shame and penitence.

Clearly, Nike has accomplished what it wanted/needed to. We're all taking about this ad...linking to it...blogging about it. Tiger and Nike are back in the spotlight, but who knows where his family will end up?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Father-Friendly Ad...

We really like Chevy's new ads that show dads being thoughtful and loving and fun...instead of resorting to the tired theme of making him look like an incompetent buffoon.

Scavenger Hunt

The other ad's embed code is disabled but if you search "Chevy Traverse Father Daughter Commercial" on youtube, you'll find it!

Great job, Chevy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lessons from a New Dad

As followers of this blog know, on January 15, my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world. He got my name (Vincent), and my wife’s good looks.

I really did not know exactly what to expect when I became a dad. I picked up a lot of great skills beforehand, but the experience itself has been my best teacher.

So, now that he is 10 weeks old, I thought I would pass on the most important principles I have picked up on this first leg of the fatherhood journey. Since my son is a “chip off the old block,” here are my CHIPS for being a new dad.

Compassion. For the first several weeks of fatherhood, both mom and baby are in relatively frail states. They need your compassion. Mom likely has just gone through the most painful experience of her life (my wife did natural childbirth), and the baby has just been plucked from the warmth and comfort of the womb to face a bright, cold world. Be as compassionate as possible for them both.

Humor. Without a sense of humor, you will not survive. When you are awoken for the third time in the middle of the same night, you can either laugh or cry. I suggest laughing. You’ll live longer.

Imagination. Just about everything you do as a new dad is going to be something you have never done before. There really isn’t a non-baby-related analog to changing a diaper. Maybe if you are Greek and have wrapped ground beef in grape leaves, you will have some idea of what is ahead. Otherwise, you are going to have to use your imagination at all turns in order to figure out things like applying diaper ointment, bathing a squirming, slippery infant, and other new daddy tasks.

Patience. With a newborn, patience really is a virtue – perhaps the highest virtue. You will make mistakes. You will get frustrated. You will long for the days when the baby will respond to you, talk to you, and read with you. But be patient. This time of the baby’s life is just as important, and you are just as important during this time, too.

Serving. You will spend much of your time as a new dad serving others (hint: the mom and the baby). Don’t view this as something you are above. In fact, being a servant is an integral part of being a leader (look it up). Embrace your role as someone who can be relied on to help mom and baby, and the rewards will come back to you in spades.

In the Name of April Fools

Okay, so this isn't actually an April Fools prank, but it is hilarious, so I thought I'd share what we're all laughing at in the office this morning.

There's not much to say, other than I think every parent has had a moment like this. I think his reaction to what happens shows that he is anything but a "horrible father." And who knew that Beyonce's "Single Ladies" would have the power to make little kids cry. (Also, who is taping this video...?)