Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dads must help deal with bullies...

There has been quite a bit in the news lately regarding the impact of bullying on our nation's children. Accordingly, I thought that you would find of interest this article that I wrote about my personal experience of being bullied as a kid as well as how I handled a situation when my son was bullied. Dads have a key role to play on this issue.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fit to Retire

From Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President:

My father turned 50 at the beginning of this summer. He’s in great health, but I got a little worried when I noticed that he kept having doctor’s appointments recently. I asked him last week what was going on. He assured me that he was just getting his 50-year check-ups… physical, colonoscopy, prostate exam, cardio test, etc. And everything is fine!

I asked Dad why he thought it was important that he get these check-ups now that he’s 50. I expected him to say something about keeping up with his kids (there’s seven of us – the younger ones are still in high school or elementary school!) and being active for the many grandkids that we’ll be giving him in the future. (My dad figures that since he had seven kids, he should expect to have 49 grandkids. In his dreams, I say!)

I was a bit surprised by his answer to why he’s getting these check-ups. “So I can make sure I have many years to enjoy with your mom after you kids leave.” But when I thought about it, that makes sense. He is in good health now, so no cause for worry, and he is an active and involved father – going to my siblings’ sports games, helping them with homework, guiding them through the teen and young adult years. Parenting consumes an incredible amount of my mom and dad’s time and energy right now.

But eventually those responsibilities will be over. My youngest sisters will move out in about 10 years, and then it’ll be just Mom and Dad. Sure, they’ll always be there for us as adults. But they will only have to worry about taking care of themselves. Dad is taking steps today to make sure that those empty-nest years will be healthy and full of life, just like the parenting years. It will be a different kind of vibrant life, though – hopefully much calmer and less busy without a van-full of kids to cart around!

I’m glad that my dad is taking care of himself physically. But I also appreciate his motive for doing that – his commitment to Mom for life. Dad has every intention of staying healthy so he can enjoy a much-earned retirement and spend it with my mother. As their daughter, that gives me a great sense of security and a good example to follow.

Friday, October 22, 2010

NFI and Supporters Race to End Father Absence

This past Sunday, NFI participated in the Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause 8k as the culmination of our fit2father campaign, a six-week initiative designed to help fathers and their families live healthier lifestyles. Fathers and families from around the country took the fit2father pledge and the Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause allowed D.C. fit2father participants the opportunity to show their support for NFI and the issue of involved fatherhood!

From NFI staff and family, to local runners, and DC-area supporters, the NFI team had a strong presence. Daddy bloggers like Matt from DC Urban Dad also joined the NFI team as we raced to end father absence.

Acumen Managing Director and NFI Board Member, Andy Schoka, connected NFI to this opportunity. “This year’s Race for a Cause event was our best yet and Acumen Solutions is thrilled to have the NFI participate as one of our benefiting non-profit partners," said Shocka. "The 8K race was challenging and the 1 mile fun run was perfect for families and really aligns well with the NFI’s fit2father message. I’m incredibly thankful for the difference the NFI is making and I’m pleased with the opportunity for Acumen Solutions to help contribute to the NFI’s mission for years to come.”

Missed out on fit2father? Stay tuned! We'll be launching our next opportunity for to get involved in one week!

Guest post: Porn - You're Not the Only One

This is a guest post from author Angus Nelson about a topic many fathers struggle with, but few talk about.

Can you imagine sitting across from your children telling them you’d failed them and mommy because of the fantasies you’d concocted while getting carpal tunnel in front of the blue glow of a computer monitor?

These are the things no man would ever wish to endure... yet, that doesn’t stop us from contributing to a $13 billion dollar enterprise called porn.

It’s everywhere isn’t it? No matter where you go, you’re susceptible to viewing images that stimulate a very real and human nature. Worse yet, we’re designed to respond to it. How are we supposed to resist something so very... normal? Well, that’s the problem. There are people in the world that thrive on manipulating you to fill their wallet.

If you’re addicted to porn, here’s what I know about you: You don’t like yourself. You struggle with relationships. You have issues with stress, shame, and/or false expectations placed upon yourself or by others.

I’m here to tell you, “YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE.”

Porn cost me everything. I lost my marriage, my business, my passion, and drive due to this corrosive habit. I know what it’s like to struggle and fail... time and time again. Porn is a crappy habit to kick.

But here's the deal - the real question is not, "How do I stop?" The gut level question is, "What am I willing to do to stop?"

How you answer that question will determine how successful you'll be at quitting.

Here are some steps to consider for recovery:

1. TALK about it with someone you trust
The more you can talk about it, the more you can heal. Just like a mold, if it’s left in the dark it will grow. Get this poison out into the light and address your need for accountability, confession, and forgiveness of self. Whether it's a friend, mentor, Pastor, or addiction group, find what you're comfortable with.

2. Cut it off/Stop the bleeding
You can get as extreme as trashing your TV or computer. You can install software that filters web surfing or blocks images completely. You can dump your cable. Only you know what’s going to work for you... but you HAVE TO BE REALLY HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Stop procrastinating and turn it off.

3. Pound your brain with good stuff
So many times, our self-worth is turned to mush in the abuses of porn. We feel bad, do bad, then feel worse only to do worse... a never-ending cycle. This is an opportunity for you to dive in headlong into reading self-help type books. Exclude the entertainment that only serves to aggravate you: news, talk radio, or horror flicks - KEEP POSITIVE STUFF ON THE BRAIN.

4. Search out your spiritual center
For me, my Christian faith helped me understand what God says about me, and I let that marinate in my brain. Since God loves me, I should love myself. Find the spiritual discipline that will help you understand your worth.

Keep it easy and achievable until you’re ready for the next level. Once you’re ready for that, there are resources you can explore - the internet is filled with help you can access.

You can start here with my story:

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Intended Consequences of an Old Spaniard

A few days ago, I asked my father-in-law how he met his wife. He told me that he was in the Air Force stationed in San Antonio and a buddy invited him to go to dance. His wife, who was in nursing school, attended the dance as well along with some of her friends. He saw her. They danced. They talked. And, he was smitten instantly and they started dating.

He also offered that soon thereafter she finished nursing school and moved back home to live with her parents in a little south Texas town called Mission. Since he was still stationed in San Antonio, he would make the long ride to see her every weekend that he could. Well, after a few trips to her home, he received a long letter from her father, who he called, “the Old Spaniard.” Interestingly, the letter was written in Castilian, which is formal Spanish and, although my father-in-law was fluent in Spanish, he needed help to translate it. In any case, he told me that the letter—despite its length—asked him a simple question: “What are your intentions with my daughter?”

He told me that he was not surprised by the question and, actually, he expected to be asked it at some point. Therefore, he knew that he needed to answer this important question well and quickly if he was to continue to see his beloved. So, on his next trip to Mission, he was on a “mission,” and he sat down with the Old Spaniard and told him that he planned to marry his daughter. And, he did.

Since this conversation with my father-in-law, I have thought often about the power and the purpose of the Old Spaniard’s question and how it forced my father-in-law to be publicly accountable for his intentions. The Old Spaniard wanted to make sure early that my father-in-law didn’t think that his daughter was an “amusement park” and he had a free ticket to ride. Nope, there were not going to be any “unintended consequences” because admission to his daughter’s heart came with a specific price the needed to be paid in advance.

Sadly, today too many fathers aren’t “Old Spaniards” and I believe that their daughters and their sons are worse off for it. Consequently, if you ask dating couples about their relationships and intentions, they tend to use terms like we’re “hanging out,” “chillin,” or “just kickin’ it.” Or, they will say that “we are just friends with benefits.” One of the problems is that these “benefits” too often turn into children who need good parents with firm intentions about raising them. Just imagine how few unintended pregnancies and unloved children there would be if more fathers asked the simple question that the Old Spaniard did.

Case and point, a few years ago, I counseled a couple who had gotten pregnant as college seniors. They were having big problems because the father was essentially abandoning his responsibilities and moving on with his life, while the mother was at risk to not graduate. Not surprisingly, the mother was furious.

As I began having conversations with them separately, it quickly became apparent that there was not, and never been, an Old Spaniard involved. You see, they were having premarital sex. However, she always believed that the father was the kind of guy who would marry her and build a family if they got pregnant, but this was never his intention. And, he thought that she was the kind of girl who would quickly get an abortion if she got pregnant, but this was never her intention. Now, they were both in a difficult long-term parenting relationship that neither wanted--whether they intended to have it or not.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is There a Father Absence Crisis?

With the release of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse's new series of ads, bloggers and news sites have been buzzing about the need for these ads and the fact that there is a father absence crisis in America. "Do we really need to 'sell' fatherhood?" is the question of the hour.

Several individuals have cast doubt on a statistic from our Pop's Culture and Mama Says surveys, which state that 9 out of 10 fathers and mothers believe there is a father absence crisis in America today.

But that is the wrong statistic on which to focus.

The real issue is not what we see in our circles of influence or what we believe about whether or not there is a problem. The real issue is that 1 out of 3 children - 24 million - are growing up without their biological father in the home.

When millions of fathers aren't involved in their children's lives, that's a crisis. Especially when you consider that children from father-absent homes are more likely to face depression or commit suicide, drop out of school, experience a teen pregnancy, and experiment with risky behaviors.

There is a place for these ads. Even for the many dads who are involved and present, these ads are a reminder that your kids need you and you have an irreplaceable role in their lives.

For more information about the facts of father absence, visit or

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guest post: Cooking Up a Connection

This is a guest post from daddy blogger Matt @ DCUrbanDad. Matt is a married father of a 2-year-old daughter. He likes tennis, running, and a good movie.

When it comes to the ways of the kitchen, I'm not too shabby. I mean, I'm no PJ Mullen from Real Men Drive Minivans, but for the most part, I can find my way around. I can do the basics. Ya know -- mix, chop, cut, and fry. I know how to use the crock pot and can whip up some french toast, some basil pesto, or some homemade mac & cheese.

Lately, however, cooking has become not only a way to eat, but also a way for my wife and I to connect with our full-of-energy 2-year-old daughter. A way to do something fun beyond the coloring, beyond the block building, and beyond Elmo.

If you have or have had a 2-year-old, you know that it's not easy to sit down and have a conversation with them. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible. At this point in their life, they are all emotion and have the attention span of a gnat. Even if you do get them for a few seconds, the responses to your questions are often 1 to 3 words. But even at this age, it’s important to set a precedent: the lines of communication are always open.

I know there will come a time when she will try to close that door. She will call me old. She will say that she wishes she had different parents. She will say that we just don't understand. I am hoping that by doing these things, like cooking together, we will create an atmosphere where we can openly talk about what's going on. So that later down the road it won't be forced. Rather it will feel like a natural part of family life.

Only time will tell.


The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.

Fatherhood Stories from the Chilean Mine

From Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President:

The entire world is celebrating the amazing ongoing rescue of 33 miners in Chile who have been trapped underground since August 5. Listening to the news reports of the first miners brought to the surface nearly brought tears to my eyes this morning. I spent a summer in Chile during college, so that country has a special place in my heart and I am sharing in the joy over the safe rescue of these men.

It’s incredibly moving to watch the live news feed of the reunions of the miners and their families. Many of these men are fathers, with wives, children, and parents who have camped outside the mine for the past two months to be as close as possible to their loved ones. One miner became a first-time father when his wife gave birth to a baby girl on day 40 of the entrapment. He watched the birth by video and asked his wife to name their daughter Esperanza, which means “hope.”

My heart especially goes out to the children of these men. I can’t even imagine the emotional turmoil that they’ve been through, unsure of their fathers’ fates and anxiously hoping for their rescue. The BBC posted a diary kept by the adult children of one of the entrapped miners, describing their emotions, their communication with their dad, and their experiences as they wait at the camp. The videos and pictures of the rescue proceedings show touching images of a little boy on the brink of tears awaiting his father’s rescue, of another boy led by rescue workers to the capsule to be the first to greet his dad before he even stepped out, and of a child happily taking pictures of his father in the medical clinic a few hours after his rescue.

For these children, the painful waiting is finally over. But I can’t help but think of the thousands of children around the world who are still waiting for their fathers to come back – from military deployments, from incarceration, or from business trips. Sadly, for many children, dad doesn’t come back.

But today is a day for rejoicing with the 33 Chilean families whose fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers have been miraculously rescued. My thoughts and prayers are with them as the miners recover physically, mentally, and emotionally from their ordeal and adjust to a new life with their families.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A day in NFI’s programming world

From Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President:

A key part of National Fatherhood Initiative’s work is to equip fathers to be the best dads they can be. Our staff in the National Programming department travel around the county training facilitators at community-based organizations, correctional facilities, and military bases on how to use NFI’s programs -- like 24/7 Dad™, InsideOut Dad™, and Doctor Dad™ -- to help dads.

I am a step or two removed from this work, because my role is to provide administrative support to the organization’s president, and I don’t normally work closely with the programming staff.

However, last week I had the privilege of spending a day in “programming world” by attending a 24/7 Dad™ Training Institute. It was great to see that side of NFI and hear first-hand stories from men and women who work directly with fathers.

A very diverse group of people participated in the training – from suburban moms running a domestic violence prevention program in Northern Virginia to guys working with men in urban St. Louis. People came from as far away as Georgia and Texas to learn how to use 24/7 Dad™. Some of the attendees worked with incarcerated men, some ran Head Start programs for families, and some worked at a church.

Despite the diversity of backgrounds, these 20 or so men and women became a community for the day, united by a shared passion to see fathers become more involved, responsible, and committed. The attendees were excited to find others engaged in the same challenges and to learn about a resource to help them and the dads in their community. They questioned each other between training segments on ways to handle certain situations, shared success stories and innovative ideas, and swapped contact info so they could stay in touch afterward.

At the end of the day, the participants were asked to describe in one word their experience at the 24/7 Dad™ training. “Equipped,” “inspired,” and “encouraged” were just a few of the words shared.

That described my day at the 24/7 Dad™ training, too. It was wonderful to get away from my cubicle and get a glimpse of the tremendous impact that fatherhood programs around the country are making in the lives of children, families, and communities. It gave renewed meaning to the day-to-day tasks I do and reminded me how grateful I am to be part of an organization devoted to such an important mission.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"X"-Treme Fathering

You've seen the infomercials, but have you felt the pain!? (and I mean that in a good way)

I am talking about the "extreme home fitness training program," P90X.

Six months after our son Vinny was born, my wife had not yet lost all of her pregnancy weight, and I had packed on a few sympathy pounds myself. We decided, based on feedback from friends, to give P90X a try.

What a great decision it was! Doing the program together had huge benefits. Some nights, I did not want to work out, but my wife pushed me. Some nights she did not want to work out, and I pushed her. Since we were both on the plan together, we could easily empty the fridge of the bad foods neither of us should eat anymore and fill it with the good stuff.

Don't get me wrong; it was hard. With an infant to care for, we did most of our workouts from 8:30 to 9:30 at night, after the baby was asleep. Try working out every weeknight for an hour for 13 weeks. Yes - we missed a few workouts. We "made up for" most of them by doing two workouts on a Saturday. But towards the end, we missed workouts and did not make up for them. Sometimes feeding, playing with, and bathing the baby took too much out of us to "bring it" at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday.

But overall, the results have been great. I lost about 12 pounds, and got stronger. I can see my ribs for the first time in 15 years! My wife lost about 15 pounds, and is now below her pre-pregnancy weight. We both feel much better and we continue to eat much more healthily.

As NFI does its fit2father campaign and gears up for the Acumen Solutions Race for a Cause 8K, we would love to hear from dads about how they are getting and staying in shape.

How are you staying "fit2father," dads?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lessons Learned: Giving to Receive

One of the first Bible precepts that I learned in Sunday School as a small boy was that it is better to give than to receive. Now, as a little guy, I wasn’t a big fan of this concept, especially around my birthday and Christmas. In any case, a few days ago, I was thumbing through a recent copy of Forbes magazine and I came across an article by Michael Norton provocatively titled “Yes, Money Can Buy Happiness…If you give it away.”

Norton is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and he has been researching how changes in income impact well-being. For example, he recently asked 315 Americans to rank their happiness on a 100 point scale and predict how happy they would be if they made ten different incomes, ranging from $5,000 up to $1,000,000. So, for example, he found that those who made $25,000 a year predicted that their happiness would double if they made $55,000. But when he measured their actual happiness, the change was about 7%. Moreover, he found that once people reached the US median income (about $60,000), the happiness return on additional income was very small.

Ironically, he did discover one way to “buy” more happiness with your money: Give it away. He hypothesized that although making more money helps us accumulate more material things, it does little to give us what the research shows makes us happier—quality relationships with others.

To test his theory, he and his team did a little experiment. They approached strangers on the street and gave them different sums of money ($5 or $20) and told them that they had to spend the money by the end of the day. But half were instructed to spend the money on themselves while the others were told to spend it on someone else. At the end of the day, Norton’s team learned that those who had to spend the money on themselves bought stuff like coffee and food. However, those who had to spend the money on others did things like donate to the homeless or buy a gift for a loved one.

So, who was happier? Yep, those who gave the money away. Interestingly, there was no difference in reported happiness between those who had to give $5 away verses those who gave $20 away. I guess when it comes to giving, it truly is the thought that counts.

So, why I am sharing all this? Maybe because it’s fundraising season and NFI needs you to give to us until you are in a state of joyous glee. Good guess, but nope. (Although, we certainly need the support and you can donate here. And, no gift is too large. :-))

Well, it is because I vividly recall that one of the early words that each of my kids uttered was “mine.” I seems that children are genetically wired to be self-focused and it’s a dads job to model and teach their children the joy that can be received from giving. And, you don’t need to wait until Sunday to start teaching. That is, if you can spare $5 bucks.

For kids, the "waiting" is the hardest part published an opinion piece by NFI president, Roland C. Warren, on the new documentary Waiting for "Superman."

His argument -- dads are the supermen kids need right now to succeed in school. The system will take time to sort itself out, but moms and dads can start today to build successful students.

So far, over 1,100 people have recommended the article on, and there are nearly 200 comments.

Join the discussion at!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Have You Joined the Team?

We're pumped for the upcoming Acumen Solutions Family Fun Run/8k on October 17th in Arlington, VA. It's the culmination of our six week fit2father campaign, focusing on healthy fathers and families. And, it's a great opportunity to get involved and meet other individuals who support NFI and our issue.

Race registrations benefit NFI's programs and initiatives - like providing resources to military families and educating new dads. Even if you're not in D.C. or won't be able to make it, you can still register as a "virtual walker" and we'll receive the proceeds.

Register today and select National Fatherhood Initiative. Join our team and help us end father absence! See you on the 17th!