Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rear-Facing Blues

As many of you may already have heard, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines on car seats. The new guidelines state that a toddler should be in a rear-facing car seat until they are two-years-old or they outgrow the height or weight limit for the car seat.

Putting the safety issues aside for a moment, that sounds a little extreme to me. By the time my son was 9 months old or so, he was becoming extremely bored facing the nothingness that is the back of the car. He was getting fussy and impatient during just a 15-minute car ride. Can you imagine what would happen with a two-year-old in an even longer car ride? There would be mutiny!

Now that my son (who is 14 months old) faces forward, he has something to look at. He can watch where we are going through the windshield, he can see the back of my head, and he can see out the side windows easier, too. And it is easier for me to see him. I don't have to use that awkward mirror that faces the front of the car.

I understand that rear-facing is safer, but according the the number crunching I have seen, the number of injuries that would have been avoided over the last several years looks like a rounding error, not some huge number.

What do you think? Is this safety tyranny or good policy?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When Short-term Pleasure = Long-term Pain

Yesterday, it was reported that former football star Lawrence Taylor was sentenced to six years probation for having sex with a 16-year-old prostitute. He will now be registered nationally as a “sex offender.” How embarrassing this must be for his wife and children.

This is yet another sad turn of events for Taylor who, in 2003, got much sympathy and a second chance from the public when he told reporter Mike Wallace, “L.T. died a long time ago, and I don’t miss him at all….all that’s left is Lawrence Taylor.” Unfortunately and sadly, to quote the famous line from the movie Poltergeist, “He’s baaack…”

It’s always especially troubling for me when I read about a father, prominent or not, that can’t get his life on track because he is consumed by his vices. When you’re a dad, in a very real sense, your life is not your own. Your actions - good and bad, moral or immoral - impact your children in a profound way. Like pebbles dropped in a pond, your actions ripple through your children’s lives, for good or for ill, for generations. Indeed, Taylor’s situation is a stark reminder of how pursuing short-term pleasure can yield long-term pain for those who love you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You don't need to move the world - just your thumbs

For the month of March, NFI’s Dad Email is featuring tips and advice on how dads can use technology to help them build their relationships with their kids. Check out the resources from our “Tech Savvy Daddy” campaign here, which we’ll be updating with more information every week this month.

Last week, our focus was on “Mobile Connections,” or using text messaging to connect with teens. A recent Pew Research Study found that 75% of teens have a cell phone. Most of them have text messaging capability, and boy do they use it! 54% of teens texted their friends daily in 2010 (skyrocketing from only 38% who texted daily in 2008!). One out of three send more than 100 text messages daily!

For those of you who are fathers of teenagers, you probably feel like their thumbs are glued to their phone. But, as our Dad Email last week pointed out, if texting is teenagers’ primary means of communicating, why not speak their language? We put together a list of text messages that dads can send their teens to encourage them and build their relationship. Check it out here.

I work with a group of high school students at my church, and I quickly figured out that texting is the most effective way to communicate with them. When we were writing the suggestions of text messages for dads, I sent a text to the teens I know and asked them, “What’s a meaningful text message your dad could send you that would help build your relationship?” If we’re trying to help dads connect with their teens, why not get advice from them?

Here’s what I got back:

  • just check in and see how i was doing
  • maybe like i love u just wanted to remind u
  • probably a Bible verse or just a note that told me to hang in there, or an invitation to spend time with him. That always means a lot to me. :)
The point I got out of this is, dads: it’s simple. Your kids don’t need something incredibly profound from you. They just want to know that you’re thinking about them, that you love them, and that you want to spend time with them. (As busy as your teenagers are, they actually do want to spend time with you, too.)

One text I got back from a teen whose dad is not very involved hit on a much deeper issue. What would be meaningful for this teenager would be “for him to realize what he has put me through and to want to change that.” Clearly, there are years of hurt that need to be undone in this relationship and a couple text messages aren’t going to do much, but I think a little effort on the part of this dad to move closer to his child would do a lot.

I think that’s true for any dad-teen relationship, no matter how good or bad it is. A little investment in your teen’s life will go a long way. Even if it’s as simple as a text message to say “I love you.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Moving Eulogy for a Dad

Brad Meltzer, a friend of NFI and author of a great fatherhood book, recently lost his dad. Being the writer that he is, he wrote an incredible eulogy. It is filled with humor, storytelling, and most importantly, love.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Can Happen When Too Many Dads Choose Comfort Rather than Courage

Courage (n): The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger and pain without fear.

A few days ago, I had a chance to visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and it was quite a disturbing experience. Now, I have certainly watched my share of movies and PBS specials about the horrors of the Holocaust, but I had never been this close to it. The exhibits were appropriately stark and designed to engage all of one’s senses.

You know, it wasn’t until I was in college in the 1980s that I became aware of terms like “situational ethics” and “moral relativism.” I even heard some folks on campus posit that there were no absolutes when it comes to right and wrong, only competing preferences. Well, I can’t imagine anyone completing a tour of the Holocaust Museum and maintaining that perspective. When men, women and children are being brutally murdered and used for grotesque experiments, and when even their hair is being “harvested” to make pillows and lamp shades, it tends to focus the mind. Make no mistake. There is right and there is wrong. Absolutely…

Given my role at NFI, I have an “occupational hazard” of always considering history, even history as unsettling as the Holocaust, through the fatherhood lens. As I viewed the many pictures of fathers, often taken just moments before they and their families were murdered, I could not help considering how horrible it must have been for them. It is the essence of good fathering to protect, but these dads could not. Nonetheless, although they were overpowered, they refused to abandon their wives and children. They were courageous.

Interestingly, there was another group of fathers who are too often forgotten, but who were complicit in these crimes. They were the millions of fathers in communities across Europe who watched their neighbors get rounded up, but remained silent. They knew that absolute evil was happening in their midst and, yet, many did nothing. They lacked the courage to take a stand.

It’s been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and especially good fathers) to do nothing. It is also worth remembering that each day every dad must choose between courage and comfort; for to be courageous is never comfortable and to be comfortable is never courageous. The Holocaust is a poignant and painful reminder of the consequences for any society when too many dads choose comfort and too few choose courage.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What's in the bag for Dad?

My husband and I found out a few months ago we were expecting our first baby. My husband is fortunate to have a flexible schedule and was eager to join me for my first prenatal appointment.

During that appointment, my husband, eager to learn everything he could, sat by my side opposite the doctor. He listened intently to everything she said and even had his own set of questions. As the appointment concluded, the doctor handed me a series of informational sheets about prenatal testing and a large bag of materials. With the loot in tow, we headed home and laid out the contents of the bag trying to learn even more. Here is what was inside…

For the Mom: Congratulations on your pregnancy packet, business cards for the practice, Baby magazine, 'As Your Baby Grows' booklet, 'Strong Moms Pregnancy Planner'

For Dad:

That’s right - there was absolutely nothing geared for dads. Sure, my husband can look over the pregnancy planner and the ads for maternity wear and formula, but there was nothing specifically for him. I am sure there are other moms and dads out there that can relate.

Research shows that dads feel inadequately prepared for fatherhood. There is lots of talk about why dads need to be more involved- yet we gear everything in the first years of life towards supporting the mother.

This is exactly why NFI’s work is so important. If you are an expectant dad or are an expectant mom looking to give a soon-to-be dad the support he needs, make sure to head over to our “For Fathers” section of our website, or check out our resources at FatherSource.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Dad's Lesson: The Price of Fame

There is a verse from the Bible that says, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” I was reminded of the wisdom of these words recently after reading this Billy Ray Cyrus GQ interview where he shared his regret about how he has been raising Miley Cyrus.

Ironically, several weeks ago, I wrote “For Father's of Older Children—No Time for an Achy Breaky Heart” when the report came out about Miley doing bong hits of salvia at her 18th birthday party. Recently, I have found a few blog posts like this one from Jim Daly of Focus on the Family and this one by Melissa May for “Modestly Yours” to be quite compelling as well.

In any case, Billy Ray’s regret is a poignant reminder of how critical it is for all fathers to protect their children. Indeed, many will come along to sell our children the “whole world.” But, as Billy Ray unfortunately discovered too late, the price is just too high.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

When 2-1/2 = 1-1/2

I have avoided the easy target of Charlie Sheen for a few days now, because it is quite obvious to most people that he has been a terrible father. I don’t feel the need to “pile on.” However, there are a few things I would like to point out, especially as it relates to his show, Two and a Half Men.

For those of you who are not aware, Two and a Half Men is a sitcom about a divorced dad raising his son in the same household as his brother. The brother (the boy’s uncle) is played by Sheen. I always had a problem with the show’s title, because the reality is that neither of the men in the show are whole men. They are both half boys living with a boy who is a half man. If my math serves me correctly, that adds up to a grand total of one-and-a-half men.

Charlie Sheen’s character is an irresponsible, womanizing frat boy. Sound familiar? Talk about art imitating life. His brother is a milquetoast who allows his son to be exposed to and idolize an irresponsible, womanizing frat boy.

It is clear that Charlie Sheen and his character in the show want little to do with modeling responsible behavior for children. When asked recently who was parenting his kids he said, "Everybody here [at his house] is parenting the kids.” Talk about a cop out. Everyone is parenting them except the one parent in the house – him!

At a time when 24 million children (1 of 3) live apart from their fathers, we don’t need half-men. We need whole men – ones who provide, nurture, and guide their children, and who respect, not objectify, women.

The need for "whole men" has reached a critical point in our country - over 9 in 10 moms and dads believe there is a father absence crisis in America. The presence of good dads in children's lives is irreplaceable because good values are more easily caught than taught. Exposing a child to irresponsible behavior (like what Sheen is doing in real life and what his character’s brother is allowing to happen in the show) is more likely to influence him than simply teaching him responsible behavior. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

And culture matters. That is why we sometimes “pick on” TV shows here on The Father Factor. Consider this - there has been an explosion of new glee clubs in schools across America since the show Glee became popular. So, how can we just ignore the fact that there are too many shows that feature irresponsible men and dads? What do these shows communicate to our children, who are “catching” values everywhere they turn?

While we can bicker over how harmful it is that Sheen's show was always a man short, what is not up for debate is how sad it is that his children are living lives that are one man short. But there is always hope for dads – NFI works with dads who are in prison, and many of them achieve remarkable turnarounds in their lives for the sakes of their children. So, here’s to hoping that Mr. Sheen also becomes the "whole man" his kids need.