Friday, December 30, 2011

Fatherhood No ‘Twilight Zone’ For Rod Serling

One of the duties of my position as Web Editor at NFI is to scour the Internet looking for interesting stories and news bits to place on our homepage and blog. As part of the Communications team, I’m often swimming in words and ideas – a chief joy of being a writer in my opinion. In my discovery, I found yet another reason to connect with the work I do here.

I came across an article from featuring an excerpt of an upcoming memoir from writer Anne Serling, daughter of famed The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. Her book, Another Dimension: Growing Up With The Man Behind The Twilight Zone, serves not only as a memoir, but also as a way for Ms. Serling to resolve the grief behind losing her father at the age of 50 in 1975; Ms. Serling was just around 20 at the time.

In the excerpt, Ms. Serling takes care to detail her pain regarding her father’s death after open-heart surgery and how his famous show helped connect her to the man she loved, a television program she largely avoided because of his passing.

“Later that summer, a little more resilient, I began to watch my father’s “Twilight Zones,” doing this more to see him than the actual show. I randomly selected one called “In Praise of Pip.” The episode was filmed at the Pacific Ocean Park, the same amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier that my dad took my sister and me to.

What was so striking, so personal and so moving about this particular story was some of the dialogue. In this episode, Jack Klugman says to his son, “Who’s your best buddy, Pip?”
“You are, Pop.”

Just like the routine my dad and I did.”

I grew up watching The Twilight Zone, always amazed at how this show managed to expand my imagination while injecting some relatable themes to boot. I have a few favorite episodes, some I still wish I could watch on my old VHS player: “A Nightmare At 20,000 Feet,” “A Short Drink From A Certain Fountain,” and the classic “To Serve Man” episode. I just read that cable station SyFy will be continuing its New Year's Eve tradition of running a Twilight Zone marathon, so there’s no guesswork on where I’ll be parked all weekend.

Ms. Serling’s words about her dad touched me deeply and my research on her father revealed that he was not a simple man. But what stood out, Mr. Serling’s own daughter wasn't impressed with her dad’s fame and accomplishments (he was a decorated serviceman and a part-time parachute tester). What she loved about her father was that he was much more to her than a masterful weaver of tales. Ms. Serling referred to her father as a playmate and confidant – something all fathers should aspire to be, even when they’re off creating worlds of wonder elsewhere.

This will be my final blog post of 2011, so to all Father Factor readers, I wish you all a happy 2012, and stay tuned as we have a lot of great stories and blogs in store for the coming year.

A Dickensian 2011

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, 2011 was the best of times and the worst of times for National Fatherhood Initiative. Without getting too melodramatic on you, we, like just about every other nonprofit in the country, struggled under the very tough economy.

But the good news (the best of times) is that it did not stop us from having an enormous impact throughout the year. Here are a few examples of how we made a difference in the lives of fathers and their families:

  • We have now trained over 11,500 practitioners from over 5,300 organizations on how to deliver NFI's fatherhood programming into their communities. This means there are thousands more community-based organizations in the U.S. that are providing education, encouragement, and support to fathers.
  • Through the success of our social media tools alone (Facebook, Twitter, and this blog), we are now reaching 25,000 more fathers directly with information to encourage and inspire them in their fathering journeys.
  • We have now distributed nearly 6 million fatherhood skill-building resources to fathers and the organizations that support them.
I think this quote by "Nathan" on Twitter sums it up best: "I just joined thefatherfactor's email list! Get inspired and motivated to stay the course as a great dad to your kids! Thanks NFI, I'm the father of an 8-month-old boy, and you guys have been a great source of inspiration and knowledge."

Thanks, Nathan. And thanks to everyone else who has supported us this year. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on the "kindness of strangers" such as yourselves to keep us moving ahead.

We would be very grateful if you could make a fully tax-deductible year-end gift to NFI: you only have two days left in the year (unless you plan on committing tax fraud, which we officially do not recommend). Anyway, your gift will really make a difference. Don't believe me? Click here to see why.

Happy New Year! We'll see you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dwyane Wade: All-Star Guard, All-Star Dad

Earlier this month, ABC News profiled Miami Heat star basketball player Dwyane Wade before the start of the NBA season. This time however, the high-flying Chicago native wasn’t showcasing his crafty moves on the court. Instead, Wade’s dedication to fatherhood was the centerpiece of the story.

While fans across the globe gleefully counted down the days leading up to the Christmas Day start of the NBA season as a gift, Dwyane Wade kept true to his Twitter bio line which I absolutely love: “I'm a father first and everything else after that” – and D-Wade’s devotion was hard to ignore in the ABC News clip.

What stood out to me was Wade’s unflinching pride about being a father, even under the tough circumstances that led him to becoming a single dad. Marrying his high school sweetheart Siohvaughn, the couple had two sons together, Zaire and Zion. After a bitter and very public divorce, Wade won sole custody of his boys back in March of this year. Fighting hard to remain in his children’s life, Wade proved that his sons were a top priority.

Along with Zaire and Zion, Wade’s nephew also lives with the hoops star full time. The ABC clip showed D-Wade and his family bonding via horseplay, but there are some ground rules and a focus on schoolwork that is also enforced with care. And while Wade’s hefty NBA contract is often fodder for discussion, he is clear in letting folks know that he’s much more than a sports millionaire. “It is not about the money I have or don't have," shared Wade. "It is about the time I am willing to sit down across the table from my kids and if they don't get something right, helping them get it right.”

Through various community programs and his own Wade’s World Foundation non-profit group, D-Wade takes time out to assist other fathers wishing to bridge the gap between themselves and their children. Another highlight from the news segment was that of Wade and his ex-wife’s willingness to co-parent, despite the media fallout from their divorce proceedings and emphasizing that his sons still needed their mother.

D-Wade is aggressive, brash and downright intense on the court, but away from the game the 29-year old gives off a serene calm – especially when talking about his dad duties with glowing pride. Although he can employ a dizzying catalog of spin moves and perform fearless drives to the basket, Dwyane Wade already hit the game-winning shot as far as fatherhood goes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fathers and Testosterone: Lowered Levels Not So Bad After All

An interesting video report appeared on ABC News’ site the other day regarding men who become new dads, stating that the responsibilities that go along with the job caused lowered testosterone levels in men. Earlier this year, NFI’s Vincent DiCaro wrote a blog post in response to a New York Times piece regarding the very research that led to this discovery. Vince’s blog highlighted key points that affirmed why this hormonal development may in fact aid fathers in their parental duties.

ABC’s report follows the same angle in showing that dads who dote on their children have lowered testosterone levels but state that science supports this being good for the family unit. In generations past, men were often cast as pillaging nomads intent on exacting their aggressive will upon women and challenging other men in silly egotistical contests. Rare was it that fathers were shown to be in the house with their children, cooing to them or caring for their progeny.

Emmy-winning London-based ABC News correspondent Nick Watt led the latest report, injecting himself into the story as a father of two small boys himself. Watt playfully jabbed at himself for having lowered hormone levels, with various shots of the reporter playing lovingly with his boy. Harvard professor Peter Ellison, also quoted in the Times piece, reacted to Watt’s assertion that his “modern day” dad duties were making him less of a man. Ellison refuted the thought, simply saying that it’s an incorrect way to look at this startling phenomenon.

The action then cuts to Watt profiling a local rugby team, one of the most brutal sports on the planet. Highlighting a star player and coach who were both dads, Watt reported that their testosterone levels, while lowered after fatherhood, spiked back to normal while engaged in their contests. Watt also mentioned aptly that human parenting is easier when mom and dad are both involved. Watt was also candid in sharing that his own father was not as caring as he is with his sons, noting that dads in the 70s modeled themselves into alpha-male caricatures instead of involved parents.

Watt closed out his report mentioning his wife just had a second baby and that with two small children, he joked that his testosterone levels were in the “basement”. Watt ended the segment with two really awesome quotes I’d like to share with the Factor Father readers.

“This is, in fact, more manly than leaving wife and kids at home to go skydiving and skirt chasing,” said Watt while being shown spinning his eldest son around. Watt ended the clip by saying, “I’m at home in the nest, as nature says I should be.”

Amen to that, Mr. Watt.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fatherhood By the Numbers

Greetings, Father Factor readers! My name is D.L. Chandler, a recent addition to the National Fatherhood Initiative staff in the capacity of Web Editor. I joined NFI officially on December 5, and it has been a wonderful experience so far. Everyone on the staff is not only committed to our core mission of increasing the viability and visibility of involved and responsible dads, but it’s such an inviting environment as well.

Originally, I wanted my inaugural blog posting to be a resonating piece that highlighted my joy in being a part of the NFI mission and how I intend to assist in increasing the online reach of our important work. However, I was taken off that that path this weekend after my required reading in joining the staff led me to figures that highlighted the very issues father absence causes – and all the while, my own fatherless childhood memories were being triggered.

24 million children in America, one out of three nationally, are residing in biological father-absent homes. Children who grow up without a father in the home are 54 percent more likely to be poorer than their dads. Teens are at a 30 percent higher risk to abuse drugs and alcohol when dad isn’t present. A study of minority youth ages 10-14 showed that contact with their biological fathers decreased their risk for delinquency, even when dad didn’t live in the home.

As I continued reading the sixth edition of NFI’s Father Facts reference manual, I began to recognize how the numbers and facts related to my own life. After my parents split in the late 70s, I was without the man I admired. I can say with certainty that when my father left the home, my mother, my then-infant brother, and I spiraled into poverty – even becoming homeless for a spell. My father went on to earn a high profile law enforcement position and found other successes while my mother barely kept our lights on.

Growing up as a teen without guidance from dad, I went to the streets to find solace. I dabbled in drugs and drinking and petty crimes – all attempts to feel like I belonged to something. The truth was simple: I wanted my dad to come rescue me. I wanted him to eliminate the pain by simply showing up. I hoped that my behavior would inspire him to pay some attention to me. Sadly, it never worked. I did have a man in my life that fulfilled the father role I sorely needed – my grandfather. Without his firm talks and loving guidance, I would have been lost to crime or worse.

In my further reading of NFI’s Pop’s Culture fathering attitudes survey, I learned that ninety-one percent of the respondents agreed that father absence is a national crisis. I know firsthand that father absence has had a detrimental impact on my own life. The question remains then is how do we make father absence a larger conversation for dads across the board.

If you need any motivation to embrace the importance of eliminating father absence, just look at the numbers. The data alone suggests that something must be done to bridge the gap between fathers and their children. But for me, I’m solely motivated by my own past and I feel encouraged that together we can turn the numbers around in favor of dads being presently involved with their children.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Building Together with LEGO

If you haven’t seen them yet, you have to watch LEGO’s 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 can’t 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 haven’t 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 don’t 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!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Multitasking: Good or Bad for Busy Dads and Families?

This is a post by Chris Brown, NFI's Executive Vice President.

We’ve known for years now that the “housework divide” between dads and moms has decreased with dads doing more of the workload than ever. This development is good news because NFI’s landmark national study on mothers’ attitudes about fathers and fathering called Mama Says found that moms want dads to help out more around the house. But what do we know about the impact of dads doing more in this world of dual-income families who always seem to be multitasking and on the go?

While this closing of gap seems on the surface to be a great development that should have a positive impact on dads, moms, and kids, a recent study reported in the L.A. Times suggests that this new picture of the dual-income American family isn’t quite as rosy as the data suggest. This two-year study examined 500 working mom-dad families from 8 urban and suburban communities. Researchers found that dads and moms did an equal amount of paid and unpaid work but that moms did more multitasking at home than did dads. Moreover, moms experienced more stress than dads about their perceived lack of attention to their families this multitasking requires. Dads, in fact, received a psychological boost from their ability to handle home and work tasks (super dad) while moms felt guilty about the divided attention this kind of multitasking requires.

What should we make of this data, and how should dads and moms respond in these families? A closer look at the study suggests that moms and dads should multitask together (e.g. wash dishes, do the laundry, take the kids to the grocery store). Dads and moms tended to gravitate to different activities with their kids—a sort of divide and conquer strategy. Dads engaged in more focused, fun, interactive activities with their children while moms focused on more routine childcare tasks and doing more of them at the same time. But when moms and dads worked together around the house it reduced the stress for both parents. It seems that dads should take a step back and ask what more they can do around the home together with moms, right? The article suggests as much, but I’m convinced the problem can't be resolved simply by dads and moms doing more work at home together, although that would certainly help.

I’m convinced that working moms and dads need to reduce multitasking. A recent spate of research suggests that multitasking isn’t all its cracked up to be. We’ve come to believe that multitasking makes us more effective when, in fact, it makes us less effective. It divides and conquers families. We’re much more effective and less stressed when we focus on doing one task at a time and doing it well whether at work or at home. Dads and moms can’t be as present and engaged with their kids and with each other when they multitask. Dads must ask not what more they can do, but what less can they and mom can do individually, together, and with their children.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dads Playbook Podcast with NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell. Week 8: Having a great marriage

Welcome to the eighth installment of our 10-week podcast series, "Dads Playbook, featuring NFL quarterback Mark Brunell."

We know from research that children do best, on average, when they grow up with two, married parents. We also know that, on average, children with married parents have closer relationships with both their mothers and fathers than children whose parents are not married. In other words, the institution of marriage is pivotal in helping both moms and dads give their children what they need.

Let's hear what Mark has to say about how his marriage has helped him be the best dad he can be for this kids.

Click here to download the podcast on Mark’s game plan for being an All-Star Dad when it comes to making the most of your marriage.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The tragedy of the Virginia Tech shooting: five children left fatherless

Heartache and unanswered questions abound after yesterday's on-campus shootings at Virginia Tech. A close friend of mine was directly affected by the shooting that killed 33 in 2007; yesterday's incidents awoke painful memories of that tragedy for all connected to the Virginia Tech community. The campus activated security measures implemented after the 2007 massacre and went into lock-down for several hours after a police officer was shot and killed by a gunman, who later took his own life.

Little is known about the shooter at this time, except that he was not a student of Virginia Tech. However, we do know several things about the police officer who was killed. Most notably, he was a dad and husband. Deriek Crouse was a father and stepfather to five children.

Law enforcement officials will eventually find answers to many of the questions surrounding yesterday's shooting. Why would someone violently interrupt a routine traffic stop that he was not involved in? What connection, if any, did the gunman have to the police officer? As the investigations continue, activity on Virginia Tech's campus will quickly resume it's normal pace as students get ready to take finals and go home for the holidays.

Life, however, will never return to normal for Deriek Crouse's wife and children, and while answers may provide some sense of closure for his family, the pain will never go away. Our hearts go out to the Crouse family, especially the five children who woke up today without their dad. The death of anyone is always a tragedy; that tragedy is magnified many times when it leaves fatherless children.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dads Playbook Podcast with NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell. Week 7: Thriving through the holidays

Welcome to the seventh installment of our 10-week podcast series, "Dads Playbook featuring NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell."

We are in the midst of the holiday season, and stress levels may be beginning to rise. But we don't just want you to survive the holidays - we want you to thrive! Let's hear what Mark has to say about making the most of the holiday season.

Click here to download the podcast on Mark’s game plan for being an All-Star Dad when it comes to thriving through the holiday season.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dad Bought a Zoo

On December 23, a fantastic family film starring Matt Damon will be released. The movie, We Bought a Zoo, tells the story of a widowed father working to rebuild his family's life. As the title suggests, he actually does buy a house that sits on the property of a zoo, and lots of magical fatherhood moments ensue...

NFI has partnered with 20th Century Fox to get the word out about this film and its great fatherhood themes. Throughout the month of December, we will be sharing practical and inspiring fatherhood advice inspired by the movie.

The first Dad Email we sent deals with a key line that Matt Damon's character, Benjamin Mee, says in the film: "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and I promise you, something great will come of it." We have 5 tips help you instill a sense of courage and adventure in your kids.

Sign up for our Dad Email to get new tips each week on topics like dealing with grief, appreciating animals and nature, and more (all of which will be housed on our We Bought a Zoo landing page).

For now, check out the film's trailer, and get your family ready for the December 23 release!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tune into NBC Family Movie Night this Friday

If you're looking for a fun, family-friendly activity for this weekend, we recommend tuning into NBC for Family Movie Night at 8pm ET / 7 CT and enjoying Game of Your Life, a great movie for all ages with some value "fatherhood" moments.

Launched in April 2010, Family Movie Night is NBC's effort, in partnership with Walmart and P&G, to provide families a cost-efficient entertainment opportunity that enables them to reconnect in a fun and engaging way. Additionally, during this block of time, NBC ensures that all advertising is kid-appropriate - something all parents will appreciate!

Tomorrow night's Family Movie Night features Game of Your Life, a thoughtful movie which highlights a series of character choices freshman Zach Taylor must make that affect people around him. NBC has provided a discussion guide to help parents initiate meaningful conversations with their kids about the themes of the movie, which include loyalty, teamwork, and responsibility. Click here to get the discussion guide.

Watch the trailer for Game of Your Life.

At National Fatherhood Initiative, we applaud NBC's efforts to enable families to spend time together in meaningful ways. If you, like us, sometimes feel frustrated by the lack of quality, kid-friendly TV and movie options, we think you'll find NBC's Family Movie Night to be a breath of fresh air.

We encourage you to make Family Movie Night part of your family's weekend this Friday! Pop some popcorn and get the kids together at 8pm ET tomorrow!