Thursday, February 25, 2010

Team Apolo

P&G may be saying "Thanks Mom," but for Apolo Ohno, its his dad that has been there every step of the way. In fact, Team Apolo is a team of two: it's what the Olympic champion and his dad, Yuki, call themselves.

Like any parent of an Olympic athlete (and all parents on some level), Yuki Ohno has sacrificed so much to see his son succeed and is always present in the stands cheering him on every step of the way. Yuki is a great inspiration for dads everywhere - especially single dads. As this Good Morning America feature will tell you, things weren't always easy for Apolo and his father. But Yuki was committed and dedicated, and he inspired Apolo to achieve.

This father and son team have achieved Olympic greatness seven times and as short track wraps up this week, we're sure to see more pride beaming from Yuki's face.

Check out this ad where Apolo talks more about the inspiration and support his dad is for him:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Women Really Think....About Dads!

For this week's Dad Email (sign up here!), we polled some of the lovely ladies of NFI on the following question: What do you think makes a great dad?

Here a few of their responses:

Judy, from the National Programming department:
A good father is one that is around for the important events in a child’s life as well as the daily trials and tribulations of being a kid. He is around for all the joys as well as the sorrows. He is there to pick up the pieces of a broken heart as well as to cheer at accomplishments. A good father is one that is around to be dad regardless of the age of the child.

Connie, from the Graphics department:
I think a great dad would be someone who is involved in their child’s life and would be someone that their child could communicate with easily—especially daughters in their teenage years.

Elaine, from the Events department (seen below with husband + son), made us laugh with this observation:

I think a great dad is someone who spends time, isn't afraid to be goofy, can discipline as needed, and puts his children's needs before his own. Sort of like my husband -- or Mary Poppins.

And, as always, we'd love to hear what you thinks makes a great dad!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Getting into a routine ... sort of...

Well, when he hit about 4 weeks old, the Little Guy got his first cold. It probably made mom and I more upset than it is making him. They say babies will have colds for 10 to 14 days. We are on day 11 and it looks like it is almost done.

Our baby's cold taught us a good lesson about parenthood - expect the unexpected. We did not expect him to catch a cold, but he did, and it has interfered with the routine we thought we were starting to get into. Eat, fuss, calm down, sleep, wake up, change diaper, repeat. The cold lengthened the amount of fussing time and caused the sleeping time to become more erratic.

Now that the cold is coming to an end, the baby will return to his routine... or not! I have learned to be prepared for anything.

One change that is certainly welcome is that his "calm down" time before he falls asleep is getting longer and longer and he is more alert during it. My wife and I are using more toys, books, movement, and talking to stimulate that little brain of his while he is awake and paying attention (a little bit).

Maybe the bigger lesson here is that you will create routines for the baby, but they will only last a few days until you have to create a new one. But they are routines nonetheless and, darn it, we are sticking to them!

If anyone remembers the "routines" they had when they were raising a newborn, please share!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods Press Conference Reaction

After making an utter mess of the institutions of marriage and fatherhood, Tiger Woods offered what appeared to be a very heartfelt apology today. But his wife apparently said it best: his real apology to her will come in the form of his behavior over time rather than his words.

In his prepared statement, Woods took full responsibility for his actions, which he termed as "irresponsible," "not acceptable," "selfish," and "wrong." He acknowledged that he did indeed violate the standards of marriage through his indiscretions, and that his children were also victims of his behavior. Clearly, Woods sees the link between marriage and fatherhood - he acknowledged several times, even if indirectly, that you can't be a terrible husband and a good father at the same time. It takes maturity to see that.

Woods deserves credit for criticizing the media's desire to follow his wife and children and be informed of the very personal decisions they will make during the coming months and years. Again, he acknowledged his own selfishness and he asked the media to focus on him, not them.

He also offered apologies to the families who he has let down who have urged their children to look up to him as a role model; another sign that he recognizes how many people have been affected by his behavior. Being able to look up to Tiger for his success in golf means nothing if his example as a husband and father is a terrible one. He certainly has a lot of damage to repair there to show children that real success has little to do with what one does on the golf course.

Overall, Woods' statement that best summarizes his apology is this: "I recognize I have brought this on myself, and I know above all I am the one who needs to change."

How sincere his apology was, only time will tell. For the sakes of his wife and children, let's hope that he is able to become the husband and father they deserve.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Can you hear his soul?

Recently, my wife, who is a family practice doctor, shared an interesting story with me. She was doing examinations on a 7-year-old boy and his 5-year-old sister. Because doctors visits, especially when shots are involved, can be a bit scary for kids, my wife at times lets the children listen to each other with her stethoscope before she examines them.

The little boy insisted on going first and he pressed the scope gently to his little sister’s chest. My wife explained the sounds that he would hear as he found his sister’s heartbeat. Now, it was his little sister’s turn. She quickly put the stethoscope on and pressed the listening device to her brother’s chest. As she listened intently, the little boy turned to my wife and asked, “What does my soul sound like?”

As they finished the visit, my wife spent some time speaking with the children’s mother. She likes to do this to get a better understanding of how her little patients are doing at home. For example, she asks if the children are eating and sleeping well and if there are other situations happening at home that could impact their health. Their mother quickly offered that their father, who she never married, recently moved out and moved on.

I suspect that my wife told me this story because I am fond of saying that kids have a “hole in their soul” in the shape of their dad and when a father is unwilling or unable to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed. Kids say the darndest things and I could not help but wonder if this little boy with his seemingly nonsensical question was saying something more profoundly about himself and expressing a more deep-seated need than hours and hours of therapy could ever reveal.

Several years ago, I came across this article, which I highly recommend that you read as well. It features an interview with Dr. Diane Schetky who served as an expert witness for the defense at the trial of DC sniper, Lee Malvo. In any case, when Schetky asked Malvo why he blindly followed Muhammad’s instructions, he said, “Anything he asked me to do I'd do. He knew I didn't have a father. He knew my weaknesses and what was missing.”

It’s worth recounting a bit of history about Malvo. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1985 to Una James. His father, Leslie, reportedly doted on his young son. However, Leslie Malvo worked off-island, and during his long absences, Malvo was“ inconsolable.” Over time, James suspected Leslie of infidelity and moved with her son to a small, rural part of Jamaica without telling him where they had gone. “Lee was devastated by the loss of his father,” according to Schetky.

Malvo met Muhammad when he was just 15 and was immediately drawn to him. So much so, he quickly began calling Muhammad “dad.” In fact, Malvo told Schetky “I was desperate to fill a void in my life…” And the rest, unfortunately, is history.

It doesn’t take much to see some similarities between Malvo and the little boy in my wife’s office. Am I saying that this boy and others who get disconnected from their fathers will grow up to be emotionless killers? Of course not. But what I am saying is that Malvo was once a young fatherless boy with a “soul” that few seemed to hear except a man who would eventually convince Malvo to be “heard” in a tragic way that ruined his life and ended the lives of so many others.

Great Expectations

My wife is one of the most caring and considerate people that I know. So, in the midst of the recent snowstorm of the century, she became increasingly concerned about the birds and their inability to find food.

Her answer: Put out as much birdseed as possible in our back yard. She reasoned that doing this would yield two benefits and outcomes. First, she would feed many hungry birds. Second, it would attract many beautiful and delicate birds, like cardinals and sparrows, to our yard. These birds would be sure to return in the spring as well. Sounded like a plan. And off she went with her trademark compassion and her “woman on a mission” determination.

About 20 minutes or so passed after she spread the seeds and we heard rustling and fluttering sounds in our yard. So, we rushed to the window to find the yard filled with very large, and increasingly, very boisterous black crows…about 40 of them. I looked at my wife and her face said it all, but, like a good husband I stated the obvious and remarked, “Not quite what you expected…huh?” My wife paused for a moment and true to form and character retorted, “Well, hon, crows need to eat too…don’t they?”

I just finished reading an advance copy of a new fatherhood book that chronicles the fathering journey of Rodney Peete, a former NFL quarterback, whose son RJ has autism. One of the most poignant aspects of the story is how Rodney had to rework his expectations about what kind of father he was going to be based on the needs of the son. Rodney was fortunate to have a loving and involved father, who, as a football coach, was key to his development into a great athlete. Not surprisingly, Rodney envisioned countless hours teaching his son the finer points of the game that he loved. Nowhere in his fatherhood “playbook” was hours of “floor time” with his son in a struggle to get RJ just to make eye contact with him. It was clear from Rodney’s story that he struggled early with the “play-by-play announcer” in his head that constantly said, “Not quite what you expected…huh?”

The good news is that Rodney threw away his playbook, got on RJ’s team and entered RJ’s world. Interestingly, he and my wife share a similar perspective because they both understand that without great need, there is no need for great compassion. Indeed, compassion is a hallmark of bird lovers and good fathers alike. Moreover, on the fathering front, good fathers know that you can’t be the kind of father that you wanted to have and you can’t be the kind of father you wanted to be. You have to be the kind of father that your child needs you to be. After all, kids with “special needs” need loving and involved fathers too…don’t they?

Way to go Sports Illustrated

Of all the images Sports Illustrated could have chosen for its post-Super Bowl issue, they chose this one.

Way to go Sports Illustrated!

As was noted on this blog last week, the scene of Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees holding his son, Baylen, on the field after the game was a priceless fatherhood moment - one for the ages. And now it has been "immortalized" on the cover of the nation's premier sports magazine.

Think of the joy this image will bring Brees' son as he grows up! Every child wants to know he is loved and valued by his father. Baylen Brees will have this indelible image to look back to as a reminder of the affirmation he received from his father during what was certainly a lifetime highlight for dad.

Chalk this one up as a victory for involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Fatherhood Moment at Super Bowl XLIV

Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President, wanted to share this reflection on the Super Bowl. Here are her thoughts:

The New Orleans Saints’ 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV certainly was a thrilling moment for the city of New Orleans, still rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Saints fans across the country rejoiced as their team won its first Championship in franchise history at their first Super Bowl appearance – including my crazy friends who jumped around the living room yelling and giving high-fives when cornerback Tracy Porter intercepted Peyton Manning’s pass for a 74-yard touchdown, turning the game for the Saints.

But in the midst of the excitement, television viewers got a glimpse into a touching moment between a father and son when Drew Brees, quarterback of the Saints and MVP of the game, brought his one-year-old son Baylen onto the field to experience the victory celebration. The little guy seemed quite fascinated with the flashing lights and action around him, securely held by his father, who protected the little boy’s ears from the noise of the stadium with headphones. It was clearly an emotional moment for Brees, kissing his son, whispering to him, and maybe holding back a few tears – as you can see in this video.

During the Vince Lombardi trophy presentation, Brees put what he was feeling into words: “What can I say? The birth of my son this year as well, during the first year of his life we get a Super Bowl Championship - he’s been my inspiration as well, so it just doesn’t get any better than that.” It seems to Brees that as great as winning the Super Bowl is, it doesn’t beat being a father.

The television cameras captured another Saints dad experiencing the excitement with his children – linebacker Scott Fujita holding his two-year-old twin daughters.

My dad told me after the game was over that there’s something in every father that wants to share these special times with their kids. Though most of us have never been Super Bowl Champions, we each have small moments of victory and celebration that are made all the more sweet just by having our children there with us.

That's Cosmic!

Frank Cottrell Boyce's latest book, Cosmic, is a must-read for dads and kids. One of NFI's board members, Chip Flaherty, sent it to me. He is with Walden Media, whose publishing house, Walden Pond Press, released the book here in the states on January 19 (it was first released in the UK about a year ago).

When I first scanned the book, I was not sure what the heck the connection was to NFI and fatherhood. I left it sitting on my desk for a month or so. But once I finally started it, I could not put it down. It was funny, touching, imaginative, and one of the best celebrations of fatherhood I have seen in a long time.

It is the story of an 11-year-old boy who is often mistaken for an adult. His unusual size and appearance lead him to many wild adventures, not the least of which is a trip to the moon as a chaperon to a group of tweens. During this flight in space, he learns a lot about what being a dad means, and how important his own dad is to him.

All I can say is JUST READ IT! You will not regret it, nor will your kids. A great book to read together.

You can purchase it on here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Celebrity Dads Getting It Right

All too often we hear about famous dads who don't get it right. Lately, our news feeds have been buzzing with great celeb dads. And here is an interesting common thread: they all say their kids have made them more successful.

Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters frontman): It's changed everything that I do. When you have kids, you see life through different eyes. You feel love more deeply and are maybe a little more compassionate. It's inevitable that that would make its way into your songwriting.

Keith Urban (country music star): He thanked his little girl when he won his grammy. On being a father, he says, "It’s stretched my heart, is what it’s done."

Roger Federer (tennis prodigy): Upon winning his 15th grand slam in the Australian Open this week, Federer puts it all in perspective: "There is not only tennis...having kids and being a father now and being married enhances everything...It just makes me extremely happy, extremely relaxed and it allows me to play good tennis, and I couldn't ask for more."

Do you feel like your kids have enhanced your success? How have they changed you?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Paternity Leave is Over...

My two weeks of paternity leave are over, so here I am back at the office. As any new dad knows, it is hard to leave the family on that first day. I know my wife still needs a lot of help, and I know I am going to miss the little guy a lot during the day. But I also know that there are bills to be paid, and part of my responsibility as a father is helping to pay those bills - so I am grateful that I have a great job to come back to!

Now begins the "work-family balance" phase of my fatherhood journey. Already in my first day back I have made a few decisions differently than I would have before the baby came - I turned down an opportunity to attend an event on Saturday, and I scheduled an afternoon meeting a little earlier so I can get home on time tomorrow.

Once my wife goes back to work in March/April, then the real work-family balance challenges will start. But it is good to have this warm up period where I can adjust my perspective.

I will close by talking about the two activities that I have found to be most satisfying at this very early stage of the baby's life:

- Reading to him. Sure he can't understand a word I am saying, but the sound of my voice relaxes him after he eats, and he seems to fall asleep faster while listening to my dulcet tones as I read epic fantasy novels aloud. They say it helps his brain develop its "language part" by hearing the rhythm and tone of the language being spoken, so I am all for that!

- Helping him fall asleep. He has started to enjoy lying on my chest to fall asleep. I guess the rhythm of my breathing and the sound of my heartbeat is relaxing. Once he falls asleep, it is fun to turn him over and see how the side of his face is all scrunched up from being pressed against my t-shirt. Very cute.

In closing, here is a moment that my wife captured on camera when the boy and I fell asleep together - like father, like son!