Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cute Baby Videos And Cruel Comments Don’t Go Well Together

The Internet, especially the fast moving realm of social media, has given thousands of people a voice they once never had. The Web grants us access into a person’s life by way of keeping tabs on the various social media tools, to homepages, and the ever-present pool of words known as blogs. The voiceless can now be heard or seen without fear of censorship or retribution. In the case of folks leaving comments on blogs and YouTube sites, this could be seen as both a gift and a curse.

Daddy blogs, such as the clever Fatherhood Is, clearly knows how to poke fun at the learning curve of a new dad with comedic flair. The man behind the blog, Adam Brown, is a new dad of twins Greyson and Charlotte. His blog is possibly my favorite of the many daddy blogs around.

One particular funny video Brown placed on his site features his baby girl Charlotte. In the video, Brown makes a razzing noise that frightens little Charlotte, thus causing her eyes to cutely and comically widen. In just a scant two weeks since the video’s release, it has garnered over a million and a half views on YouTube (the clip is definitely a family favorite in my home).

While nothing more than a harmless game of dad being silly with his baby (which some dads do), it appears that the Internet-famous and now-viral clip is subject to mean critics who seem to relish in levying nasty and offensive comments. Using the cover of the keyboard, these individuals have heaped on opinions about Brown’s parenting style and even resorted to calling his baby unattractive.

Brown doesn’t seem bothered by the comments, but was self-aware enough to put up a following post that highlighted some of the mean remarks people made. Sidestepping the negativity, Brown even pondered on his post whether or not Charlotte’s twin brother would be jealous of his sister’s growing fame. Humor is a great shield for one to wield in this world we live in. Learning how to laugh when most would resort to defensive anger diffuses negativity much easier than meeting it head on.

I love a cute baby video just as much as anyone else. I really enjoyed this video of the babies tasting lemons for the first time. However, it pains me to witness people using words to hurt a dad who simply wanted to share the world a precious and cute moment between he and his newborn. Cute baby videos and cruel comments don’t go together and if you can’t say something nice, to borrow from the old adage, try not saying anything at all.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cecil and Prince Fielder Have Long Road In Rebuilding Their Bond

While Detroit Tigers fans are no doubt celebrating the signing of All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder, the slugger returns to the place where his father Cecil won a World Series Championship – a father that he’s been at odds with for quite some time over reasons only known to them. Prince Fielder will undoubtedly face dozens of questions regarding the estranged relationship between him and his dad, although the elder Fielder has said the he’s been in brief contact with Prince.

“Well, we're having a few chats. We're doing a lot better than we were,” said Cecil Fielder Tuesday (January 24) on MLB Network Radio. “Time heals all wounds, man. Everybody has to come back together at some point. Number one thing, I'm just happy for him.”

Those words were a far cry from the violent talk from Fielder’s dad from last summer. Cecil told the Yuma Sun that he “wanted to drop a right on him instead of talking” to his son. In what should have been the feel-good story of the upcoming Major League Baseball season, the feud between the Fielders is still a prominent and tense issue.

Cecil Fielder and Prince’s mother Stacy underwent a tough divorce, which some writers say led to the split between father and son. Others have alleged that Cecil spent part of his son’s signing bonus without permission, and was embroiled in battling gambling and property debt issues as well.

Prince Fielder has never publicly addressed the split at length but the married father of two could possibly benefit in rebuilding the connection with the man he joined on the baseball field during spring training in 1994. News alternative Detroit Free Press even reprinted an old 1992 article featuring a story on Cecil Fielder and his baseball prodigy son, where young Prince even said his dad was the best homerun hitter in the game. Cleary at one point, they were inseparable and loving towards one another.

If Cecil’s words are true, perhaps they can reform their bond and give sons like myself and countless others hope. Hope that even those of us who don’t have our fathers in our lives that one day, we can try to rebuild the bonds. As Duk of the Big League Stew said eloquently of the Fielders’ situation in his column: fathers shouldn’t be apart from their sons.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nagging, the Marriage Killer

A teaser headline on this morning's Wall Street Journal reads, "Meet The Marriage Killer." As I picked up the paper at the front door of our office building, a co-worker and I started to guess as to what the article would reveal as this "marriage killer." Money? Kids? Sex? I then quipped that if you have two of those and lack one, your marriage is in trouble. We laughed. But we were both wrong. Turns out that the great marriage killer is... nagging!

So, I started reading the article, and the first example it gave was of a wife nagging her husband. Yes, it is true that wives nag more than husbands (read the article here). But I had to laugh again because I probably nag my wife more than she nags me. I think we are in the minority on that one, but the article did get me thinking - what if all of my nagging is really putting a serious drain on our relationship?

I apparently have reason to be concerned. Researchers are now referring to nagging as a "toxic" way of communicating that can cause serious relationship problems. As I reflect on this, I do realize that when I nag my wife about leaving clutter on the kitchen counter, or leaving dresser drawers open, or the various other things that annoy me, she does tend to shut down and feel as if I am focusing too much on things that don't matter.

Again, we are probably in the minority. According to the article (and most of the stories I have heard from friends and family), it is often husbands who feel as though they are being talked down to and harassed about stuff that does not matter.

And while I certainly do more nagging, the one area in which my wife has me beat is with, you guessed it, our son. Something tells me this may be fairly common, as moms tend to be more focused (on average) on the day-to-day care of kids.

She asks me to do this or that for our two-year-old, and if I don't jump out of my seat immediately, she thinks I don't care or am ignoring her. My defense is typically something like, "Does it really matter if I refill his juice cup right now or in 30 seconds during the commercial break in Jeopardy?" After all, I have to continue proving to myself how smart I am by answering as many Double Jeopardy clues as possible (with two witnesses in the room no less!).

The bottom line is that we both have to stop nagging each other because our marriage is too important (to our son especially) to be derailed by a stray paper towel or open sock drawer.

Tell us about the nagging that happens in your marriage. Who nags more, wife or husband? What do each of you nag about? Chores? Kids? And given the above, how do you plan on reducing the amount of nagging taking place? Let us know.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Is Hollywood Helping Or Hurting The Case For Fatherhood?

I came across an article some days ago in the Los Angeles Times that reported on a rise in Hollywood films that featured parents in situations that led the moms and dads in the film to be stressed or anxious. Featured in the piece was Golden Globe Award-nominated film The Descendants starring Globe Best Actor winner George Clooney. In the film, Clooney plays a dad going through a tough time with a dying wife, betrayal, and attempting to get closer to his two daughters.

The film (which is excellent) takes the viewers through a lot of emotional ups and downs as Clooney exhibits the fear of having to raise his daughters without his spouse by his side. In the family film We Bought A Zoo, Matt Damon plays a widower with two young children struggling to stay close while Damon’s character navigates opening a zoo.

Another movie that was up for a few Golden Globe Awards, Carnage, also featured parents who argued with other parents over how to best deal with their fighting children’s issues. Although the film is billed as a black comedy, the core of the movie centers on how parents all have their own way of dealing with their children. The all-star cast of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz delight in their roles, but the ugly war of words become the centerpiece instead of these adults finding a way to cope with one another.

Parents going through times in film, especially dads, is not a brand new concept although the recent slate of films would suggest this is the case. There is something about watching angst unfold onscreen that captivates and infuriates all at once; there’s always an end to the movie but never to the realities that exist outside of the theater.

As said by Dr. Alexandra Barvi of New York University, “In the past, people parented based on instincts and how they were raised, but now with technology and the ease of transmittable information, we know so much more about parenting. We do so much more thinking about parenting. You can't turn on a morning show without an expert talking about college anxiety, how to keep your kids busier.”

Is Hollywood and television making it so that fathers new and old are overloaded with what can be seen as poor parenting tactics? Is the portrayal of parents in harrowing situations inspiring to dads who want to combat the anxiety that goes along with raising their children? Are fathers and mothers looking for ways to stave off the sometimes bleak imagery of parenthood and offer a reversal of sorts?

A good number of films with these sorts of plot tie-ins end with a happy moment of closure or triumph. There are even several films over the years that tell great stories about devoted dads who go through a lot of turmoil (and eventually joy) such as Big Fish and Finding Nemo. What we should focus on while viewing movies that feature dads and moms under duress is to make sure we’re talking about ways to avoid that struggle in our real lives.

Perhaps then, Hollywood can begin to tell a different story showing the endless possibilities of a blissful union between fathers, mothers, and their children.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cleveland Indians Player Chris Perez Is Lucky To Have His Dad

It seems par for the course that fathers seek to bond with their kids – especially boys – playing the age-old game of catch, whether with a football or baseball. There’s something innate about that activity between fathers and sons; perhaps it’s an instinctive reminder for Dad that he once did this with his own dad – or at least wished he had. It’s something I definitely wished I shared with my own dad.

When I read the tale of MLB All-Star pitcher Chris Perez, and how he and his dad Tim bonded over Chris’ inclusion in the big name lineup last year, I confess I felt a tinge of envy. However, I’m glad to see that there are sons who look up to and value their dads even as they trudge along into adulthood and families of their own.

Perez shared with sports website The Bleacher Report on how he gifted his father with his 2011 All-Star ring, making it five sizes larger so that his dad could wear it.

Perez on the trying to surprise his father with the ring:

“Before entering the brunch, they handed out All-Star rings. When I picked mine up, they asked me to try it on. (I already had planned to give the ring to my Dad, so I had told them to make the ring 5 sizes too big for me.) My Dad was right next to me and noticed how big it was on me. I tried to play it off, but he kept making a deal about it.

Flash forward to after the game, my family and I are relaxing back in the hotel, and I pulled out the ring and gave it to him. He was shocked/surprised/happy/speechless. I couldn't think of anyone else that deserved the ring more than him; he's the reason I love the game, and the reason I became an All-Star.”

Chris Perez didn’t enter the game last year at the Midsummer Classic, but it’s a neat story showing that no matter how old you are as a son, you always want to please and gain the respect of your dad. Sometimes it’s tough to show our dads how much we love and adore them as adults, but I know as I speak for myself and other fathers that it never gets redundant to know that your children love you.

Tim Perez summed up his feelings about getting the ring from his son in a quick interview last summer. “I wasn't expecting it. We were in the room, and Chris just said 'I want to give you something,'" Tim Perez said to the Bradenton Herald. "My first reaction was, 'Son this is your ring. And he says 'No, dad, I wouldn't here without you.' I wasn't expecting anything. I was just a dad supporting his son.”

Tim Perez and his amazing humility is the very reason why fatherhood has to return to the forefront of the conversation when talking about combating societal ills. When a father does the right thing for his children, they become adults who respect the value and importance of what it means to be a dad when their time comes to be handed the torch.

Sure, I may pine for a time for my dad and I to have a similar bonding experience and I still have my baseball glove and ball from when I was 12 years old at the ready. Hopefully one day soon, my dad and I will have a moment to share and call our own just like Tim and Chris Perez.

Until then, I can only admire them from afar.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Being A Dad Is Just As Tough As Anything Else

Greetings, Father Factor readers!

To quote a song “I Know You Got Soul” from legendary 80s rap duo Eric B. & Rakim, “It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you” – but we’re back to regularly updating our blog after the holidays shifted everyone’s schedules around a bit.

Speaking of rap music, have you seen NFI’s nifty new Daily Dad News section? It’s the latest feature on our homepage full of daily news bits about dads, families and related stories. One of the news items posted last week focused on popular Atlanta rapper T.I. and how he balances his career with his family time. During an interview with MTV News, the rapper born Clifford Harris spoke proudly of being a dad but carefully stating that he has to still maintain an edge to his character due to the industry’s he’s in.

“When I go home, that's who I am, what you see on the show. Now, what you're gonna hear through them records is when I hit the streets, when I'm out movin' and groovin' — this is the person that must maintain this personality because it's a cold world out here,” T.I. offered in the interview.

Now I’ll admit that I’ve listened to a bit of his T.I.’s music in my spare time, and a lot of it isn’t family friendly stuff. However, on his cable reality show with his wife, T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle, T.I. reveals his softer side as a doting and devoted dad. T.I. and his wife have also given to charity, provided scholarships to the Boys and Girls Club and he even famously talked down a suicidal man from committing the fatal act.

The flip to T.I.'s good and giving side is that he raps in songs about his violent past as a former drug dealer nestled deeply "in the trap" – what some in Atlanta refer to as the open air drug market. Since having found fame, T.I. has been long removed from the trappings of the streets but his music at times serves as the soundtrack for those still in that lifestyle.

T.I.'s jail record and federal gun charges also haunt him, being sent to prison just after performing a star turn in the Hollywood action flick Takers alongside another beleaguered male entertainer Chris Brown. He was well on his way to mainstream stardom and chose to "hug the block" (as the kids say) instead of focusing on his budding acting career and music. T.I. has injected positive messages in some of his work, no less energetic and infectious as his normal fare.

The question is, which is really tougher? Is it tougher to still rap about guns and what you'll do to someone if they cross you in the streets? Or, is it tougher to rap about being a devoted husband and father, writing a few lines about how you went to see your sons play Pee Wee football? Is it tougher to rap about how you sold drugs or would it be tougher to drop a few verses about how you love coming home to your wife?

I don't happen to think T.I.'s a bad person, but I do think he's caught up in the hype of being tough when in actuality, he'd be seen as a greater figure if he promoted his family life more. Perhaps his television show is his pathway to doing so, but a man of T.I.'s responsibility and fame would appear tougher to me if he paused to "hit the streets" less often and revealed that there's nothing soft about being a father who loves the family life.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Guest post: 3 Easy Tips for Staying Healthy in 2012

This is a guest post from Ashley Kemper, a member of Long Island Heart Associates, in partnership with the Mount Sinai Medical Center. LIHA is a cardiology practice in Long Island, New York that has been keeping its community heart-healthy since 1994. Ashley provides some great tips on how dads can stay healthy in the New Year. As we like to say at NFI, to be a good dad, you have to be alive... and more importantly, the health habits you adopt set an example that your kids will follow!

Getting healthy is one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. For many dads, this can be a challenge each year. As dads grow older, the motivation and ability to stay physically fit becomes more difficult, but the importance of maintaining health remains. Here are some tips to helping dads stay healthy in 2012:

Plenty of exercise: Whether your form of exercising is running, biking, or sports, some type of cardiovascular activity more than once a week is strongly encouraged. Exercising as a family such as a friendly game of football or skiing are great for improving fitness. Make sure you consult a heart doctor before engaging in any strenuous physical activity.

Rest and sleep: Exhaustion and lack of sleep can lead to poor health. As dads and most adults age, adequate rest becomes vital to recharging and having a healthy heart. A Long Island sleep study showed that losing sleep can come from stress, working long hours, or sleep apnea. Dads need to give themselves time to sleep and allow their body to recover for healthy living.

Less drinking: It’s not uncommon to have a few drinks during the week with coworkers and friends. However, studies have shown that binge drinking doubles the risk of heart disease. The limit of alcohol consumption for people varies, so it is important to drink in moderation while maintaining a healthy balance of eating and exercising.

Staying healthy can be a challenge for dads, but these steps should be taken to enjoy a positive lifestyle.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Even The Best Heroes Have Flaws

I’ve been trying to avoid clich√© topics while blogging about fatherhood: easy, male-oriented things like sports, cars, and other supposed notions of manhood. However, it’s difficult to avoid, especially with the 2012 NFL Playoffs set to go underway next week. I’ll be the first to tell you, I am not a huge football fan these days. The years of being a Washington ‘Skins fan have begun to take their toll on my enthusiasm for the game.

To seriously date myself, over twenty-two years ago in 1989, a classic video game was born. To older gamers like myself, Tecmo Bowl – a clunky simulation of NFL football – was one of those iconic, male-bonding games that you just had to have if you owned a Nintendo Entertainment System. In high school, I can tell you that my studies suffered as result of playing this game to the point of aching thumbs and sleepless nights.

Although I wasn’t a Chicago Bears fan, I played them in the video game because I admired late Hall Of Fame running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton and I got a chance to meet him in Washington, D.C. during an event for teens and sports in 1990. He was still a vision of health, much stronger looking in person than on television and I didn’t get to say much to him. But I walked away thinking that I may have met the greatest running back of my time.

Payton played all 13 of his NFL seasons with the Bears, entering the Hall in 1993 after retiring in 1988. He unfortunately passed in 1999 at age 45 as a result of rare liver disease that made the muscle-bound Payton wither away. In the years gone by since his passing, books and articles have been written about Sweetness, but a story I recently came across nearly crushed my image of him.

Cleveland publication The Plain Dealer ran a piece last week focusing on an upcoming biography from writer Jeff Pearlman which digs deeper into Payton’s life – revealing dark secrets that could mar the legacy of the Bears legend. Infidelity, a child out of wedlock (that he reportedly didn’t acknowledge), drug addiction and a hidden affinity for fast food are all laid out for fans to read. I didn’t want to leap to judgment, but I couldn’t ignore what I read.

Pearlman, a former Sports Illustrated writer, was an old-school journalist who undoubtedly fact-checked with the best of them. Clearly he’s not accepting vague accounts from the reported 678 interviews he conducted to complete his book. I trust the writer to have interviewed close friends of the player and write the truth. The truth, it appears, was less than glossy – but does it take away from the fact that Payton did leave behind some “sweetness” along with his legacy?

In a series of interviews last fall, Connie, Payton’s widow, disputed Pearlman’s claims. She didn’t deny that her husband was troubled, but she also didn’t throw her husband’s name into the gutter, nor confirm any of Pearlman’s other claims. Mrs. Payton is also set to release her own memoir.

On the positive side, Walter and his wife started a foundation, which serves underprivileged children, and there is also a cancer research fund in Payton’s name. His oldest child, Jarrett, assisted with running The Walter and Connie Payton Foundation in the past.

The truth is, none of us will know what truly happened during Payton’s life except for the parties involved – which is immediately rendered one-sided because Payton isn’t here to defend himself. Until then, I’ll continue to think of Sweetness as one of the best ever to play the game and remember what his own son said during Payton’s Fame induction, “I am sure my sister will endorse this statement, we have a super dad.”

Payton was not only a role model for many in his sports position, but as a husband and father he was a role model at home. That’s why NFI places such an importance on helping men understand the value - and difficulties of - entering the union of marriage. Men considering marriage, or those organizations working with young men, may want to consider NFI’s Why Knot? program, a perfect place for men to start before making the vital leap into matrimony. Learn more at www.fatherhood.org/why-knot.