What Every Son Needs From His Father

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I just watched the film “Courageous” with my son yesterday and while it was hard not to hold back the cynical humor that he and I share about “the cheese factor” that movies have, (and this one had so much cheese they should sell it at Pizza Hut) the film did have a central component that I thought was vital; namely what happens to children when they grow up in fatherless homes. It prompted me to do some statistical research that I found alarming and should give any father pause. Here’s some things I’ve found that only begin to scratch the surface :

  • Incarceration Rates - Young men who grow up in homes without fathers double the odds of being incarcerated even when other factors such as race, income, parent education were held constant.
  • Suicide - 63% of suicides are from fatherless homes.
  • Behavioral Disorders - 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.
  • High School Dropouts - 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
  • Aggression - Some research has found greater levels of aggression in boys from mother only households than from boys in mother-father households

All men long to have a relationship with their fathers and while some guys have an incredibly strong bond with their dads, more often the story goes something like this :

  • “We were never really close”
  • “He worked so hard I rarely ever saw him”
  • “My dad left when I was young”

In light of overwhelming evidence and with no disrespect to any “Maverick Moms” out there, here are three things I think every son needs from his father :

They need you to stay close

Every teenager withdraws. It’s a natural part of growing up. Like most fathers (myself included) we end up making the same critical mistake: we withdraw too. Find out what their interests are and take them fishing, to a football game-whatever. Just do something!! Don’t withdraw even though they withdraw.

They need someone to believe in them

Austin's always asking me the question, “Dad do you think I have what it takes?” to whatever pops in his head on any particular week. Some of those ideas are good and some just make me cringe. Last week he told me that he was able to share some of his learned experiences this past year with some friends based on the fact that his parents love him no matter what. Keep your criticisms constructive and believe the best.

They need an example

The word of the day folks is authentic.  With phrases like “real talk”, “true that” or  “for real”, kids nowadays have a much more refined built-in lie detector than we ever did. If your life is communicating something different than the life you’re asking your kids to live, then your counsel means little. How I treat my wife, how I treat others, how I handle (or don’t handle) my emotions, etc..will set the standard for them. Be consistent and give them someone worth looking up to.

Just Trust Me

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I learned a big lesson about trust recently when my son asked me, "Dad can I go to a friends house?". With him starting high-school this year and us having a rough eighth grade year with him last year, one could say that Tiff and I have moved from default parenting into a more intentional parenting mode in the last six months. It was about a week and half ago, with no school due to a teacher's planning day, that I decided to leave Austin and Jordan with my mother-in-law because I didn't want to leave him home alone. When he asked me why he couldn't stay home alone, I gave him a pat response and told him it was because I didn't completely trust the new neighborhood. So after I dropped him off, he then called me and asked if he could hang out at a friends house in our old neighborhood. So I gave him another pat response and told him that I didn't completely trust that idea and that his friend could verily easily come over to grandma's house. Then Austin said three little words that cut at the heart of where I was coming from and gave some real shape to all of my amorphous responses; he said, "Dad... just trust me".

I've found that so much of parenting can be summed up in those three little words : "Just trust me".

  • Just trust me, "You don't want to watch TV to closely"
  • Just trust me, "I'll catch you if you jump"
  • Just trust me, "Eating that at this hour will make you sick"

We say those words all the time but are we really being trustworthy parents. We assume our kids will trust us because WE know that we'll be there for them. We provide them with food, shelter, and more toys and gadgets then they know what to do with. But is this really how we let our children know they can trust us?

Trust is a function of two things: character and competence.
— Stephen Covey

As parents, we have so many things competing for our attention. When we choose what's less important over our children, we're spending equity against the relational trust we work so hard to build. And when we don't extend trust even when that trust has been violated, we're basically not making necessary deposits where that trust can be rebuilt. This week I've thought about how I as a parent have withdrawn from the "relational trust account" that I have with my kids by asking myself several questions :

  • Did I respond the first time my child called my name? Have I been a good listener?
  • Did I keep my word when I said I would do something for or with them? Have I kept my commitments?
  • Have I ignored my kids due to work, text messaging, social media outlets while they were talking to me?
  • Have I extended trust when given the opportunity?

I have so much to learn as a parent and look forward in doing some self inventory on how to become a more trustworthy one. After all, when we demonstrate to our kids that we can trust them in the mundane moments of life, they will trust us in those "leap of faith" moments as well.

16 on the 16th

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This morning I woke up to a card my wife laid on my chest that said, "I wouldn't trade one moment of our life together. Everything we've shared has only made us stronger and I know our future holds even more happiness-because of the wonderful man you are, because of the way you make feel...and because every year, I keep falling even deeper in love with you."  Today we celebrate 16 years of marriage and so I wanted to write 16 random things I love about my wife.

Tiffany

  1. I love when you freak out- you make this sound that sounds exactly like Chewbacca from Star Wars. "Burrrr--ghghgh"!
  2. I love you're insane love for animals and how you saved our dogs life when she was dying; buttercup has become our fourth child.
  3. I love how you consider me your best friend.
  4. I love that the only reason you laugh at slapstick comedy films is because of the sound of me laughing at slapstick comedy films.
  5. I love how the only reason I cry in sad movie scenes is because of the way you cry in sad movie scenes.
  6. I love how you're the absolute worst at picking movies but the absolute best at memorizing every lyric to every song on the radio.
  7. I love waking up to you each and every day.
  8. I love that you're the best mother any child can have.
  9. I love how you're the handy man of the house and when I break things I'm, "Demolition Dad" and when you fix things you're, "Rambo Mom"!!
  10. I love it when you sing.
  11. I love how almost all my favorite memories have you in it.
  12. I love how you look in a red dress.
  13. I love how you have just enough Native American ancestry to give you those high cheek bones but not enough to give us any Native American government benefits.
  14. I love how you put up with my sarcasm.
  15. I love......... (this is a "G" rated blog) 
  16. And finally, I love how we secretly eloped 16 years ago and against all odds and God's grace, we're still together.
Happy 16th Anniversary!!

Why Commitment Matters

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Lately I've noticed everyone's in competition to get some kind of commitment from you one way or another. Commitment that's relatively cheap with instant gratification and in some cases requiring absolutely no membership. Whether it's Redbox vs. Netflix vs. Blockbuster or  XBOX vs. Playstation vs. Nintendo Wii or FOX vs. NBC vs. ABC  etc., etc....each trying to get more viewers and more customers. Consequently, creating a culture that says if something's broken, you don't fix it, instead you go and buy a new one; a mindset not based on loyalty but competition. The problem with this framework, is that it's permeated our relationships and has us obsessed with voting people off after a series of dates with shows like "The Bachelor", "Tough Love" or for you older folks "The Dating Game". The way people show love for others nowadays, seems to emulate the same love we have for our smart phones, you know, lasting up until the new shiny sleek version is available.

Who or what are you committed to?

Our consumer culture seems to be erasing the most valuable commodity in any relationship : Commitment!!! However, commitment (in any relationship) matters because it leads to a certain kind of safety that will build a deeper kind of intimacy. Over time you learn to be more transparent, share secrets, confess fears, forgive without the worrying about betrayal. Instead of running away, there's a constant running towards. Commitment matters because it's an adventure and resonates with our deepest longings to be heroic and stay strong in our darkest moments. That moment where all seems lost, we gather the strength to defeat whatever darkness we're faced with. Being married for 15 years and three kids later, I know now that commitment builds love over time and makes the relationship much more valuable in the end...creating a love that's not for sale and without a price tag.

Why do some people have this level of commitment and others don't? Starting next week I'm putting together some workshops on marriage, parenting and singleness with some of the best licensed counselors in Miami. If you're interested in attending and having many questions answered, go head and click on workshops below and/or contact me via email for more information.

Workshops :  Marriage, Parenting and Singleness

Nightmares

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When I was growing up I could watch any horror movie and not be scared. Didn't matter whether it was Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th...even the Exorcist. Maybe because what looked like reality on TV was only an illusion, with special effects and heavy design makeup, but now that I'm all grown up, it seems that reality has me more afraid than anything I've ever seen on the silver screen. Living in a post 9-11 world it seems that everyone is in a constant state of fear whether it's the next terrorist attack, an economic meltdown, some end of the world scenario...even what there putting in certain foods of late. I mean just the other day I read that there's now pesticides in baby formula...really!! Maybe horror film director Clive Barker was right when he said, "Horror fiction shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion." That surely seemed to be what I felt last week when my son boarded a plane for the first time and flew to Washington D.C. on his middle school class trip.

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Everything seemed to be fine before the trip when suddenly, Tiffany gets a call from his teacher that our son was unresponsive mid-flight and had to be taken out on a stretcher by the paramedics upon landing. You can only imagine the horror I felt which is far beyond even my ability to put in words. It was like someone tied a cinder block to my lower intestine at the thought of possibly losing my son. Apparently his vitals signs were all fine when he woke up and we very hesitantly allowed him to finish his three day tour of the nation's capitol. Knowing there's a family history of seizures in our family we've taken him to have EEG's, MRI's and blood work done this week; we're still waiting for the results. Needless to say the whole ordeal left me emotionally drained, helpless and had me asking myself the question :

 "What are you most afraid of?"

Nightmares are a pretty good indication that you've made something, bad or good, into an ultimate thing and in turn created a "monster" in your life. A monster that will crush you with it's merciless demands and unforgiving wants. Whether it's the monster of fear, greed, power, lust etc...  If I had to take a "What am I most afraid of" quiz, I guess it's the fear of being completely and utterly alone....losing the ones I love and having no control over the matter. I was somewhat comforted those three days while Austin was in D.C, and I at home in breathless panic, with a picture I have hung in my kitchen that says, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". However, I think I just might rent Paranormal Activity on Uverse tonight...you know, since all the normal activity around the world is scaring the heck out of me.