Father’s Day ain’t what it used to be…

Father’s Day, a day meant to celebrate Dad and show our appreciation for how hard he works to provide for us,or just to show him how much he is loved. As a Dad myself, I have always held the belief that a day like this should be earned, rather than expected – extreme, I know. You see, to me, there is a clear delineation between being called a Father or Dad versus being a Father or Dad. One is just a title whereas the other is a commitment; a way of life. So if you prescribe to my thesis, then Father’s Day has a completely different connotation. Father’s Day becomes more of a day that simply highlights how much family means to us – in other words, Father’s Day is more about giving to our families, rather than receiving gifts or accolades. Taking all of that into account, Father’s Day was amazing – for the most part. I got to spend quality time with the family, doing different activities and of course, taking the mandatory trip to Disneyland. My Father’s Day unfortunately hit a sour note, when I experienced a situation that reminded me that our Dad “culture” is in need of some serious tune up, especially on a day like this.

It all started off with what was supposed to be a light-hearted Father’s Day “Olympics” hosted by my daughter’s preschool. The “intent” of the day was to participate in several Olympic style events along with our children. I hate to say it like this but, as things typically do when you get a bunch of guys together in a competitive environment, the day quickly spiraled out of control as some Dads began to take the events way too seriously – which all culminated with the final event. The gold medal event was an obstacle course that consisted of several events: 25-yard dash while carrying your child, 10 jumping jacks, 15-second squat, jungle gym run thru, 10 yard skip, a hurdle and then a last 25-yard dash while holding your child – whew, it even tires me out just to write that! Well, I am proud to say that my daughter and I won our first heat! But, during the championship round, it was clear things had taken an ugly turn.

The first thing I noticed, as the winning Dads from each heat lined up for the championship round, the immediate and border-line inappropriate trash talking…in front of our children. As the apparent voice of reason, I quickly retorted, “c’mon now, this is about the kids, lets keep it classy” to which I received no reply. We were off! I fit in nicely in second place as we entered our second event, the 10 jumping jacks. As we got the station, the lead Dad accidentally skipped the station and was on to the third. Upon realizing his error, he quickly returned to the second station but by this time, the rest of us Dads were already on our 10th jumping jack. So what does this guy do? He rejoins our group and yells out “Ten” while doing one jumping jack – so now this guy is a trash talking cheater! As we proceed through the other stations, this guy and I are now neck in neck, tied for first place. As we approach the second to last event, the hurdle, let’s just say that I received a nudge which caused me to temporarily lose my balance – but I still was tied for first. We reach the final event, the dreaded 25-yard dash while carrying our little ones – I am completely out of gas. I muster whatever energy I have left and pick up my daughter and begin to head towards the finish line. At this point, I am solidly comfortable with my apparent second place finish as this guy now has a good 10 yard gain on me. But it’s what happens next that quite literally shocked me and stopped me in my tracks.

Now although I am a believer in what goes around – comes around, because this involved a child, I really hope in this instance, this wasn’t the case. About 10 yards from the finish line, this Dad turns around and gives me a look that I can only describe as a taunt, as if he were very pleased with himself and his first place finish. As soon as he turned back around to face the finish line – he totally eats it by tripping over his own foot and landing on top of his daughter! Seeing it again in my mind’s eye – only in slow motion – it was a very scary sight. My daughter and I immediately stop to pull the Dad off his screaming daughter. Dad is in a daze and the child has bumps and scrapes and is starting to bleed, I couldn’t help but looking at this whole situation from a 30,000 foot level. Was the trash talking, cheating and taunting worth this outcome? And worse yet, what type of example was he setting for his daughter. And just as worse, the damage control I now I have to do with my own daughter who has witnessed all of this!

You see, this Dad was completely blinded by the idea of winning, that he put the safety of his own daughter at risk. And, in a way, this incident is a metaphor for some of us Dads. We can be so consumed by our own goals, desires and needs, that the needs of our children and families often take a backseat. It’s only when we begin to the change the paradigm of what it means to be a Father, that we begin to realize that being one is much more than simply being called one. It’s about cherishing this wonderful and unique opportunity to positively affect the lives of those whom we truly love.

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The World We Live In…

The following is a post I published shortly after the Newtown Tragedy and it is with quiet trepidation that this post be apropos to the terrorist bombing in Boston by simply adding April 15, 2013 to the list of events below – but the sentiment is still valid and thus the need for a re-posting.

I remember, quite vividly (which as you may know by now, is a feat all in of itself for me) watching live television on January 28, 1986. I remember helping my dad suit up in tactical gear in April 1992 as he headed out to catch a ride on the humvee that was waiting to take him to South Central Los Angeles. I also remember waking up and making my way out of our house on January 17, 1994. I remember sitting in my office on September 11, 2001, after working the overnight shift, and watching The Today Show while noticing my e-mail inbox filling up with e-mails coming in seemingly every second. I remember having dinner at my in-laws house on May 2, 2011 and watching social media just explode.  And now, I will remember watching the morning news on December 14, 2012.

Each of these events has left an ineffaceable imprint on our society, our laws (soon), our conscious and our soul – and I wrestle – as I am sure we all do – with what to do now.

The pain, anguish, hurt and confusion, is still too raw – but we all know that our lives must go on. Due to this tragedy and the overwhelming need to be with family during the holiday season, I have decided to suspend my regular posting until January 2013.

In the meanwhile, we parents have the task of making sense out of this senseless act. We have turned off the television for our little one, when it comes to this topic – opting instead to talk about this in terms of prayer. The coming days, weeks and months are going to be transformational. My mother – 20+ year school teacher is seeing an increase in security unlike anything she has ever seen before. My daughter’s preschool has doubled their security presence. The world is changing – we parents need to be there and help define it for our children.

However you choose to reconcile this horrific event, and the ones that will undoubtedly come, let us be mindful of the messages WE are giving our children. Not passing judgement on anyone but we have to understand the effect our behavior and actions have on our children – going out and buying guns or keeping your children from school may not be the right answer. Likewise, acting as if nothing happened is not healthy either. If you struggle, seek help – If you have something you would like to share, please do. Let us be a community on this – for the sake of our precious children.

What’s the big deal about today?

I suffer a from an ailment that apparently a lot of bloggers and writers suffer from. There apparently isn’t a scientific name but it can generally be described as a situation where you develop this elaborate rant in your head, complete with flourishes, imagery and wit but the connection from your head to verbalization is apparently damaged. Such is the case for today’s post.

In my head, I had this very coherent argument about the ills of Valentine’s Day – Capitalism and the media’s perversion of the once religious holiday and how it’s transformed into an $18.6 Billion dollar bonanza on luxury goods, over-priced meals and flowers that are marked up 300%. In my head I was all worked up about how messages like “Every Kiss begins with Kay” or “Show her you love her with Tiffany’s”. If this is taken literally, these messages completely demean relationships and suggest that on the one hand, I can be a total jerk every other day but on this day, here, take this trinket…we good? And on the other hand, it suggest that love can only be measured by WHAT and WHERE you got me something from! Sounds highly superficial and shallow to me. In my head, I was incensed at the thought that the perversion of this day, coupled with the equally damaging messaging, could be harming our children’s perception about love and healthy relationships. In my head, my heart aches as I contemplated on how this day can be confusing and potentially damaging to young children who may or may not get a “proper” example of a functioning relationship at home. How love is immediately and irrevocably tied to faint and waning materialism to the point where even the word “love” holds as much value as the passive aggressive, insincere, eye rolling “love ya” you see most adolescent girls give to their “frenemies”.

But alas, as I sat down to record my diatribe, my ability to coherently express what I was truly feeling, read more like a grumpy old man that had one too many bad Valentine’s Days. I felt like the true essence of my thoughts would be lost in the muck and the mire of the criticism of this day and my post would be reduced to just a few ramblings about how commercialism is bad. And that would just be unfortunate if that was all you took away from today’s post.

The truth of the matter is, I do love this day. I love the spirit of this day and the mood that it puts people in. This is one of the few days of the year where the notion of doing some form of “good” for someone else is center stage. And I love this day even more so now that I am a Father – to experience this day through the eyes of a child is too adorable. But ultimately, what led me to write this post in the first place is, I feel like we parents need to instill in our children that this day does not dictate our behavior, but rather, our everyday nature to love one another is celebrated on this day. We should reject the notion that this day tells us how to show affection for loved ones and embrace the fact that love and affection for those we care about is a year-long affair. Our children need to understand the value and necessity of positive relationships. We need to help them understand that what they see and hear about this day are just suggestions about showing love but not THE way to show love to one another. Like most everything else, it is up to us to combat the messages that bombard our lives leading up to this day and be the examples we were meant to be for our children.

What’s love got to do with it?

There often comes a time in one’s life where you learn something so profound, it changes your perspective. There are other times you hear something that changes your outlook. And then, there are times when you see and read something that you simply cannot ignore.

While getting ready for work the other day and listening to Good Morning America, I heard the story of a “Dad” (and I use this term loosely) who wrote a rather scathing letter to his adult children. I will spare you all the details and you can read it here .

But suffice it to say, if you don’t want to read it, he ends the letter by signing, “I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed, Dad. [sic].” You can draw through inference how the entire letter reads but even that would not do it justice. The basic themes: lack of maturity, lack of responsibility, failing to live up to the educational and financial expectations, etc, etc. – if this person’s children were adolescents, this letter would be tad amount to verbal and emotional child abuse

Regardless of how this letter has gained national media attention, a letter like this, written by a Dad, should serve as a wake up call for us real dads. I would submit that this is a perfect example of the old “Dad mold” that we need to destroy and put in its place a response that should be “Dad 2.0”.

Assuming his children are as worthless as he paints them to be, the failure of a Dad to raise his children with values is a failing on the Dad alone and not on the children. A real Dad recognizes this and strives every day to right the wrongs of the past.

This dad confirms to the “old” norm that suggest (as he notes in his letter) that he has provided financially for his children – and they should show their gratitude by being productive adults?!? We obviously don’t know every aspect of this family’s life but it’s not hard to tell that this dad believes that adequate finances are the only aspect needed for a healthy childhood – we should all know that this is flat out wrong.

To me, this Dad should re-read his letter and simply ask himself, “How did my children get to this point and what did I do to contribute to this situation?” And I suspect he’ll discover that although he feels he did everything he was supposed to, there is obviously a lot lacking in other areas that would account for his feelings toward his children.

We Dads need to look inside ourselves take responsibility for how we raise our children but more importantly, we need brutally honest job performance feedback. Moms, spouses, family members, this is where you come in and are so vital to the process of us becoming great dads. Look, we aren’t perfect – far from it – but we are wrong if we are not in a constant mode of self-improvement so that we don’t end up like this dad telling his children how much of a failure THEY are, instead of looking in the mirror.

There is a great temptation to aggrandize the things we do and consider them to be amazing works of parenthood but in creating this new Dad mold, “Dad 2.0”, we have to resist, as Chris Rock said, and I paraphrase, “Taking care of your kids is something you are supposed to do, what do you want, a cookie?!?” We need to do more than just taking care of our children, we need to constantly look at ways of being a better Dad!

Dad’s we are better than this, I know we are.