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The Father Factor

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Are You Putting Your Kid in a Box?

Writing today in The Huffington Post, NFI President Roland Warren considers what happens when parents dream the wrong dreams for their children--and what parents should be dreaming for their kids. 

Odd LifeFrom "score the winning goal" to "rocking," the Green's get what they wish for; except their dreams may not be reality! As Roland points out, "The film reminds us that while the pull for us parents may be irresistible, we have to refrain from defining our children before we know who they are. Dreaming up the next football star or great novelist may be entertaining, but there are more important things in which we should place our hopes and dreams."

Roland continues, "This is especially true for dads. Dads, and men in general, tend to focus on what others do rather than who they are. Rather than focusing on what we want our children to be, we should be focused on how we want them to 'be.'"

Disney delivers an inspirational message in the way only Disney can. Cindy and Jim ultimately discover that "a child will always be better and more interesting than anything you can dream up," as Roland reminds us.

Roland encourages parents in his article, "Don't put your child in a box. Don't dream up skills and things that are seen and can therefore be contained. Instead, dream and model the unseen, like character, values and respect."

This is a great reminder for any parent, but especially busy dads. We need the reminder to focus, as Roland writes, on "...cherishing our children, no matter what." Thank you, Disney, for that reminder! 

The new family film from Disney arrives in theaters today. Read the full Huffington Post article by Roland and learn more about The Odd Life of Timothy Green.

The Odd Life of Parents

Parents have an "odd life," and Disney’s new family film The Odd Life of Timothy Green brings this to life on the big screen.

odd life

A parent's life is odd. We get this odd opportunity to shape a human being for a short time. When you think about it, our only real prerequisite for having this distinctive thing of childbearing take place is to be a male and a female living on the planet earth. We bring our preconceived notions, the way our parents did things, and the lame stuff our friends tell us into this bowl and mix it up for a few years. A very few short years.

By the time they go away to college, you have a person, and hopefully, after a few years of care and love and teaching, you have person who is mature and grown. You love this person, and you’ve shaped and molded this tiny person into a bigger one through cheesy gold fish and sliced hot dogs. After spending all of this time and money and worry and sacrifice, you learn it’s just starting when you send your prized possession to college. It’s really an odd life for parents.

When my wife mentioned that she might be pregnant -- “might” because you’re never really certain with the first pregnancy until several pregancy tests later -- I just didn’t believe it really happened. It’s quite magical, really.

The moment after you realize you or your significant other is pregnant, your mind shifts into parent mode. Seriously. Your mind takes you places you didn’t previously know about. You now have a parent brain. You dream about the gender and whom he or she will look like in the family. You dream about he or she acting like you or your spouse. You worry about things you never even thought about before you were a parent.

Before the baby came, do you remember all the worry and anxiety and stress over all the things that could go wrong?

Parents have a worry continuum. That contiuum goes from wanting a child, to being pregnant and worrying about said child. This worry and stress, I’m told goes on until the end, with peaks during the high school and college years.

Odd Life

But the odd life of parents is that you learn, as Jim and Cindy Green learn in the film, your kids aren’t really yours. You're just overseers who take care of those little ones on their journey. Whether you promise yourself as Jim does in the film and vow to, "...do things different than my dad" or you make silly parenting mistakes, you really are there to love and care and cherish the children given to you. The rest is not up to you.

It’s an odd thing, the life of parenting. From counseling your teen in relationships, to teaching them sports and music and love and life and death, we parents have been entrusted with something special, a very odd life.

This new family film from Disney will make you relive your parenting mistakes and triumphs and inspire you to cherish the moments you have with your kids. They grow up fast and leave the house, when the real worry and odd life continues.

For more on Disney’s new family film, visit our Timothy Green page.

The Boring Stuff is the Best

Disney's "Up," released last summer, is a fantastic film for young and old, and has some great fatherhood themes - showing how father absence can impact kids and how important it is for male mentors to step into their lives.

I love the part where Russell, the little boy in the film, is talking about how he doesn't see his dad very much. His dad just isn't that interested in him. He goes on to talk about eating ice cream with his dad, and counting the red and blue cars that go by. "It may sound boring, but I like it the best."

Oddly enough, walking through town to go get an ice cream cone is one of my favorite memories with my dad. We forget how special the mundane is; how those little moments can create opportunities and memories. Elaborate plans and fanfare are not always (or even usually) necessary.

What "boring" thing can you do for your kids today?

Teaching an "Old Dog" New Tricks

This weekend, I watched the 2009 Disney movie Old Dogs with my family. Clearly, working at NFI has gotten to me, because about 15 minutes into the film I got a notepad to jot down the great fatherhood moments in the film.

Old Dogs is a family comedy that tells the adventures of Dan (played by Robin Williams) and Charlie (played by John Travolta), friends and business partners who are suddenly thrust into the roles of “dad” and “uncle” when Vicki, the woman Dan married for less than 24 hours during a drunken beach vacation, reappears and Dan learns that he is the father of 7-year-old twins.

While I can’t unequivocally recommend this film due to some suggestive innuendos, Dan’s transition from a 50-something-year-old man who has no clue what to do with children to a father who makes some significant sacrifices to be involved in his kids’ lives is heart-warming and hilarious. And it offers some insights into what kids really need in a dad.

Both of the twins, Zach and Emily, deal with their father’s absence in ways that reflect the different needs that boys and girls have that a father is uniquely positioned to meet. Zach has created a “Dad List” of things he wants to do with his dad that includes camping, learning to ride a bike, and going to his first baseball game. Emily decided that her unknown father was a superhero because, Vicki said, it was her way of explaining who he was. When Dan struggles with pretending to be a superhero or king when Emily asks him to play with her, Charlie tells Dan that Emily just wants someone to protect her.

As NFI’s president Roland C. Warren says, kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. Zach and Emily show us that the hole looks different for boys and girls. Zach needed a man to walk him through the “rites of passage” in boyhood, and Emily needed a man to help her feel secure and safe. While moms certainly play an important role in both those areas, fathers bring a special and unique presence in their children’s lives that can’t be replaced.

Vicki knows this is true - she wants Zach and Emily to meet Dan because she recognizes that there are things she can’t do for her kids that a dad can (even if it’s as basic as taking Zach to the men’s room when he needs to use the bathroom).

Dan ends up making his own “Kid List” of goals, which includes doing something special for his twins’ birthday. Setting goals like that is a good idea for any dad, but the last item on Dan’s “Kid List” is the most important one, and is the message that Old Dogs communicates in between the comic moments - “Be there.”

Of Princesses and First Ladies

In Roland's latest Washington Times column, he explores the idea that "a good father helps his daughter find her prince without kissing all the frogs" and how this is played out in Disney's upcoming movie, "The Princess and The Frog."

He also points out the father factor in the President and First Lady Obama's strong marriage.

You can read the full article here!

The Princess and the Frog (and the dad!)

On December 11, a great new Disney movie is coming out - "The Princess and the Frog." A few of us here at NFI had the privilege of seeing an early screening of the film, and we were impressed on several levels.

First, the beauty of the hand-drawn animation is amazing.

Second, it is an extremely funny, entertaining film with fantastic music.

And third, there is a great fatherhood theme in the film. As NFI president Roland C. Warren is fond of saying, "Good fathers make sure that their daughters find their prince without having to kiss all the frogs." The father in the film, James (voiced by Terence Howard), is a hard-working, dedicated dad who shows his daughter, Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), that she has value, talent, and that she can achieve her dreams through hard work and perseverance.

Throughout the film, Tiana and her mother (voiced by Oprah Winfrey) reflect on her father's positive influence on her life, and how his presence contributed to the good things she achieves.

Given the fatherhood message of the film, NFI was honored to work with Disney to distribute movie-themed cards, books, and other materials to community-based organizations across the country. The organizations will use the materials to create father-friendly atmospheres in their facilities, to provide dads with gifts they can give their children, and to use as giveaways for father-child activities.

To say the least, we at NFI are excited about the release of this film on December 11 (limited NY and LA on 11/25). Visit the official "The Princess and the Frog" website to view trailers and learn more about the film.

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