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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.

Even The Best Heroes Have Flaws

I’ve been trying to avoid cliché 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

Dwyane Wade: All-Star Guard, All-Star Dad

Earlier this month, ABC News profiled Miami Heat star basketball player Dwyane Wade before the start of the NBA season. This time however, the high-flying Chicago native wasn’t showcasing his crafty moves on the court. Instead, Wade’s dedication to fatherhood was the centerpiece of the story.

While fans across the globe gleefully counted down the days leading up to the Christmas Day start of the NBA season as a gift, Dwyane Wade kept true to his Twitter bio line which I absolutely love: “I'm a father first and everything else after that” – and D-Wade’s devotion was hard to ignore in the ABC News clip.

What stood out to me was Wade’s unflinching pride about being a father, even under the tough circumstances that led him to becoming a single dad. Marrying his high school sweetheart Siohvaughn, the couple had two sons together, Zaire and Zion. After a bitter and very public divorce, Wade won sole custody of his boys back in March of this year. Fighting hard to remain in his children’s life, Wade proved that his sons were a top priority.

Along with Zaire and Zion, Wade’s nephew also lives with the hoops star full time. The ABC clip showed D-Wade and his family bonding via horseplay, but there are some ground rules and a focus on schoolwork that is also enforced with care. And while Wade’s hefty NBA contract is often fodder for discussion, he is clear in letting folks know that he’s much more than a sports millionaire. “It is not about the money I have or don't have," shared Wade. "It is about the time I am willing to sit down across the table from my kids and if they don't get something right, helping them get it right.”

Through various community programs and his own Wade’s World Foundation non-profit group, D-Wade takes time out to assist other fathers wishing to bridge the gap between themselves and their children. Another highlight from the news segment was that of Wade and his ex-wife’s willingness to co-parent, despite the media fallout from their divorce proceedings and emphasizing that his sons still needed their mother.

D-Wade is aggressive, brash and downright intense on the court, but away from the game the 29-year old gives off a serene calm – especially when talking about his dad duties with glowing pride. Although he can employ a dizzying catalog of spin moves and perform fearless drives to the basket, Dwyane Wade already hit the game-winning shot as far as fatherhood goes.

Fathers and Testosterone: Lowered Levels Not So Bad After All

An interesting video report appeared on ABC News’ site the other day regarding men who become new dads, stating that the responsibilities that go along with the job caused lowered testosterone levels in men. Earlier this year, NFI’s Vincent DiCaro wrote a blog post in response to a New York Times piece regarding the very research that led to this discovery. Vince’s blog highlighted key points that affirmed why this hormonal development may in fact aid fathers in their parental duties.

ABC’s report follows the same angle in showing that dads who dote on their children have lowered testosterone levels but state that science supports this being good for the family unit. In generations past, men were often cast as pillaging nomads intent on exacting their aggressive will upon women and challenging other men in silly egotistical contests. Rare was it that fathers were shown to be in the house with their children, cooing to them or caring for their progeny.

Emmy-winning London-based ABC News correspondent Nick Watt led the latest report, injecting himself into the story as a father of two small boys himself. Watt playfully jabbed at himself for having lowered hormone levels, with various shots of the reporter playing lovingly with his boy. Harvard professor Peter Ellison, also quoted in the Times piece, reacted to Watt’s assertion that his “modern day” dad duties were making him less of a man. Ellison refuted the thought, simply saying that it’s an incorrect way to look at this startling phenomenon.

The action then cuts to Watt profiling a local rugby team, one of the most brutal sports on the planet. Highlighting a star player and coach who were both dads, Watt reported that their testosterone levels, while lowered after fatherhood, spiked back to normal while engaged in their contests. Watt also mentioned aptly that human parenting is easier when mom and dad are both involved. Watt was also candid in sharing that his own father was not as caring as he is with his sons, noting that dads in the 70s modeled themselves into alpha-male caricatures instead of involved parents.

Watt closed out his report mentioning his wife just had a second baby and that with two small children, he joked that his testosterone levels were in the “basement”. Watt ended the segment with two really awesome quotes I’d like to share with the Factor Father readers.

“This is, in fact, more manly than leaving wife and kids at home to go skydiving and skirt chasing,” said Watt while being shown spinning his eldest son around. Watt ended the clip by saying, “I’m at home in the nest, as nature says I should be.”

Amen to that, Mr. Watt.

Fatherhood By the Numbers

Greetings, Father Factor readers! My name is D.L. Chandler, a recent addition to the National Fatherhood Initiative staff in the capacity of Web Editor. I joined NFI officially on December 5, and it has been a wonderful experience so far. Everyone on the staff is not only committed to our core mission of increasing the viability and visibility of involved and responsible dads, but it’s such an inviting environment as well.

Building Together with LEGO

If you haven’t seen them yet, you have to watch LEGO’s most recent TV commercials. They really sell the father-son connections that can be made through “building together" with LEGO products.

For me, these commercials strike several chords! First, I have always been a huge Star Wars fan (although the prequels have soured things a bit… or a lot…). Second, I loved playing with LEGOs when I was a kid.

And finally, I am a dad now, and my son is just starting to reach the age (he is 23 months old) where he is interested in LEGOs. My parents got him the Duplo LEGOs, which are larger than regular LEGOs so that younger kids (and less dextrous fingers!) can play with them.

My son -- Little Vinny as we call him -- calls his Duplos his “bocks;” he can’t quite get the "L" sound right, but he is close enough. He often walks up to me holding out his “bocks,” and we work together to piece a few of them together. He will then carry our little creation around the house with him for hours.

We haven’t actually built any recognizable objects yet, but we are building something much more important (and I think this is LEGO's point) – we are building a bond with each other that will be stronger than any physical structure we will come up with.

But don’t get me wrong – I am looking forward to the day when we get the Star Wars LEGO sets and build an awesome TIE Fighter or Death Star together. Then, we will rule the galaxy as father and son! (only Star Wars fans will get that reference)

If you have any great LEGO stories, share them with us here or on our Facebook page; photos of what you built together would be even better! In the meantime, go "build together" with your kids!

The Thankful Campaign: A T-I-M-E to Be Thankful

This Thanksgiving, I had a few conversations that made me especially thankful.

During a car ride to my church’s Thanksgiving eve service, my 26 year-old son, Justin, told me that he knew that sometimes it must be especially challenging to keep motivated doing the work that I do. But, he offered that he wanted to encourage me to keep doing it. He said that I have touched so many through my time at NFI. He also said that it really matters that I have been a “father-figure” for several of his friends. And, interestingly, it really meant a lot to him that I attended nearly all of his football games, from Pop Warner through college. He said, “Dad, you are laying up treasure in heaven…”

Then, as we were cleaning up from Thanksgiving dinner, my 29 year-old son, Jamin, told me that so many of his many friends tell him that they don’t really “know” their parents. He offered that their parents spent so much time working to give his friends material things that they failed to give them the most important thing of all…their time. He said, “Dad, you struck the right balance…”

Kids do say the darndest things.

Ironically, my sons’ comments could not have been better timed. You see, I turned 50 years old in October and, frankly, I have been reflecting quite a bit about the choices that I have made in my life, especially when it dawned on me that I likely have more yesterdays than tomorrows. I have often wondered if I have invested my life wisely so far. Social change, like parenting, is hard work that requires steadfastness.

Alas, one can grow weary of doing good, no matter the rightness of the cause. So, it was good to hear this type of affirmation from my sons. Their words were a tremendous encouragement to me and I am hopeful that they will serve as a motivation for other dads, especially those with young children, who read this.

As I am fond of saying, kids spell love “T-I-M-E.” And I know that being a dad, at times, can seem like a thankless job. But if you hang in there and choose to be a father who provides, nurtures and guides, there is a wonderful “treasure” that awaits you.

And for this, like me, you will be thankful.

When your father is the milkman

The 11/21/11 issue of Time magazine did its "10 Questions" feature with Sting.

In it, Sting reveals that the first time his father ever complimented him was when he was on his deathbed. How could this happen? How could a father never compliment his son, especially one as "successful" as Sting?

I think part of the answer may have been revealed in the rest of Sting's answer. He says:

"My dad and I had the same hands. I hadn't really noticed that until he was on his deathbed, and I mentioned it. And he said, 'You used your hands better than I did.' My dad was a milkman. And I realized that was probably the first compliment he'd ever paid me, and that was kind of devastating."

Maybe I am wrong, but what I read into this is that these were two people who had mutual contempt for each other's professions, and it likely damaged their relationship.

Sting's dad was a working class guy - a milkman. Is it possible that he was jealous of his son's success doing something as "frivolous" as pop music while he worked hard every day for a modest wage? Why else would he never compliment his famous son?

And is it also possible that Sting had contempt for his "working stiff" dad who didn't use his hands right? And could this contempt have shown?

If my speculation is correct, they were both wrong. Sting should have respected his father for working to support his family. And think of all the families who had milk every day because of what Sting's dad did. And Sting's dad should have respected his son for using his remarkable talent to entertain the world. Every person has value, and each person is given gifts to be used to help others. While Sting and his dad had very different gifts, both of their contributions should have been valued, especially by each other.

Instead, we end up with a "devastated" son whose father paid him only one compliment. The lesson: find the value in the unique gifts your children have, as inconsequential as they may seem on the surface, and compliment them often. You never know when your time will come.

The Thankful Campaign: A Military Dad: Thankful for Restored Relationships

This is a post by Tim Red, NFI's Director of Military Program Support Services. After spending 30 years in the U.S. Army, Tim now leads NFI's efforts to help the U.S. military add fatherhood programming to its work to support military families. Tim and his wife have four children and live in Texas. Tim contributes this blog post as part The Thankful Campaign and shares his personal experience about realizing that sometimes the things we're thankful for come out of the hardest experiences of life.

I am thankful for my improved relationship with my oldest son (Travis). My mobilization/deployment from July 2005 through December 2006 affected him more than any of my kids. It put distance in our relationship that I did not know or understand. He told me three summers ago that he quit praying the day I got on that plane to go overseas. In the last four years there has really been calm only once for about a two month span in the spring of 2009. Things got very ugly in July of this year - so bad that I had to give an ultimatum that changed his life.

Since then, we have talked more in the last three and a half months than we had in the previous four years. I am thankful for the changes he has made in his life and continues to make. We have still got a long way to go, but if you would have told me we would be at this point after the events of July, I would say you were crazy. I never thought we could come so far so fast. So I am very thankful for having my son back.

I am also thankful for the young men and women that serve our country all around this world. I am thankful for their military families who support them. And I am thankful for the services that are provided by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to support our military families.

To learn more about NFI's work with the military, visit

Dads Playbook Podcast with NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell. Week 4: Fathering Sons

Welcome to the fourth installment of our 10-week podcast series, "Dads Playbook featuring NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell."

This week, NFI president Roland C. Warren sits down with Mark to talk about raising sons.

Since boys and girls are different, being a father to them presents different challenges and opportunities. Mark, a father of three boys and one girl, has some great advice for being a great dad to your son.

Click here to download the podcast on Mark’s game plan for being an All-Star Dad when it comes to raising sons.

Vinny on the Rocks

In keeping with NFI’s July theme of hitting the Great Outdoors, I hit the Mediocre Outdoors with my 18-month-old son last week. We went into my backyard.

Being the thoughtful father that I am, I actually had a real goal in taking Little Vinny back there. It was a nice day out, he had been watching an Elmo video for a while, and I figured he needed some “free play” in the “fresh air” in order to develop properly.

So, there we were in my fairly large, fairly green backyard, and I just let him go to see what he would do. I had visions of him scurrying across the grass, wind blowing through his hair, giggling at the sheer joy of experiencing the wonders of suburban nature.

In addition, there was a dog in the backyard (his name is Junior and he is our dog), there were toys on the lawn, and the property has a few shaded corners under tall pine trees. Lots of great places for a curious kid to explore. This was going to be Great (or at least Mediocre).

Instead, Little Vinny decided to head right for the ugliest, most dangerous place in the entire yard – a small pile of sharp rocks underneath the deck.

This pile of rocks comes complete with a rusty iron rod sticking straight up out of the ground, whose purpose I have yet to determine in nearly three years of living in this house. There is also the rusty outdoor faucet sticking out of the concrete wall. And last but not least is the scramble of electrical wires populating said concrete wall. It would have been disastrous had he pulled on one of these dangerous, live wires – I would have lost my DirecTV service. But I digress.

So this is where my child decided he wanted to play.

My first instinct was to pick him up and move him into the middle of the lawn. I did this. He promptly turned around and returned to the dangerous pit in the darkness of the deck’s shade.

Then he started picking up the sharp rocks and throwing them. Some of them were hitting the concrete wall and bouncing back in his direction, missing his bare (chunky, adorable) legs by inches.

Then he started walking around the perimeter of his private quarry with one of the larger rocks in hand. I pictured him opening his fragile little hand, revealing a deep, bloody gash across his palm, smiling sinisterly at me and asking me to perform some tribal rite. Although that didn’t happen, I continued to operate under the illusion that he just hadn’t yet noticed the big, beautiful backyard.

So, I once again picked him up and placed him in the middle of the grassy yard. The sun was shining in his light brown curls. There was a glimmer of hope. I even recruited the dog into my effort to make the grassy part of the lawn fun. I did this by pointing at the dog and then pointing at Vinny. The dog looked at me stupidly. As I contemplated his dumb look, Vinny returned to his pit.

At this point, I gave up.

But after a few moments of reflection, a peace came over me. I reminded myself that if I was really interested in him exploring and having free play, then I would have to deal with whatever it was he decided to do. I saw that he probably liked walking on the rocks because it was a very different surface than what he is used to – uneven, a little shaky, and the rocks made neat sounds as they scraped together under his feet. He also likes to touch things, and the rocks would actually be sort of interesting from a toddler’s point of view. They were black, cold, and fit perfectly in his eager hand.

He was happy. So, I decided to be happy, too. I just sat back and watched him start his mining career. “So, this is what it is like experiencing the great outdoors with your child,” I thought to myself. As I thought this profound thought to myself, I also said, “Myself, are those mosquitos biting you?” I then came to a sudden realization that my legs were an itchy mess. I was getting killed by mosquitoes, so I decided to cut our excursion short and take Vinny back inside.

When I picked him up, he still held one of his rocks in his hand. I made him put it down on the deck before we went inside, and it is still lying there, a week later, as a reminder.

A reminder of my wonderful time in the backyard with my son?

No, a reminder that, for unknown reasons, I have a pile of sharp rocks under my deck! Why are those even there?! While I look into this, I wish you many grand adventures in your little piece of the outdoors, wherever, or however dangerous, it may be.

Encourage and challenge your children, but don't push too hard

This is a post by Mike Yudt, NFI's Director of National Programming. Mike is a married father of two young sons. Mike shares his thoughts on encouraging your kids to participate in outdoor sports as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."

As a father of two boys (ages one and three), I am often dreaming of who they will become as they grow older. Like most dads, I would love to see my sons take an interest in sports. Growing up, I played soccer and ran track (with a little bit of basketball mixed in). If I’m honest with myself, I would love to see my sons show similar interest in the great game of soccer and in running. But I often will catch myself as I want to make sure that I am not living vicariously through them and imposing something on them that they are not interested in. I firmly believe that as fathers we should expose our children to a variety of activities (not just sports) to determine where their interests and abilities lie.

My wife and I recently enrolled our three-year-old son, Caleb, in a four week program that introduced him to the basics of three sports: soccer, basketball, and t-ball. It was a great opportunity for him to enjoy these games, learn from people other than mom and dad, and play with other kids. At the end of the day, Caleb seemed to enjoy t-ball over soccer and basketball. In fact, one of my proudest moments came when he picked up a ball that was hit and threw it all the way from shortstop to third base to get the lead runner. I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about “getting the lead runner,” but his throw was spot on and I could not have been prouder.

Caleb is also currently enrolled in a swim class. In fact, he has his second to last class tonight. I am proud of him for getting in the pool with someone other than mom and dad. At this age, that’s a huge step for him and I know someday he will be swimming laps around me. And I’m sure his little brother Joshua will be as well given how hard it is to keep him out of the pool during Caleb’s swim class.

The journey of teaching our children to love sports can be a difficult one. I’ve had to check myself along the way to make sure that I am not placing unrealistic expectations on my children. The last message I want to send to my children is one of me being frustrated with them because they don’t take an interest (or show an ability) in what I enjoy. So the conclusion I have come to is this: as fathers, we should challenge our children to excel at all they do. But we should never push them too much so they cease to enjoy their childhood and don’t have free time to just be kids.

Over-programming our children’s lives is a phenomenon that is frankly not healthy for our children. Yes, kids need structure and programs certainly serve a purpose. If I didn’t believe that, I would not have registered Caleb for the sports and swim classes that he has enjoyed this summer. But my wife and I also make a point to allow him and his brother to have ample time to use their imagination and to make up their own games. And we’re constantly amazed at what they come up with.

Let’s allow our children the flexibility to be children, rather than scheduling every minute of their lives. Let’s be patient and encourage our children to try new things that can challenge them to grow. But let’s not give them an unnecessary burden to carry at such a young age. Just one dad’s thoughts…

A Family Legacy of Camping and Hiking

This is a post by Nigel Vann, Senior Director of Training and Technical Assistance for the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. Nigel shares his memories of camping and hiking with his son Jesse as part of NFI's "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer" campaign. In addition to the generational legacy of outdoor adventures that Nigel shares, notice the great work-family balance technique he practiced - using business trips as opportunities for family memories!

Reading Mike’s recent blog took me back to when my son was younger (he’s now 26). We had great fun going camping – although we didn’t start as early as Mike! I really like the way that Mike emphasizes how what we do with our kids at an early age can have such a lasting impact. For me, it’s a key part of establishing a family legacy. Although my parents didn’t take me camping as a youngster, I was lucky that they were avid hikers and I have many fond memories of short family hikes as I was growing up. That’s certainly a tradition I’ve carried on and been able to pass on to my son.

Besides many hiking adventures, three camping trips with my son stand out in my memory:

The first, which may have been Jesse’s first camping experience, was at a local campground in Maryland when he was probably 5 or 6. I remember him being fascinated with the fireflies and enjoying the ranger’s campfire presentation, but my main memory is that it rained overnight and flooded the tent – so we abandoned the campsite and drove to a nearby restaurant for breakfast! That didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the outdoors though – at least until he hit the teen years!

My second memory is of a camping trip north of San Francisco in 1993 when he was 8 years old. I was working with one of the Young Unwed Fathers Pilot sites in Fresno and took Jesse and his mom along for the ride. After my work was completed, we spent a day in Yosemite and then drove 2-3 hours north of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway. We camped near a beach and spent the evening wandering around there. As we prepared to settle down, Jesse suddenly proclaimed “I saw a meteor!” His mom and I missed it and were never able to verify what he saw, but he still talks about it to this day.

The last time I remember camping with Jesse was also associated with a work trip for me. I was attending a Child Support conference in Phoenix, Arizona in 1997. Jesse was 12 and I took him along to see his birthplace in Tucson. Afterward, we camped at Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona for a night and then camped at the Grand Canyon for 2 nights. We spent a day hiking down in to the Canyon. Previously, I’d hiked down as far as Plateau Point a few times (about 12 miles round-trip). In fact, one time, a few years before Jesse was born I actually ran most of the way (I was running a lot at that time). Unfortunately, those memories clouded my judgment in 1997 – we started out later than we should have and I ignored the signs saying something like “if you reach this sign after such and such a time, you are advised to turn round now because it will be too hot later on.” Needless to say, by the time I realized we couldn’t make it to Plateau Point (around the 4 mile point) and we turned around, our return trip was hard, hot, and pretty unpleasant. The good news is that there were a number of water stations along the way and we did make it out – but I worried that I’d turned Jesse off hiking for life. However, that night at our campsite he was still enthusiastic and we vowed to do a father/son hike to the bottom one day.

He did lose interest in hiking and camping during the “interesting” teen years that followed, but he and his fiancée are now keen hikers (they actually completed a 2-3 week camping trip in California, Arizona, and Utah last year) – and he still reminds me every now and then that we have to make that father/son hike soon. When that happens, we’ll do so in memory of my dad, who also hiked part of the way into the Grand Canyon with me one time – he would have loved to be with us.

Investing in Your Child's Future. Or, You Know You're a Dad When Your Wallet Starts Emptying

You know you’re a dad when… your wallet starts emptying. I’m joking. Sort of.

As my 18-month-old son continues to grow, and my wife and I fall into our respective roles as parents, I feel like an anthropologist watching male-female gender role patterns play out before my very eyes. Which means my wife is doling out kisses and I am doling out money.

Of course, being a dad is more than just spending money. I cherish doing my share of day-to-day care for our little guy; I read books to him, play silly games, and I show him lots of affection. All in the hopes that someday he will have enough money to pay me back for all of this. Just kidding!

And of course my wife doesn’t just shower our child with love - she is as much a financial provider for the family as I am, and she spends money, too. Like when she bought that Kiss-o-matic 76™, which allows her to kiss our child more. Again, I kid – such a machine does not exist… yet.

But in all seriousness, we just opened a college savings account – a 529 plan – for our son. It was yet another in a long line of events that have made it very “real” that I am a dad. You mean, one day I am going to have a child in college? And it will cost how much? (For those of you wondering, the average cost of one year at a private college is estimated to be $76,406 in 2027; public college, here we come!)

The interesting thing about this process is that my wife really pushed me to take the lead in opening our account. Like it was “dad’s job” to do this. And I think, on the whole, dads are the ones who take care of this sort of thing for their families. That’s why most investment and insurance companies market to men and/or fathers. It speaks to our instinct to provide for and protect our families.

Interestingly, the guy who I worked this all out with is a new dad himself. You may know him as this guest blogger on this very blog. Sean and I observed together that now that we are dads, we have to take very seriously the need to plan ahead for our families.

And that is a central part of being a dad – sacrificing the “now” for the future. Gone are the days of using that extra money to buy cool (but useless) gadgets, fancier cars, and expensive nights out with your friends. That extra money is for our kids now.

Do you have any examples of how you had to sacrifice in the present to make for a better future for your kids? Please share!

The Ones that Should Never Get Away...

At NFI, July’s theme is "The Great Outdoors," with the tagline Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids this Summer. With this in mind, I was reminded of a compelling commercial by Zebco, a leading provider of fishing tackle. It's titled “Don’t let your kids be the the ones that get away." (Check it out here.)

What a powerful reminder to all dads this summer that life is not so much about what you do, but rather, it's about who you’re with, the memories and the relationships that are formed and strengthened.

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