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The Father Factor

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Fatherhood: An Act of Valor that Takes Zeal and Knowledge

Last night, Justin, my 26 year old son and I were having a conversation about how father absence is affecting his generation. He told me that many of his friends who grew up without fathers are very committed to being good dads. However, he offered that they don’t know how to be good fathers. He said that they have “zeal without knowledge.”

Zeal is an old English word that you don’t hear often these days, especially from a 26 year old. But, it’s a concept that is very contemporary because it means to have an intensity for a cause, an eager desire and enthusiastic diligence. Alas, there is zeal aplenty in our culture today, so having a bit of it for fatherhood is certainly a good thing. That said, I think that my son was on to something by linking zeal with knowledge. Here’s why…

Early in the week, I spoke at an event and when I finished a guy about Justin’s age approached me. He told me that he had grown up without a father and he recently had gotten married and was going to be a father soon. He then got a very strange look on this face and said, “Everyone keeps telling me that I am going to be a great dad and I really want to be…But, honestly, I’m struggling with how they can know this or how I can do this… I never had a dad.”

He had zeal without knowledge…

So, I sent him an email with links to several of NFI’s low cost products for new dads like, “When Duct Tape Won’t Work”, an interactive CD designed to improve his understanding of how to help his infant through the toddler years, and “24/7 Dad Interactive”, an interactive CD designed to help him with everything a good dad needs to know, from maintaining a strong relationship with mom to effectively disciplining his children.

I was delighted that this new dad-to-be had the wherewithal to understand his problem and proactively seek help. But, frankly, I am amazed at how many dads, especially ones older than this father, will spend $50 bucks or more to watch a pay-for-view sporting event but won’t invest less than $20 for resources, like the ones that I mentioned above, to help themselves become better dads. And, some dads who will spend hours researching and drafting the perfect fantasy football roster—as if it was “real”—but would consider it a fantasy to join a small group of other dads for just an hour a week for 6 weeks and use the "24/7 Dad Power Hour" to hone their fathering skills. Of course, these fathers say that they want to be good dads. But, discipline, not just desire, determines a dad's destiny. Indeed, they have zeal but they lack the discipline to get the knowledge.

And, that’s a real problem. Let me give you an example to better illustrate this point.

A few weeks ago, a movie called “Act of Valor,” which featured the heroics of real Navy Seals, hit movie theaters nationwide. The film was an instant box office hit. In fact, it was the top grossing movie during the opening weekend and continues to do well. No doubt, thousands of dads lined up to see the film. And, I can see why. Here you have a bunch of guys, many who are fathers, doing amazing things that make us proud to be Americans. Plus, lots of stuff gets blown up!

However, here’s the interesting thing about the Navy Seals in this movie. They have zeal…lots of it. But, they also have knowledge. Why? Because a Navy Seal without both is dangerous. He’s the type of guy on the mission who would kick a door in, guns blazing, and shoot the hostages and rescue the terrorist! In fact, others in his unit can’t count on him to have their backs. So, no one wants this guy on their team. It’s too risky. They would just as soon do the mission one man short.

So, am I saying the untrained dads are dangerous? Of course not. But, I am saying that these dads are less effective and are not prepared for the most important “mission” of their lives--raising their children. This is unacceptable. But, it is also fixable because a guy can learn to be a better dad. Accordingly, if you are a dad with zeal, like that young unprepared dad that I spoke to, I want to encourage you to do as he did. Zealously seek knowledge. Get the resources and training that you need to be the best dad that you can be. After all, being a good dad is the ultimate act of valor.

Dads And Depression: Are You Passing Your Symptoms To Your Children?

I can admit to the Father Factor readers that I’ve struggled with depression over the years, with therapy and group sessions aiding me through the rough patches. Various things happened over the course of my life that led to my diagnosis, but I tried hard to mask the pain. This is a dangerous practice done by lots of people, especially men. This could prove to be even more troubling if you happen to be a father.

There is a disturbing lack of research showing what being a depressed father does to children in the home– until recently. A study undertaken by NYU researchers found that one out of every four children who are raised in a home with depressed parents soon develop mental health issues of their own. This nationwide study captured data from 7,247 US households where the parents and children all lived. Of that number, 6% of the fathers showed results that suggested they were depressed.

Further numbers in the research paper show other alarming stats: 15% of children with a depressed father showed symptoms; 20% of children with a depressed mother showed symptoms and, lastly, 25% of children living with two depressed parents showed symptoms. Factors influencing the depressive symptoms in parents included poverty, joblessness, and having a child with special health care needs.

Amazingly, this is the first large study done on male depression as it relates to fatherhood although there is plenty research on maternal and postpartum/postnatal depression. One could suggest that men are typically insular with their emotions and cope silently. Another point could be that many men don’t even know where to go for resources. When was the last time you saw a men’s mental health care center in your neighborhood? Do you know of any outreach groups doing work on a large scale?

I can tell you from my own experience that finding help for my depression was an epic task. I called therapists and counselors who all had many female clients but barely any male patients. Finding groups to talk about my issues also proved difficult, as I scoured the Internet and newspaper classifieds for assistance. Eventually, I did find some help.

It was important for me to move beyond my depression as a father. I know that my child watches every move, so it became necessary for me to make sure she doesn’t repeat my mistakes. If we want to make certain as fathers and parents to not pass on bad physical health habits, we have to start including our mental health in that equation as well.

Are you, or a father you know, suffering with depression? Do you think fathers pass on bad mental health habits to their children? Leave us a comment below or tweet to us at: @thefatherfactor. You can also like and comment on our Facebook page by following this link.

A Father Cannot Afford To Be Careless With His Children

Most parents will agree that taking a small child or children into a grocery store or on a shopping trip can be a test of wills, especially if you have a curious little one. Shelves are enticements to young eyes and hands all too willing to explore – and also tear down – the displays as they walk by. There’s also the danger of your child hurting themselves darting about all the grownups and not controlling their motions as well. As tempting as it may be to leave your child in the car while you try to quickly shop, it’s a terrible idea waiting to happen.

One upstate New York man is learning this very lesson now after leaving his six-year old napping child in the backseat of his car – which was still running – as he went inside a convenience store this past weekend to grab a drink. An unidentified thief, seizing the opportunity, hopped into his car and took off with the sleeping boy in the back. After a countywide search, the car was found a half-hour later with the boy unharmed and still asleep. The poor little guy was so tuckered out, he slept through the whole harrowing ordeal.

Whatever this drink the father had to snag while leaving his boy asleep in the back of his car couldn’t compare to the possibility of him losing his child forever. This is just a bad idea and indicative of an irresponsible parent putting their child in harm’s way. Naturally, the police are looking to charge the man with child endangerment and rightfully so. What if the thief was violent and hurt his son? What if a chase ensued and the thief wrecked the car with his boy still inside? The variables of the situation are not positive at all. And according to the news story, the family has already suffered tragedy involving a child previously.

I suppose it’s fine to be impatient at times, but when it comes to your children, a father needs to curb those feelings and remember that the main debt they owe their child is to keep them safe as possible at all times. This is especially necessary when you’re out in public with your children and an occurrence of this sort is highly preventable.

As the police lieutenant said who oversaw the case said, “People just run inside and figure they are only going to be gone for a couple minutes. I don’t care if you have nothing in the car, or your children, lock the car up and bring your kids inside.”

Or maybe, just get the items you need from the store later or with another adult to help supervise your children. Makes perfect sense to me.

Was Tommy Jordan Out Of Line For Shooting His Daughter’s Laptop?

If you haven’t seen the video of North Carolina dad Tommy Jordan and his gun-toting tirade, the reaction to his daughter’s disrespectful words may seem a bit over the top. However, the IT company owner and proud father has become a YouTube sensation, amassing a whopping 26 million views in just over a week. If you’re in need of a back-story, Mr. Jordan caught wind of his daughter making slanderous remarks about her parents on Facebook.

After reading the unflattering comments left by his daughter, Hannah, on her Facebook wall, Jordan went into his own eight-minute video rant about the things he and his wife have provided for their child, and ended off the video in explosive fashion. Jordan unloads eight shots from a .45 pistol into the laptop, which reportedly gained the man a visit from the authorities, including Child Protective Services. Unapologetic about his reaction and not facing charges, Jordan says the family is closer as a result of what happened although he’s faced a bunch of tough criticism.

On the other side of the negative remarks however, Jordan has amassed a few fans of his version of tough love. While I can appreciate the sentiment behind Jordan’s actions, the use of the gun is where I hop off the train. I can’t endorse using violence to hammer home a point. In a series of news polls done on almost every major media outlet, voters are mostly in approval of Jordan’s actions. Even Dr. Phil himself said he was entertained more than appalled by the video clip.

Disciplining your child is a necessary thing for fathers to administer, although I’d argue that it’s an often difficult thing to do correctly. As children grow older, they have the potential to challenge their parents’ patience in a variety of ways. I don’t imagine I’d ever resort to shooting my daughter’s electronic equipment in order to get her to follow my lead. I hope that my words, steady presence and loving devotion is enough to make sure my child honors not only her parents, but also herself.

How about you, Father Factor readers? What do you think about what Tommy Jordan did? Tell us in the comments below or tweet to us at @FatherFactor. You can also comment on our Facebook page by following this link.

A Hope For Peace Between Whitney Houston And Her Father

Over the weekend, the music world was shaken by the death of celebrated pop and R&B diva Whitney Houston on the eve of the Grammys. I still can’t believe she’s gone, especially after reading she was on her way to performing and recording again. A lot of speculation about Whitney’s death has swirled about, and I’ve largely chosen to ignore what I’ve been hearing simply because I prefer to remember her as being on a triumphant comeback trail.

Whitney’s mother Cissy Houston, a renowned singer in her own right, and Whitney’s famous cousin Dionne Warwick were typically the only family members fans heard about. Little was ever said about Whitney’s late father, John. However, I searched the Web and found that Whitney and John had a much closer relationship than what has been reported in the past. In this undated video clip, Whitney is shown singing to her father on her birthday during a concert sometime in the 1990s. It’s clear in the clip that she loved her father, although alleged legal troubles between the two became tabloid fodder.

I won’t bore you with the details over owed money and estates, but rather focus on the fact that at one point, Whitney’s father acted as her mentor and business manager. John even created a company, John Houston Enterprises, to help his daughter maintain her business affairs. The same firm later negotiated a record $100 million dollar, six-album deal in 2001 for Whitney, one of the largest contracts on record.

Whitney was never candid about she and her father’s relationship, but did defend her dad by saying that a $100 million dollar lawsuit in 2002 brought by John Houston Enterprises had nothing to do with him, but rather, a greedy business associate of her father. John, who suffered from diabetes and heart troubles, passed away a year later during the proceedings, and the business partner didn’t win one cent.

I came across a 2002 MTV interview featuring Whitney Houston’s spokesperson Nancy Seltzer that touched on the lawsuit. “When I spoke to John a week and a half ago, he said, 'It's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. I couldn't do anything like that, and I didn't,'' Seltzer said. ''It's sad. It's two people who love each other who seem to be dragged into this public situation, which is neither of their own doing.”

It doesn’t comfort me knowing that all her life Whitney Houston has had to live under the glare of the public eye. She never seemed to adjust to fame and money; she was just a girl from New Jersey with a dream, undeniable beauty and a voice from heaven. What does comfort me, is that a genuine love between a father and his daughter existed, no matter the forces that tried to tear them apart.

Reports have come out that Whitney will be laid to rest this weekend in New Jersey, right next to her father as she requested a time ago. Perhaps now, her troubled soul can rest comfortably next to the man who gave her life and love, just as it should be.

A Father’s Last Wish

Childbirth is, without doubt, the most miraculous event of a father’s life. Whether he’s a new dad or experienced papa, being part of helping to create a new life is a tremendous gift and honor for any father. Unfortunately, Mark Aulger won’t be able to experience any more births or spend time with his children as they grow. However, Mr. Aulger was able to see his youngest child come into the world just as his own life was coming to an end.

Texas parents Mark and Diane Aulger had been raising a family of four together while awaiting the birth of the fifth baby. Mark was diagnosed with colon cancer last April, with his health reaching critical levels in last month. After a final diagnosis gave Mark just days to live, the father asked for one last wish to hold his baby. Bravely, his wife underwent C-section surgery in order to honor her husband’s wishes. Baby Savannah was born on January 18, right next to her father.

Weak from the cancer, Mark was only able to hold his child for moments at a time. Just days later, Mark slipped into a coma and eventually passed away on January 23 – fighting for as long as he could to see his baby girl. Mark and Diane’s devotion to each other is touching and while saddened, the family is determined to keep dad’s name alive. “We're living day-to-day as if dad's still here," Diane said. "We know dad is here with us. They [the children] talk to dad. Mark was a very funny, funny dad.”

It is amazing to witness the strength of Diane Aulger, as she has to raise five children on her own. It is equally touching to see that as a father, Mark Aulger left behind a legacy worth upholding. That his family won’t dare forget the man and what he represented speaks volumes to what he meant as a father to his family. One photo (which can be seen here) shows the entire family surrounding their dad as baby Savannah rests on his chest. The photo perfectly captures how much they loved the man.

While his family may wish Mark was still here to continue his duties as a dad, they made his untimely passing as comfortable as they could. Giving Mark his dying wish, the Aulgers can rest well knowing they will continue honor him the best way they know how.

The Tie That Binds

I think most folks who know me wouldn’t dare commend me on my sartorial tastes although I’ve been known to look nice in a suit or two. I always admired watching my grandparents go out on their dates when I was much younger; my grandfather loved nothing more than a crisp button-down shirt and an expertly matched tie. I quietly envied his ability to always look sharp no matter the occasion.

I didn’t know how to put on a tie when I was a kid. For church, my mother gave me a array of clip-on ties to choose from and for a while, that’s all I knew. I didn’t learn how to wear a necktie until I was 22 years of age. I can even tell you the month. It was June of 1995. It was the day of my very first official job interview to work at a mailroom for a large corporation in Washington. I thought that it was time I graduated from clip-on ties to a real one. All of my friends were just as clueless as I was about ties, so I called my father in a long shot to ask for his help.

My father and I, to this day, are not close. We were especially estranged at this point although he lived just 2 miles north from me. I took a chance calling him, after so many disappointing days and nights he would promise to see me and wouldn’t show up. The pain of his absence and the longing for my father still exists today. However on a hot summer day, my father heeded my call.

He came to my mother’s house, beaming. I wanted my dad to be proud of me. I tried to tie the necktie myself, making a mockery of it. My father, with his big laugh, stood in front of me and said, “son, let me show you what to do.” He doesn’t know this but it was like being five years old again. When I was in kindergarten, my dad took me to see the classic Sci-Fi film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. To this day, I’ll watch the movie and I’ll pretend I’m at the Landover Drive-In in his big sedan watching it with him.

Much like that moment, I hold on to the tie lesson because it was one of the few times my father showed he cared about me. He actually was close enough for me to hug him but I feared I would push him away with my emotions. I just held all of those feelings of wanting my dad deep inside. The lesson was a painful reminder of all the things I wish he taught me as a boy that I missed out on in the 17 years he left our home.

It’s been nearly 17 years since that moment. 17 years I’ve been putting on my necktie the same way my dad showed me on that day. I refuse to learn any other method for the most selfish reason in the world. It’s the only thing tangible of my father I have, the only proof that at some point my father may have actually loved me.

It doesn’t hurt as much these days to know all I have are brief memories and small moments with my father. I’m slowly trying to heal from the absence although I’m not out of the woods yet. For now, I find satisfaction in putting on my tie and knowing my dad taught me a skill that I’ll value for life.

2012 Super Bowl Ads Still Not Ready To Grow Up

There are two reasons people watch the Super Bowl every year. Mainly, the championship game is the centerpiece for diehard football fans. For those casual watchers of the sport, the expensive and typically entertaining commercials in between happen to be the draw.

Over the years, some companies have pandered to the mostly male audience with images that gratuitously cater to the oversexed nature of our world today. However, some noble attempts were made to steer away from the typical fare offered on Super Bowl Sunday.

Ronald McDonald House Charities offered a moving commercial centered on a family rallying around a young boy who is suffering with leukemia. With images flashing of the boy’s family members all showing support as he goes through therapy in images, the clip ends sweetly with the young man backed with love, as he should be.

Another great commercial was that of perennial tough guy Clint Eastwood and his classic gruff voice talking about America’s resolve in tough times for Chrysler Auto. One of the longer commercials at just over two minutes, the impression left behind is lasting.

A nice change of pace was Kia Optima’s “Dream Car For Real Life” spot in where the mythical sandman comes in to sprinkle dream dust on a sleeping couple. While the figure douses the wife just a dab of the magic powder, an accident has the sandman dumping half a bucket on her husband. The result: the husband’s macho dreams are amped up to ridiculous levels while his wife’s dreams are sweet and simple. A neat twist was at the end; the husband breaks past his dreams to crash his wife’s serene party and whisks her off into the sunset – all while driving the Kia, naturally.

According to Boston ad agency Mullen and their fourth annual Brand Bowl, Go Daddy was the least liked brand shown during the Super Bowl. The Internet domain name provider applied its typical lowbrow antics, employing longtime spokesperson Danica Patrick scantily clad in a version of heaven most likely conjured by the dream of high school aged boys. Once again using sex to sell its product, Go Daddy saw a huge number of negative tweets with replies growing tired of the company’s shtick.

Go Daddy has the dubious distinction of using a word in their company name – “daddy’ – and cheapening it to the point that it nearly derails the power of the title. Real daddies don’t sit around objectifying women at every turn or are consumed by lust. Some daddies are content to save that energy for the woman they love and to share only his best for his children. Instead of “Go Daddy,” perhaps more “Stay daddy” in the mainstream could help eliminate some of the negative connotation that the company applies to the word.

Let’s hope next year that companies like Go Daddy realize fathers are at home watching the game with their families, and perhaps use their platform for something other than cheap visual gags and silly humor.

It Must Be Tough Being A Military Dad

In my previous job, I traveled around the country quite a bit by airplane. I got a kick out of seeing military personnel returning home to loved ones at some of the international airports I visited, and I loved seeing families and friends hugging and crying with one another after reuniting. I always imagined what a deep feeling of relief it was for families, especially fathers, who were deployed abroad to come back home to loving arms.

This week, a little girl in Utah got the surprise of her life during a show-and-tell in her elementary school class. Five-year-old Baylee was speaking in front of her kindergarten class talking about the things she loves. As her teacher helps her with the presentation, she then points to a photo of her father, which makes Baylee perk up a bit. The teacher then points to the left and her dad walks in with little Baylee leaping into her dad’s arms – so excited, the cute kid loses a shoe!

I defy anyone, no matter how tough they are, to hold back tears of joy after hearing Baylee excitedly wrap her arms around her father Sgt. Adam Page. “How did you ever make it,” said Baylee repeatedly as dad was overcome with emotion. Watching Sgt. Page hold his daughter was a priceless moment that none will ever forget.

Sgt. Page had been deployed to Afghanistan, and has since returned to his native Utah. It will be the first time he’s lived with his family since the birth of his little one. One must wonder, how tough was it on this dad while he was away from his family. I was away from my daughter for just 8 months once for work, and I was so sad without her. I can’t imagine the weight dads who serve in the name of our country have to carry.

Thankfully, there are resources and other helpful things that can assist military fathers while they’re deployed abroad. Video chats, email, letters and even simple phone calls can help ease the pangs caused by the distance. The rewards, if dads and families can be patient and loving, are moments like we saw between Baylee and Adam. It is beyond obvious that as much as he could be, Sgt. Page was a solid fixture in his child’s life.

For military dads soon to be deployed or already serving abroad, NFI offers a handy resource called Deployed Fathers & Families: Guide For Military Personnel. This guide provides fathers with great tips such as managing money, taking care of medical needs, and also covers legal matters as well. Click here to learn more about our offerings for military dads.

And don’t forget there’s just a few days left to nominate a military dad for NFI’s annual Military Fatherhood Award! Click here to nominate a military dad today! Voting ends this Sunday, February 5 at 11:59 PM EST!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 www.fatherhood.org/why-knot.

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