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The Father Factor:
Fatherhood Matters

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Telling Your Children Your “Story” - Plus, Your Chance to Win a Free Book

Have you ever thought about how you are going to tell your children about your life?

According to author and Generation Y expert Michael McQueen, the current generation of kids yearns to know all about their parents – the good and the bad. And one of the most important things a father can do is to leave a legacy for his children – a legacy they can learn and live from.

Enter Memento, a new book by McQueen that makes it manageable and fun to record your life in writing for your children.

Memento is filled with great questions that allow you to “go deep” and show your real self to your kids, so that when you pass on, they will have a treasure trove of stories to turn to for wisdom and guidance.

Chronicle Books, the publisher of Memento, has given us five copies of the book to give away to readers of The Father Factor and we're running a little contest:

Send us your response to this question from the book for a chance to win a copy of Memento. The five winners will be announced on Monday morning, so the deadline for entries is Sunday, May 30, at midnight!

Remember – answer this as if your child is asking you: “What is your favorite movie and why?” And make sure to include your name in the comment!

French Laundry Father

Today's New York Times carries the poignant story of father absence and reconciliation. Noted French Laundry chef Thomas Keller was only five years old when his father left his family. Years later father Ed and son Thomas started a relationship that had been basically nonexistent.

When the elder Keller had a serious car accident that left him paralyzed, Thomas Keller and longtime companion Laura Cunningham embarked on a year of care giving alongside their busy lives as food industry celebrities and authors. The impact of that renewed relationship had remarkable effects on Keller's professional and personal life. I'd recommend reading the entire story, but I found this quote about Thomas and his father's reconciliation quite vivid:

"It turns out that genetics do matter. Thomas Keller discovered that he was like his father in many ways, not the least of which was his height. The two shared a strong sense of economy, an appreciation of routine and the understanding of how powerful teamwork can be..."

Out of the Spotlight but Back into Real Life

The Washington Post recently profiled Kenny Anderson, former NBA star and also father of seven children. The millions of dollars from basketball paydays didn't stretch quite as far as child support payments and Anderson's formerly lavish lifestyle. But on the other side of a finished NBA career and bankruptcy, Kenny Anderson seems to have grasped the really important things:

No baby mama for Obama

I was delighted to see this article in the September 22 USA Today about a new book on the marriage of Barack and Michelle Obama. Christopher Andersen, a former editor of People Magazine, who called his book “Barack and Michelle Obama—Portrait of an American Marriage,” interviewed more than 200 people to get the details.

Although I have yet to read the book, on the surface, this is really good stuff. Frankly, I have often been frustrated, especially with stories about the President that encourage young people, in particular African American boys, to emulate Obama’s modeling as a black man, and even as a black father, but are strangely silent on the need to follow his example as a black husband.

Interestingly, the President and I share a lot in common—we are both African American men raised by single mothers, who attended Ivy League schools and who married accomplished women who graduated from Princeton in 1985. Accordingly, I think that I am on pretty sound footing when I state that, like me, the reason that Obama has been able to break his legacy of father absence is not because of his professional and political success, but rather because he is married to Michelle. No baby mama for Obama. You see, good fathering, like real estate, is about location, location, location and the fact that Michelle is in the house—White House or otherwise—is key to Barack being the kind of father that he never had.

That said, I do have one “bone to pick” with Andersen’s characterization of the Obama’s relationship. He states, “They’re devoted to each other. It’s unique…” Actually, it’s not unique…it’s marriage. And lots of couples in the black community are doing the same thing. The problem is that the press spends more time covering black rappers than black weddings and often fails to highlight the benefits of black marriage—and marriage in general. No doubt this neglect has been instrumental in facilitating a pernicious self-fulfilling prophesy that has yielded 2 out of 3 black children living in father absent homes.

Finally, I sincerely hope that in his book Andersen spent as much time chronicling the benefits that Michelle has received from being married to Barack. This article, like most that I have seen, focuses on the benefits that Barack has received. (e.g. “She is the reason he is where he is,” the author says.) I have been happily married for 27 years and I know first hand that a good marriage is about giving and receiving. Over the years, I’ve had women friends who weren’t big on marriage or who had children with guys who clearly weren’t marriage material say, “I can do bad all by myself.” Accordingly, I think that it’s essential that women hear from the First Lady that “you can do pretty darn well with him too.” No doubt, this is the way she feels. Just look at the portrait on Andersen’s book cover.

NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith and Fatherhood

Buffalo Bill-great, Bruce Smith, gave a stirring speech at his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame over the weekend.

Throughout his remarks, Smith spoke of the positive, life-changing influence his father had on him. Here are a few choice lines:

"He didn't tell me what it means to be a man, he showed me by example."
"Because I knew I was important to my father, I understood my significance in the world."

It is clear that the strength of this family helped them get through many struggles throughout Bruce's childhood.

Smith also spoke of his love for his mother, and his dedication to his wife and son. To his son he said, "Austin, my son, the unconditional love I have in my heart is like none other I have ever experienced before.... I am so proud of the respectful, empathetic human being that you have become. The path that you will follow in life is yet unknown, but I know this for sure; that your courage, intelligence, and strength in character will be your guiding compass."

A great fatherhood legacy is being passed on in the Smith family - from Bruce's father, down to him, and down to his son. It is a beautiful, powerful thing to watch. View his whole speech here.

Online Adultery

I just read an item from Time about a "personal site aimed at facilitating extramarital affairs." It is called AshleyMadison.com. Among the many ghastly things about this, one of the most interesting statements in the article was this: traffic on the site tripled the day after Father's Day. According to the site's CEO, it is because the day after Father's Day is a day when many men feel "underappreciated."

That is very sad - not a reason to cheat - but sad. Why don't we as a culture appreciate fathers enough? Too many bad ones, our own screwed up priorities, selfishness .... Any ideas?

The Other Side of the Story

Just when we thought we were done grieving the loss of several celebrities (well, perhaps the media will never give up on grieving Michael Jackson), former NFL quarterback Steve McNair's life was tragically taken this past weekend.

As people praise "Air McNair" for his electric performances and thrilling stats, there is another side of the story to look at: the four children he left behind.

Sadly, fact of the matter is, he left his four kids - Junior, Stephen, Tyler, and Trenton - behind long before he left this earth. Like too many high-profile athletes, McNair wasn't the leader he needed to be off the field. McNair left his family behind in pursuit of his mistress, giving his children a tarnished legacy, a bad example, and a violent separation from their father.

Not surprisingly, McNair himself was raised without a father. It seems as though history is once again poised to repeat itself, as it does so often with father absence.

We couldn't agree more.

Excellent TIME magazine cover story: Why Marriage Matters, by Caitlin Flanagan:

Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. "As a feminist, I didn't want to believe it," says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage.

"Women always tell me, 'I can be a mother and a father to a child,' but it's not true." Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. "The mom may not need that man," Kefalas says, "but her children still do."

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