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The Father Factor

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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.

The Thankful Campaign: Three "Others-First" Values in a "Me-First" World

This is a post by Evelyn Hines, NFI's Executive Assistant for Training and Program Support. Evelyn and her husband of 26 years live in Pittsburgh and have three children. She shares her thoughts today as part of NFI's The Thankful Campaign.

As this holiday season approaches, I want to share what we have planted in our children in order to teach them to be thankful for everything. Although we live in a "me-first" society, it is important to step back and put others first.

Family
We cannot choose our parents. We have taught our children to be thankful to have parents, for many of their friends come from single-parent homes. We cannot choose our children through birth, but as parents we are blessed to be given just the right ones for our family. The perfect match begins in the womb.

An Obligation to Strangers
With the economic condition steadily falling, many folks cannot make it financially. One does not necessarily need money to uplift a stranger’s countenance. We are thankful to share time, a smile, and kind words with someone who will not discuss their empty heart and pauper’s pockets. Furthermore, there is nothing more valuable than visiting people in the hospital during the holiday. That is the last place they want to be.

Give Until It Never Hurts
Throughout these upcoming holidays of having delicious food and expensive gifts, we remember to share with others that may not be as fortunate. It truly is more blessed to give than receive.

Guest Post: Thanksgiving Thoughts (and a recipe!) from Chef Madison

This is a guest post by Madison Cowan, a chef, author, restaurateur, husband, and hands-on dad to his daughter. In 2010, Madison become the first ever Chopped Grand Champion on Food Network. Visit Madison's website at www.madisoncowan.com. Madison is regular guest contributor to The Father Factor and he shares this post and one of his delicious recipes as part of The Thankful Campaign.

I constantly give thought over to what I’m most thankful for, which may suggest I have massive amounts of time on my hands. To say the least I am quite grateful for many things in my life, most notably time spent round the supper table with family and friends. This time-honoured tradition seems a bit of a lost art nowadays, with working households and the continual reliance on convenience. During my days on the streets, thoughts of proper and ample food to eat, along with daily survival, was a definite source of motivation. Simply sharing a meal not only promotes gratitude but encourages a sense of community as well. Moreover, while it’s fashionable to engage in the spirit of charity with others less fortunate during the holiday season, it is imperative to be mindful throughout the year.

Whilst commemorating this Thanksgiving, I remain cognizant of numerous ways and opportunities to give. Enjoy the following recipe for an easy alternative to traditional sweet potato pie and let’s all keep in perspective the true expression of gratitude.

“Who does not thank for little, will not thank for much” ~ Red Cloud


Sweet potato panna cotta & orange caramel sauce

For the panna cotta:
Sweet potato 1 medium, alternatively use 1 cup Libby’s pure pumpkin & ¼ tsp each ground cloves & ginger
Gelatine 3 sheets or 1 tbsp powdered
Half & half 2 cups
Raw cane sugar 4 heaped tbsp
Vanilla pod 1, split in half & seeds scraped out
Cinnamon stick 1
Fresh nutmeg generous dusting or ¼ tsp ground

For the sauce:
Raw cane sugar 1 cup
Water 2 tbsp
Butter 2 tbsp
Heavy cream ¼ cup
Orange liqueur ¼ cup
Macadamias 1 handful (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash and score the sweet potato and bake on the center oven rack over a baking sheet until soft, about 45 – 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Soften the gelatine sheets in a bowl with 1 cup of cold water for 3 minutes (sprinkle 2 tbsp water over powder and stir to dissolve. The gelatine will become spongy).

2) Place the half and half, sugar, vanilla pod and cinnamon stick in a heavy based saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

3) Next, slice the sweet potato lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Stir well into the hot cream mixture to combine.
Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl or jug, discard the vanilla pod and cinnamon stick.

4) Squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves (leave the powdered gelatine sponge as is) and add to the mixture along with the nutmeg. Whisk until the gelatine has dissolved and check the seasoning.
Pour the mixture into small ramekins or dessert cups and leave to cool. Refrigerate to set at least 3 hours or overnight.

5) To make the sauce, bring the sugar and water to boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat until it just begins to caramelize (the key here is to bring the sugar to a light golden brown. Caramel continues to cook when removed from the heat and is bitter the darker it becomes).
Remove the caramel from the heat and add the butter, one at a time, stirring to melt. Pour in the cream and liqueur, stirring after each until smooth. Set aside.

6) Toast the macadamias, if using, in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, cool slightly and crush or roughly chop with a large knife.
Remove the panna cotta from the fridge, slightly warm the sauce over low heat, if needed, and spoon over the pudding. Garnish with macadamias and a light dusting of nutmeg. Serves 6

© 2011 All Rights Reserved. Madison Cowan, LLC

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 www.fatherhood.org/military.

The Thankful Campaign: Guest Post: Lessons Learned from Dads Who Have Gone Before

Wayne Parker is the father of five children and has served as the Fatherhood Guide for About.com since 2002. Wayne contributes to The Father Factor today as part of The Thankful Campaign.

The Thanksgiving season always causes me to reflect on people who have blessed my life. This season particularly I have thought of the impact of three fathers who have shaped my attitudes about fatherhood and my own experience as a father.

My own father taught me many important lessons. The first is that fathers work hard to support their families. Even though my dad worked two jobs most of my life to sustain our family and I missed having more time with him growing up, I never doubted his commitment and his love. And he taught me most of all by example that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

I was also close to another father growing up, who was the dad of my best friend and my dad’s best friend. Gene Holderness taught me the importance of making time for fun and for doing things together as a family. Gene’s joy for life and his commitment to fun made a big impression and helped shape my own approach to fatherhood.

Finally, the third important father figure in my life was a religious leader from my youth who raised a truly remarkable family. Barrie Blackburn taught me some remarkable lessons about resilience, about surviving and thriving after tragedy, and about how to best battle the seeds of discouragement that often creep into a father’s life. He lost a son to leukemia but never lost faith. And his gift to me of a hand-carved top with a small flaw in it reminds me often that keeping moving is the best way to not look too critically at our own flaws and scars.

So, thanks for great fathers, our own and the fathers of others, who made such a difference for us. It is our job as fathers to pass on that legacy of amazing fatherhood to our children, our grandchildren and beyond.

The Thankful Campaign: What is NFI Thankful For, You Ask?

During The Thankful Campaign this month, NFI is encouraging you to Show Your Thanks, and we're saying thanks too! Each week in the Dad Email™, we'll tell you about something we're thankful for this year.

Last week, we said "thanks" for Changed Lives - specifically for children whose lives were changed because their dads participated in one of our programs and gained the knowledge and skills to be involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

Earlier this year, we were excited to learn that a longitudinal study by Rutgers found that our InsideOut Dad™ program for incarcerated fathers is effective in improving dads' confidence, knowledge, behavior, and attitudes around fathering. This study qualifies InsideOut Dad™ as the first evidence-based program designed specifically for inmate fathers. (Learn more about the Rutgers study here.)

Troy is one of the dads who graduated from an InsideOut Dad™ program, and his story is proof that lives are being changed through NFI's work. Actually, maybe we should say that it's Xavier's story instead. Xavier is Troy's son, and the change in Troy is most evident in the happiness of his son, who now has what his father never had... a good dad. Watch Troy and Xavier's story here - and grab the tissues before you do, because this short video will pull at your heartstrings.



So today, NFI says thanks for Changed Lives like Troy and Xavier. It's all possible because people like you support our work and enable us to impact dads, kids, and families!

The Thankful Campaign: Thankful Tips from Dads & Moms

As part of The Thankful Campaign, we are asking our Facebook followers, Dad E-mail™ subscribers, and blog readers to "Talk Back" by answering a weekly question on the topic of thankfulness. This week we asked you to tell us how you're teaching your children to be thankful. We received a lot of great tips and advice on our Facebook page! Check out these suggestions from dads and moms on raising thankful kids:
  • The last few years have been extremely tough for us financially and we have had to do without a lot of things we had gotten used to. One time our children were getting discouraged and making statements like "we don't ever get to do anything anymore!" So we took them on a driving tour of a local homeless camp. No matter how bad you think you have it, there are many, many people who have it worse!
  • Since she's only a year old, we're teaching Morgan to say thank you when someone gives her something (food, toys, etc...), but we'll certainly work on the other thanks as she gets older. She seems to be getting the idea so far.
  • As for me and my wife we've got 3 kids, 10, 8, and 5, we try and teach them to be thankful by showing them that the things they have are a blessing being that we both work and still find it hard to survive. There are many people in the world that have nothing.
  • I have been working with my children about saying thank you, even for the small things. Though they may not "get it" yet at such a young age, they will know about it, and I feel that they are slowly starting to understand the importance.
  • By telling them to put God FIRST, talking and explaining morals. Hardwork and patience never grow old. Lastly, I ask them to think about their actions before they act so that the end result is positive and something they can be thankful for.
  • To put Jesus first! And get them to watch the news! The news usually has a humbling story and point it out to them!
  • Lots of the things already mentioned, plus we insist on them saying please and thank you for things. Also at Christmas, they usually get 1-2 gifts and then we give toys or a donation to a local charity.
  • Encouraging my little one to say thank you is something I always do, but when she is a little older I would like to include her in some volunteer efforts.
  • I tell my three boys, ages 5, 3, and 1, that I love them very much every single day, several times a day. I show them by example to love God and all his creations. Lastly,we do everything together--pray, eat, have fun, read and learn...
  • We give thanks to God before eating a meal. The children started volunteering at an early age at church and helping out at home.We believe that when children are taught to be of service to others at an early age it teaches them to have grateful hearts.
  • Children often learn by example so when it comes to teaching them to be thankful, the most important thing I can do to help impart these values is through being a good role model in that regard.
Stay tuned for next week's "Talk Back" question in the Dad Email™.

Also, check out our 5 Tips for Raising Thankful Kids.

The Thankful Campaign: Giving Thanks for Fathers and Families

As we head into the holiday season and the end of the year, we're Giving Thanks for Fathers and Families through The Thankful Campaign.

Throughout the month of November, we'll be leveraging our Dad E-Mail, Facebook page, and this blog to bring you helpful tips on raising thankful kids (check out these 5 tips to get you started), share what we're thankful for here at NFI, and give you opportunities to show your thanks. If you haven't already, make sure you sign-up for our Dad E-mail and like our Facebook page so you can participate in The Thankful Campaign.

One exciting feature of The Thankful Campaign is that YOU get to be part of it. Each week, we will post a question on our Facebook page and will feature your answers (anonymously of course) on this blog. This week's question is: How are you teaching your children to be thankful? Share your advice on Facebook and look for a blog post next week with your comments included.

Visit http://www.fatherhood.org/the-thankful-campaign-2011 to learn more about The Thankful Campaign and show your thanks today!

The Thankful Campaign: Thankful for the Example

Author Michael McQueen shared with us what he is thankful for in this guest blog post. Micheal's book, Memento, is a great resource to help fathers pass down their legacy to their children. Learn more about Michael and the Memento story here.

My dad was one of most organized people I have ever met. He started every day with a task list numbered in descending order of importance, along with a carefully orchestrated schedule with hourly breakdowns. As a family of 7, I guess dad needed to be as organized as he was – there was always someone who needed to be dropped off at soccer practice, swimming lessons, or scouts.

What I loved and respected most about my dad though is that in the midst of all this busyness and his drive to make the most of every hour of the day, he was never too busy for me, my brothers, and our mom. Sure, he’d have times of being distracted and ‘unavailable’ like every father (and human being), but when it mattered, he was there – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I am so thankful for the priority he placed on family and the things that mattered.

I am so thankful for the example he set.

He may not be with us any longer, but the example of his lived-out priorities, not the checklist of this accomplishments, is what I remember and am thankful for most.

To join the campaign, visit www.fatherhood.org/thethankfulcampaign or tweet with the hashtag #thanksdad.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.


The Thankful Campaign: Thankful for the Hugs and Kisses

NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya told us what he is thankful for in this guest blog post. Read on and then tell us what you are thankful for at The Thankful Campaign.

To be a dad is a great feeling. There is no feeling like it in the world. The time I get to spend with my kids is limited so when I am home I try to be with them and share their daily activities. Seeing the way they change as they are growing up and always needing my support makes me feel that I am doing my job right. The best thing is when you have a rough day or weekend I get to go back home and receive hugs and kisses from them and it makes everything good again. There is nothing more important in my life than my family!

To join the campaign, visit www.fatherhood.org/thethankfulcampaign or tweet with the hashtag #thanksdad.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.


The Thankful Campaign: Thankful for the Journey

Today, NFI is launching The Thankful Campaign to celebrate fathers and families. We're asking daddy bloggers, prominent fathers, and everyday dads to share what they're thankful for and how they're raising grateful kids. We're kicking off our campaign with a guest post from Dave Taylor. Dave is a single dad to three kids, based in Boulder, Colorado. Dave blogs about parenting and fatherhood at The Attachment Parenting Blog, and you can find him just about everywhere online. Start here to make your journey easier, though: DaveTaylorOnline.com.

This is going to sound weird in this season of Thanksgiving, but I want to share how I am thankful for pretty much everything that's happened in my life, good and bad. I'm a single dad in a world where moms are lionized and us guys are deadbeats or just plain idiots, according to contemporary culture, so I see a lot of the good and bad around us. Am I thankful for that? Well, that's another story, but I will say that it's helpful in that I get a lot of positive feedback about what a great, attentive Dad I am because it's portrayed as atypical.

Look, guys, it's easy to be thankful for good things, but what about the bad? What about those experiences that, yeah, truthfully, it'd be better if you hadn't gone through them? I'm thankful for those, too.

The reason I'm thankful for everything is because I like where I am now in my life. I have a successful business, three great kids who are growing up just fine and who love me -- and whom I love immensely -- and I have the freedom to create a life for us in a way that I wasn't able to do when I was married or prior to my marriage (when I didn't have kids, for one thing).

I don't know if this is some sort of Zen thing or what, but we are all the product of our journeys and none of us would be exactly who we are today if we hadn't experienced everything in our lives, both good and bad. Life is about trade offs, after all. I had a difficult marriage that was more characterized by disagreement and unsatisfying interaction than warm fuzzies, but I got three amazing children out of the experience, in a way that was completely transformative for me as a man, so I will forever be thankful for my ex and our continued mostly smooth co-parenting efforts to raise three fun, happy, productive members of society.

Not too many people know this, but as a kid I was pretty darn shy and didn't go to my senior prom because I was too gawky and clueless to ask a girl to the dance. Am I thankful for that? Yes, because it gave me the motivation to become an outgoing extrovert when I got to college, and that was a great experience that really set me on the path I'm on now, with tons of friends, a vast social circle, and party invites every weekend.

Here's another thing I'm thankful for too: computers and social networks. Yes, if it wasn't for Twitter and Facebook, the last few years would have been far more difficult, as I found myself sitting around in a barely-furnished townhouse wondering where my domestic life and my kids had gone. Being able to connect with others and make online friends to shoot the breeze with made it much more tolerable and gave me plenty to laugh at and appreciate -- glimmers of light in a long, dark tunnel that I'm also thankful to have finally escaped.

My point with this article is to be thoughtful on this season of thanksgiving about how it's more than our friends and family that we can be thankful for. I am, of course, thankful for my friends and family, but I think that my life is a journey, along which it's my challenge to make the best of it, to find happiness, love, humor, fun, etc., and that it's the sum total of all my experiences along this road that make me who I am. And for that, I'm thankful.

To join the campaign, visit www.fatherhood.org/thethankfulcampaign or tweet with the hashtag #thanksdad.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of National Fatherhood Initiative.


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