Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Bill-Cosby-Sweater_t580

Over my life I have seen a strong shift in the media’s portrayal of dads and men.

On TV, for example, I can remember watching Diff’rent Strokes, The Cosby Show, Who’s the Boss?, and Full House. The dads, adopted dads or live-in dads weren’t always saints in these shows but they were the leaders of their families despite success and/or being widowed.

albundyAs I grew, Al Bundy of Married with Children and Ray Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond became the standard depiction of men on TV…lazy, irresponsible and disconnected.

Ray was a momma’s boy who couldn’t untether. While funny, his lack of leadership is nauseating. Al was abusive to his kids and wife, lazy on the job and at home and an all-around dirtbag. The Art of Manliness saysIf you want a lesson on how not to be a man, watch Married with Children.

Regardless your thoughts about Aristotelian mimesis, the media’s portrayal of men and dads has not been a positive contribution to society.

Research clearly shows us a couple of things. 1) Bad dads are bad for kids and society. 2) Good dads are good for kids and society. See here, here and here.

Aside from cultural norms, ancient philosophies and scientific research, I believe this portrayal of dads is a spiritual battle. Hollywood’s assault on fathers undermines Scripture’s clear call for men, more specifically husbands and dads, to be the leaders in their homes.

Scripture teaches that, for a wife, disrespecting her husband is sinful (likewise for the husband who doesn’t love his wife).

In Ephesians, Paul writes

Each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.
Much has been written about these complementary phrases. The proven principle is this…when a husband loves his wife, she respects him more. When a wife respects her husband, he loves her more.
How many shows or movies do you see couples living this out?
And earlier in the passage…

Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.

Here, the Bible shows how marriage is a picture of the Gospel, what God the Son in Christ the Messiah did for us on the cross by taking our sin and then joining us with him through our belief in his finished work. Divine love, divine sacrifice and divine unity. That’s why when one-man/one-woman marriage is attacked, it is this picture of the Gospel that is attacked. (More on that later).

Again, I ask…how many shows or movies do you see couples living this out?

Media can be used in many good ways for the proclamation of the Gospel, but when it comes to highlighting strong, biblical manhood and marriage, it is being used to deceive and destroy the family’s foundation…fathers.

This fictional post is a reaction piece to Liza Long’s “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” Long’s brutal and honest article is a powerful read about the tragic loss in Newtown addressing the mental health element in the midst of this national catastrophe and conversation.

Let me also preface this post by adding that this is not a personal attack on the Newtown shooter’s father rather a commentary on the state of fatherhood in America.

Newton Political Cartoon

Three days before 20 first-graders were gunned down in Connecticut, I wasn’t anywhere near my family. In fact, I haven’t spent much time with my two sons at all over the last four years.

You see, I gave up on my marriage several years before my divorce. I literally walked out on my kids and left my wife to raise them alone.

Like many other men, I loved my wife when we first married, but her nagging wore me out.

Then, similar to other couples in trouble, we thought having kids would “fix” us.

At first, I enjoyed being a dad. But as they grew older, I grew less interesting and they less fun.

Leading my home and raising my children was exhausting and never-ending. Our special needs child was particularly challenging. Sure, he was intelligent and strong-willed, but sometimes I wished my autistic son had been born, well, less special.

I didn’t live with my mentally ill son, so I didn’t see when he started slipping. My ex-wife had to bear that responsibility alone. She had to cope with his frequent meltdowns. At first, she was physically stronger than him, but as he matured, she grew to fear his violent outbursts and irrational, uncontrollable and temporary insanity.

Overall, my home life was just too hard. I was overwhelmed by the constant need to make good decisions. Every little mistake I made impacted others. I didn’t “sign up” for all of that.

When asked about my failed marriage, I blame “irreconcilable differences,” but inside I know I really abandoned my family to pursue my selfish, adolescent desires.

I don’t see what all the fuss is about; fathers don’t do much anyway. We can’t grow a baby inside of us. We can’t experience the pains of childbirth or the intimacy of breastfeeding. How important are we really?

Women do a great job of raising children on their own. Women are right; they don’t need men and are often better off without one. Dads really only get in the way.

I really love my sons, but I left them to be raised by their mother.

“They’ll be alright,” I told myself. “I didn’t grow up with a dad around and I turned out ok.”

Seeing my kids on court-appointed days was weird at first. Then it became normal.

Missing important events was expected. Working long hours paid the alimony and child-support and kept the judges and lawyers off my back.

The distance made it hard for me to discipline them on a regular basis. The distance hindered us from developing deep relationships, so my sons learned about the “real world” on their own.

I wasn’t there to guide my sons into manhood. I didn’t teach them to love and respect their mother. I especially failed at teaching my children to value and protect the gift of life.

Looking back I see that I was unprepared for family life. I was still a boy who hadn’t put away the things of my youth. I was ruled by narcissism.

I was weak, unnecessary, absent. It made me sad to see what my son had become.

What was I supposed to do? I was powerless to stop what happened inside my son and inside that school.

Today’s Beta could be called “practice what you preach.” There’s always room for improvement in these categories.

6 Simple Rituals to Reach Your Potential Every Day by Fast Company. I really needed this list. I’ve needed a bit of motivation in my personal disciplines lately.

Here’s something I really need help with. This article, Men, Don’t Stop Dating Your Wife by Eric Geiger, was a direct hit.

Articles like this are instructive to me –  Understanding How Children Develop Empathy by the New York Times.

Sexual Freedom Always Curtails Other Freedoms by Trevin Wax is not what you think. Trevin talks about men exhibiting emotions and affection toward one another in a manly way. It’s an interesting piece about how perversion in culture can skew reality.

A Star-Tribune columnist talks about the difficulties of waiting to have children in this piece. If I live long enough, I’ll be at least 51 when my youngest learns to drive, 53 when she leaves high school, 55 when she graduates college. It could be another 10 years before she has kids. What about you?

Tough story to watch here, but it ends well.  An inmate finds out his baby momma was murdered after reading the newspaper. See the restoration that happens next –

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What 7-year-old boy would want this?

The Swedish have lost their minds.

They are so scared of “boys being boys” that they forced the Swedish “Toys R Us” to create a gender-neutral toy catalogue.

This government-forced marketing device shows boys playing with dolls and girls playing with dumptrucks. Check it out for yourself here.

The Atlantic has a disturbing piece about the Swede’s overboard gender-equality crusade, called “You Can Give a Boy a Doll, But You Can’t Make Him Play With It.”

Below are a few product shots. Captions are mine.

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This guy looks like he’s about to shove the whole Barbie house over.

That hair dryer is likely to become a pistol and that beauty belt holds all his crime-fighting tools.

That hair dryer is likely to become a pistol and that beauty belt holds all his crime-fighting tools.

 

Most men start life with a “dad deficit.” That shouldn’t come as a shock; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 40% of all babies born in 2011 came from unmarried women.

Not having a dad around makes many guys unprepared for fatherhood, leading to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity as well as a lack of leadership skills.

Here’s a humorous take on “Fearing Fatherhood” from the Power of the Home blog.

For most of my childhood I had a frightening hunch that I would one day be a dad.  My hunch was frightening because I was raised by a single-mother.  What did I know about being a dad?  One day my kid would ask me questions that all dads know how to answer. All dads but me.

“Dad, how do you clean a fish?”

“Just cut his head off, son.  The rest should take care of itself from there.”

“Dad, what does a spark plug do?”

“Hey look, a butterfly.”

My senior year of high school I failed out of a trigonometry class and got put in a wood shop class. This excited me.  Trigonometry didn’t seem to have a lot to offer but wood shop would probably help me to learn some dad things.  This way, if my kid ever asked me what a spark plug did I could at least build him a bird house.  My first few days in wood shop were spent telling jokes and seeing who could hammer a nail into a board the fastest.

And then, almost as quickly as it started, I got taken out of that wood shop class.  I don’t think anyone else, in the history of public education, has ever been taken out of wood shop.  Wood shop classes exist for the kids that get taken out of other classes.  When school administrators pull you from a wood shop class, it’s sort of like getting kicked out of prison.  My fears of fatherhood remained.

So instead of wood shop, I got put in an electronics class.  I was okay with this.  Now, whenever my kid would ask me what a spark plug does I could teach him how to slide his church shoes on the carpet and electrocute his friends.  That’s classic dad stuff, right?  Unfortunately, all we ever did in electronics class was watch movies.  The movie we watched the most was Short Circuit starring Steve Guttenberg.  The good news is that I got an A in that class.  The bad news is that now, whenever my kids ask me what a spark plug does, I tell them a stupid joke and talk about the Police Academy movies.

I’m a 36-year-old father of two young boys and my worst fears as a kid have finally been realized.  I don’t know a lot of dad stuff and I think my kids are on to me.  My oldest son wants to build a tree house.  I’m really hoping Jesus comes back before that time comes.

To compensate for my lack of knowledge, I try to spend a lot of time with my boys doing what I did as a kid: playing outside, playing on the floor, praying, reading the Bible, loving mom and watching Kung-Fu Theater.  Sadly, Kung-Fu Theater doesn’t come on anymore but there are worthy substitutes.

I always pick up my youngest son, kiss him and ask him who he loves.  He’s 16 so he really hates when I do this.  No, really he’s a lot younger than that.  But every time I ask him who he loves he does the same thing.  He points at the wall, or the ceiling, or the refrigerator.  Anything but dad.

One day I was asking my son this question and he was giving his usual response when his older brother walked up and said, “Hey dad, ask me who I love.”

I sensed a Hallmark moment coming so I gladly played along.

“Who do you love more than anybody in the whole world?”

“Mom!”

For a minute I felt like a real loser.  I should have petitioned to stay in that wood shop class.  But then it hit me.

Maybe my son loves his mom so much because he sees how much I love her.  And maybe he’ll grow to love Jesus even more because of how much I love Jesus.  In a way that’s kind of intimidating but it’s also very liberating.  Who cares if I don’t know how to do a lot of dad stuff?  If I can just, by God’s grace, love my wife like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), train up my boys in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and love Jesus more than anything else (Deuteronomy 6:5), I think all of the rest will be just fine.

This week I spent some time with a senior adult in my church.  She lives alone and she says her kids are always asking her if she gets lonely in that big house all by herself.  She tells them that she never gets lonely because she’s never alone.  And then she told me about the time a tornado came through her town in the 1930s and how good of a job her dad did at taking care of the family.  The loving presence of her earthly father taught her a great lesson about the far greater loving presence of her heavenly Father.

I hope I teach the same lesson to my boys.

—–

P.S. This is how you clean a catfish –

When I was in the third grade I was given an assignment to interview “an important person.” In our small town and monetarily-challenged family, the most important person I could think of was my school principal.

While I can’t recall his name, the principal of my small K-12 school of about 800 students was a kind and wise man with some sort of physical disability (which might have been Muscular Dystrophy). I also think his wife was the librarian. (Whoever she was, she was also sweet and helpful.)

I remember nervously sitting down in the principal’s office for the first–but definitely not the last–time. His desk was big and intimidating and bookcases tall and full of thick-spined reference books.

My first few questions were generic, while my primary questions focused on his career and the importance of an education. I don’t remember anything he said about any of that, but his response to my last question has stuck with me for 30 years.

“What is your pet peeve?” I inquired, expecting soggy cereal or cold coffee.

“A fake person,” he said.

His answer puzzled me, so I asked him what he meant (I was only eight or nine at the time).

He said something about how people act one way but really are someone different. He talked of liars, cheaters and brown-nosers.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I sensed authenticity. This authentic man earned his level of leadership and respect through his kindness, firmness, wisdom and integrity not through pushing his positional weight around, bullying, lying or cheating.

Unfortunately, authentic men are rare these days.

For many, this week was a tough one as their hero, champion and idol has fallen. People thought he was the “real deal,” an authentic man beating the odds professionally and personally.

Success in this world is hard-fought and earned, and no one likes cheaters. I’m grieved for those who had (or still have) deep admiration for the man who built his legacy and success on a lie.

Men, this is yet another example of how we are all subject to temptation and how we all fall short of perfection. Even if we never jump from space or make this list we can give in to the temptation to be something we are not.

What we are meant to be is authentic leaders. So, let’s learn to lead from authentic leaders, like Jesus, like Jerry Jackson, like my school principal.


Other Authentic Manhood posts…

Guys, you’ll never jump from space, but you can still live an awesome life. Read this post from my friend Dan Kassis called, The Baumgartner Effect.

One way to lead your family is through intentional prayer. Third Option Men asks, Are you a Prayer Wimp?

With election season upon us, one element missing from the discussion is fatherhood. In this All Pro Dad post, Tony Dungy asks for your signature to change that. Sign Coach’s petition today. It takes two minutes.

I have several friends with multiple sons and no daughters, so this link is with them in mind. Check out this advice for raising boys.

SUPER FUNNY VIDEO (that’s why it’s in all caps).