Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sponge Bob!

Many of you are familiar with the cartoon character on Nickelodeon, Sponge Bob Square Pants. His show is a hit with kids and adults alike. Just say the words, "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?" And no doubt your kids will respond, "Sponge Bob Square Pants!"
In our households most of us have sponges in the kitchen and bathroom. Why is this? Because we use them to absorb water and other liquids. No matter the liquid, sponge can absorb it.
Our children are very much like these sponges. Right now my son is 2 1/2 months old. Would you believe that at this point he can be "programmed" to learn any language in the world - English, Spanish, French, Yiddish, Swahili, Arabic, Russian, Mandarin and the list goes on.
Scientists have proven that 90% of brain development occurs in the first 3 years of life. It is during these formative years that our children's personalities are developed. During this time they also learn their primary language. And how do they learn? By imitating Sponge Bob. They soak up so much from their environment.
Isn't it interesting that our children learn languages by just being around others speaking. And imitating what they hear. Yet when teenagers and adults learn foreign languages in a structured environment, it seems so much harder.
For instance, my wife's first language is French. I asked her to teach it to me but after a while I kinda gave up - just comfortable enough to know the simple basic words like bonjour (good day) and je t'aime (I love you). But should she speak it to our son, he'll have absolutely no problem learning it, along with the very complex rules.

So the question of the day is - what are your children soaking up when they're around you? What positive seeds do you sow into their lives each day? As a child in school I was taught the simple proverb, "Children live what they learn."
I encourage you to help ensure your children are exposed to the things most beneficial for them - especially those of you who have babies. Just like it's easier to bend a tree when it's young, it's easier to "program" our children from the early stages.

So when the question is asked "Who's soaking up all the good things in your household?" you can answer with your own version of "Sponge Bob Square Pants."
Enjoy the day. And always be "upbeat" and excited about your kids.

The Upbeat Dad

Friday, October 22, 2010


Good day to you:

It's Friday! Finally! Another long work week has come to an end. And now, here come two days of paradise where we can kick back, relax and enjoy life.

Today's blog post is just a simple jolt in the arm to encourage you as dads. Won't you make the most of your time with the kids this weekend. Many of us think that it's the big things like taking the kids to Disney World that'll make a difference to them. But it's really the simple, day to day memorable events that have the greatest, lasting impact on them.

Here are some things you might consider doing with them this weekend:
  • go for a walk in the park
  • visit your local library (a lost art for many families)
  • go fishing in a local lake
  • play catch in the back yard
  • watch the baseball playoffs or football and explain the life virtues of sports with them
And there's so much more to it.

For many of you, your kids won't be with you this weekend. How about just making them feel special by calling them daily. And instead of doing all the talking, do a lot of listening. You know we were given two ears and one mouth - perhaps we should use them in the same proportion.

Whatever you do, make this weekend special. A little love and care every day goes a long way.  Enjoy the weekend. And remember, be "upbeat" when it comes to your kids.

The Upbeat Dad

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Great Oxymoron: Family Law

Good day to you,
Several years ago as I was going through a divorce, I recall making the statement that the term “family law” is an oxymoron. The reality of what I was experiencing was that it is very anti-family. I used an analogy then that I think still holds true today: family law is like a sleeping, hungry lion. As long as it’s asleep you can walk around it and have a ball. But once awakened, it is vicious and can shred you to pieces.
I made a promise to myself after that experience that I would give my all to ensure that other families do not walk the same road. Because when the dust settles, the winners are generally not the members of the former household – it’s attorneys and other professionals who may become involved in the process. The real losers are very often the children because they are caught in the crossfire of the manifestation of the term “it’s a thin line between love and hate.”
Now here’s the relevance of all of this to fathers. The family law system as it functions in the United States has traditionally been anti-male. Legal professionals can attest to this. It’s pretty much a way of life. A typical husband and father going through a divorce will walk away with a meager visitation schedule and child support payments and in some cases alimony. As a result, very many fathers become discouraged, to the extent that they become uninvolved in their kids’ lives.
I recall making what was a very controversial statement: the family law system helps to create deadbeat dads. Even when I was going through the process, had I not realized what was at stake regarding my 3 year old daughter’s future, I could have easily become discouraged and walked away. Very many fathers do exactly that – just give up and walk away because they’re frustrated with a system that all too often works against them.
My former next door neighbor is a perfect example of this. He and his wife went through a bitter divorce and he felt he wasn’t treated fairly by the system. They have two young sons. About a year after the divorce, he became so frustrated with the entire system that he packed his bags and moved back to his native country – cutting off all contact with his two boys, including financial support. I cringe when I think of the fact that he got to the point where he just walked away.
The unfortunate consequence to situations such as this is that it’s the kids who suffer. From a practical standpoint, the financial support is gone. And the emotional support that a father can give is also gone. This is why in previous postings I have said that there is no person or institution that can change the fact that your children are yours. And as long as you have them, you have a responsibility for them. It’s irrelevant if the system is working against you – it’s your kids’ lives that are at stake.
Today I look back at that very dark chapter in my life and I’m so thankful that my daughter passed through it virtually unscathed. Now she’s a well adjusted 12 year old who enjoys the love and care of both of her parents. It didn’t have to be so but I just know I vowed that she would not become a statistic that we read about all too often. She came out just fine but my heart aches for the thousands of kids each year whose lives are negatively affected by such circumstances.

I trust that you would be so determined that, should you be faced with the choice to stand up for your kids or walk away knowing the potential negative consequences, that you would choose your kids. They need you, dad – much more than you might ever know. They are more important than any short-term inconveniences that you might go through. I’m not saying it’s a “bed of roses.” It can be difficult and painful. But remember, it’s your kids’ lives that are at stake. And there’s no price tag you could put on that.
Fathers, let’s meet the challenges that life might present us head-on. And let’s say that, come what may, our kids’ best interest will always be our first priority. We owe it to them. And we owe it to ourselves. Let’s be “upbeat” and stand up for our kids!
The Upbeat Dad

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Houston, We Have a Problem!

Last week Tuesday, I had a speaking engagement at an elementary school in the Miami area. It was quite a fulfilling experience as I shared with the kids a bit about my profession and the things they can begin doing to live the life they desire to live. With the daily grind of the “rat race” it’s good to take time out to give back and realize that you’re able to enhance someone else’s life.

After the event, I was speaking with the teacher who hosted me. I was shocked when he told me that NOT EVEN ONE of the students is from a home with two parents. In absolutely every case, the father was absent. If you go solely based on statistics, these kids are already at a disadvantage.
Here are some statistics from the National Fatherhood Initiative that should make you cringe:
  • Students from father-absent homes are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school
  • Kindergarteners in single-parent homes are over-represented in those lagging in health, social/emotional and cognitive outcomes
  • A study of 13,986 women in prison in the United States shows that more than half grew up without their father
  • Teens whose parents were separated or cohabitating were twice as likely to have sex
And the list goes on and on and on…
Houston, we have a problem! We have a crisis on our hands! What will we do about it?
Through this blog, I have a number of thoughts and ideas that I will be addressing in the coming weeks. For today, I’ll just say that our children are at a disadvantage when we are not involved. If I were to forecast the future of the young people I spoke with last week, then I’d say, based on statistics alone, they are at a disadvantage and will have to overcome so much if they should ultimately become successful.
As I said to the teacher, I don’t want them to become statistics. I want them to become successful. The teachers play such a vital role in this process. But as parents, we play a greater role. I challenge you as fathers to stand up for your kids. I realize that all dads and even moms won’t heed this call but it’s a call that need to be taken seriously. The consequences of not doing so can literally have an impact for generations to come.
I have committed to become more involved in my local community, nationally and internationally in the lives of children. They need help now more than ever. My challenge to you is not just that you take care of your own children but that you go beyond that and begin mentoring others. No time is too short to spend helping kids to learn the things that will make them successful. 
Let’s make a vow to ourselves that the next generation of children will become well equipped to take over the world as well as move on. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to them.  This is the vision of The Upbeat Dad. We’re only now just scratching the surface of what can be accomplished when we lovingly take on this challenge.
I’ll close with the last 2 stanzas from my poem, A Lasting Legacy, which is found in my book, Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self Motivation: 
Whenever I come to the end of my days
And I go to my final resting place
When the sun goes down and I finish this race
May I leave this world a better place

This is my vow to humanity
A vow that will last all eternity
For my children and all who will come after me
May I leave a lasting legacy.

The Upbeat Dad

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Swing for the Fences!

It's baseball playoffs time!! And what dad doesn't like to sit and watch a baseball game with his kids? It is America's pass time, afterall.

There are so many analogies that one can make between baseball and life in general. Well, all sports really but let's use baseball right now.

When a batter with home run potential goes up to bat, depending on the situation, he can take different approaches. Sometimes, he wants to just get the ball in play. Sometimes he wants to at least make a sacrifice fly. But there are times when he has one thing on his mind - swing for the fences! For our non-baseball friends, that means, hit a home run.

As dads, we're the home run hitters in our kids' lives. We are usually more of the providers and the ones who can mentor them as they grow and develop.

There is a crisis in the American family, and I dare say, in the family in the world at-large. Some of you reading this are single dads through no choice of your own. Some are divorced, others are contemplating divorce but are hesitant to do so because of the potential effect on the kids.

Regardless of your particular circumstance presently, I implore you to swing for the fences when it comes to your kids. Don't take them for granted. We can't be passive when it comes to mentoring and being there for them.

With this blog, I, too, am swinging for the fences. There are lessons I've learned - some the hard way - that I'm passionate about sharing. Some might not be the most pleasant of topics to address. And I dare say, some will be controversial. And that's fine. But if this entire exercise results in each of us being better equipped as parents to our kids, then it would have been worth it all.

Our children are legal minors up to age 18. After that, they're considered adults. So during these formative years, I implore you to swing for the fences. To use another analogy, you should make hay while the sun shines because soon, our kids will no longer be under our care on a daily basis. And the life they live when they leave, will be dictated by the values we instill in them right now.

So here's the scenario: it's the bottom of the 9th. Your team is down by 3. The bases are loaded with 2 outs. You're the clean up hitter. What do you do? It's a rhetorical question! Of course you know it - SWING FOR THE FENCES!

The Upbeat Dad

Monday, October 18, 2010

Parenthood is Forever!

I hope that you had a wonderful weekend and that you’re ready for a productive week. Today’s post is an encouragement for all parents but for single parents, in particular. As you may know from my earlier postings, I was once a married dad. Then I became a divorced and single dad. Today, I’m a happily married dad. So I can relate to parenthood from multiple angles.
When I went through my divorce in the early 2000s, one thing became quite evident to me – the marriage was over, but my role as a father is perpetual. My blood literally runs through my child’s veins so there’s no individual or institution on earth that can change that fact.
In reflecting on the reality of being a divorced parent, I wrote the poem below, Parenthood is Forever.  It was written from my perspective at the time. But today, as a happily married father of two children, it still applies – parenthood is forever. Fatherhood and motherhood cannot change. Even when parents and children become estranged, nothing can undo this reality.
As you read this poem, as long as you’re a parent, it applies to you. If you’re divorced or otherwise separated from the other parent of your child(ren), it’s even more relevant. If you're married or you're in a relationship, I hope that it grows continually into a lifetime love affair. But in the event that it does not, just know that as a father or as a mother, yours is the role of a lifetime. I trust that this fact is an encouragement to you.
Enjoy reading the poem and do feel free to share your thoughts here on the blog or on our Facebook Page. Remember, parenthood is forever!
The Upbeat Dad
Parenthood is Forever

When people get together,
With loving in their hearts,
They vow to love each other,
"Till death do us part;"

Sometimes for different reasons,
They don't fulfill their vows,
Their minds change like the seasons,
There's no love left to show;

But parenthood is forever,
A spouse may come and go,
This bond is broken never,
It's one law nature knows;

So precious are the children,
The lights that light our homes,
To know them is to love them,
The love that angels know;

When marriages are over,
There's no more home sweet home,
Parents go on forever,
Kids need not feel alone;

Parenthood lasts a lifetime,
This truth you cannot doubt,
It's an unbreakable love-line,
Once in you're never out;

So a parent is forever,
This tie you can't exchange,
A bond you cannot sever,
One law no man can change.

© 2003 Rodrick Walters

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Be careful what you wish for!

There's a saying, "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it." Tonight as my wife and I heard our 2 month old on the baby monitor give his nightly 3 AM feeding notice, I kinda began doing some reflecting. Sleep deprivation has become a way of life for us - at least since August 5 this year, the day we welcomed him into the world.

Then I think about how much we wanted to have a baby boy. We have a wonderful daughter. Now we have the son we've dreamed of. But it's not like he's come out of the womb as a self-sufficient 12 year old like our daughter now is. It takes a bit of sacrifice on our part.

Parenthood has its challenges, no doubt. But it's a challenge that has great rewards. The thought that we have a young life to shape and mold is awesome - something we welcome with open arms!

Some of you have gone to great lengths to become fathers. Many of you would not be fathers today without technological advances in medicine. And that process has been an emotional and financial sacrifice. Others of you are fathers of children who may not carry your DNA but you've made great sacrifices just to have a child to call your own. All these are notches in your belt.

We make many sacrifices to become the fathers that we are. I say, "Keep it up dad! Your labor is not in vain!" Just imagine your child being a major contributor to society as an adult. And then think about the sacrifices you make now. It's all a matter of perspective.

Keep up the good work! Your reward will be great!

The Upbeat Dad