Saturday, January 29, 2011

Teaching Your Kids to Embrace Their Difference

When I was a child, somehow it seemed to me that no matter what I did or where I went, I was different. At home, my siblings were all wonderful, well behaved children – then there was Roddy (my nickname). I was always into some sort of mischief. When we moved to the United States from Jamaica, I was 12 years old and so very different from everyone at my school in Houston, Texas. All of a sudden, I now had a weird accent. Plus at the time, I had a speech impediment that caused me to stutter very badly.

I could go on and on but it would all come to the same conclusion – I consistently seemed to be the odd one out. I remember so often just wishing, praying and hoping that I could just fit in and be one of the guys. I never even wanted to be popular – I just wanted to fit in. I developed some self esteem and self image issues that caused me on many occasions to regret the fact that I was even born. In my high school, one of my nicknames was the Lone Ranger because I was always alone – no friends, no life, no nothing.
How many of you can relate to this description of my life? And better yet, how many of you have kids that struggle today with these issues? Somehow during the developmental years, things can be so tough on kids. Peer pressure and the general desire to fit in will cause them – particularly teens –  to go to great lengths to be accepted. Some experiment with drugs and alcohol just to try and be cool like all the cool kids. Some suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of feeling like misfits. And as we have all seen on the news from time to time, some even take their own lives because they just got tired of being the odd ones out.

I always say that I’m sure that if there was a vote taken for the class of 1988 at Mirabeau B. Lamar High School in Houston for the most likely to fail, Rodrick Walters would win by a landslide. I wasn’t on the Honor Roll – I had average grades. I didn’t play sports. I had no social life. I didn’t fit in with the jocks or the smart crowd. I just couldn’t find my place no matter how I tried.
When I went through my turmoil as a teenager, there’s no one who could convince me that 23 years later I would’ve started a blog where I share tips on parenting. Or that I would develop a worldwide audience just by sharing my thoughts on parenthood and encouraging others. No one could have convinced me that my life could be of use to anyone in anyway.
You may ask, “What happened between those days of turmoil and today?” The answer lies in the title of this post – Teaching Your Kids to Embrace Their Difference.
When I studied at the University of Texas at Austin, initially I struggled to make good grades. Two years into my studies, I found myself at a crossroads. I was on the verge of being academically dismissed. It was during this time a friend of mine told me that it’s ok to be me. “Stop trying to be like other people and just work on being yourself,” she said, “You’re different but that’s what makes you unique. Just focus on you.”
You see, for all of my life up to that point, I was always trying to be like others. I never really embraced who I am. So I did things like rehearse talking with a southern accent – like a real Texan. You ever heard a Jamaican try to talk like a cowboy? Not cool at all. But I was really just doing my best to fit in.
My friend’s words set me on a new path. For the first time, I began to embrace the fact that I’m different. I’ve always been different. I will always be different. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, it is something to be embraced. I’m unique – there’s never been another person like me and there will never be one. What a liberating feeling that was!
When your kids have problems with peer pressure and strive to fit in because others say they’re different, try using this line on them: if you’re not different, how can you make a difference? Isn’t that profound? Because if you think about it, the difference makers throughout history were labeled as different. The great persons throughout history who we celebrate today are or were all difference makers – Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Martin Luther King, Margaret Thatcher, Billy Graham and so on. They certainly didn’t fit in with the crowd and that’s why today, dead or alive, their names are household names.
Let’s try to encourage our kids to love themselves just the way they are. Peer pressure causes them to want to become like everyone else but they’re better than that, aren’t they? I sure think so. My daughter is a tween – 12 years old on the verge of being a teenager. She’s at the age now where it matters to her what others think of her. How she is seen by her peers matters more now than a couple of years ago. Having been through a few negative experiences in this area, I’m prepared to lead her on the right path – telling her that it’s better to just be herself – and those who will be her friends will gravitate towards her.
Sometimes I wonder what my childhood might have been like if I embraced myself and my uniqueness from then. But you know what? I’m glad it worked out this way. Because of those dark days,  I can relate to peer pressure and the desire to fit in that many of our children contend with each day. And from that experience, I believe that I can help to encourage those who struggle with these issues.

I’ll close this post with my poem Different and Difference. If you have kids or other loved ones who you believe would benefit from the message embodied in it, please do share it with them. It is a liberating poem that, I believe, encourages others to just be themselves:
Different and Difference
By Rodrick Walters

It seems that no matter the places you’ve been,
somehow you never could seem to fit in.
Like two left shoes, it could clearly be seen
that you always were different—not a part of the team.

"Why is it?" you wondered again and again,
you always seem to be left out in the rain?
While they move with the crowd, you wait there in vain.
While they stand proud, you sit there in pain.

But listen to this: I know where you've been.
Don't look where I am—it's not what it seems.
I've seen many days where I didn't fit in;
how I longed to be free from that burden within.

The truth is your difference just makes you unique.
Don't let them convince you that it makes you weak.
You carry the answers that so many seek.
The lessons you’ve learned are all yours to teach.

For if everyone was all just the same,
we'd be the same person—just with different names.
Because you are different there’s much to attain.
You can make a difference—that truth is so plain.

Stand and be proud of who you are,
and let the world see that you are a star.
So let your light shine both near and afar.
The key to life's treasures lies within your heart.

Remember, it’s your kids’ difference that will cause them to rise to the top and shine like the stars that they are. Think on this and help them celebrate their difference.

Enjoy a wonderful and productive day.
The Upbeat Dad

Friday, January 28, 2011

Upbeat Dad of the Week: Chris Singer

Chris Singer and daughter Tessa
Every so often, we come across individuals seemingly by accident. But the more we get to know them, the more we realize it was no accident at all. It was on purpose. And that person’s life as it is displayed, causes us to believe in the genuine goodness of humanity in a new way. Today’s featured Upbeat Dad of the Week is one such individual. So let me say it gives me great honor to share with you the story of our Upbeat Dad of the Week is Chris Singer.

When I began the Upbeat Dad blog, one of the first things that became apparent to me was that there’s a whole world of fellow bloggers who have their own unique niche. In late September 2010, the day after I decided to start the blog, I saw a feature on CNN about “Dad bloggers” and I thought “How cool is that?” I was excited to know that there are other men like me who care enough to share their thoughts on fatherhood with others.
It was in this world of blogging fathers that I got to know Chris Singer. He runs the website Book Dads. On that site, he works with authors and book reviewers to publish reviews of children’s books. Here are his blog and other social media tools:
Book Review site: Book Dads
Twitter: tessasdad and book_dads
Make sure you check these out after reading about Chris’ story. I think you’ll agree with me that he’s deserving of the recognition with this feature. Here’s a chronicle of his journey.
Chris grew up in a town in northeastern Pennsylvania. His childhood was marred with physical and emotional abuse of him in the home. That early experience caused him to suffer from anxiety and depression. He often contemplated just how he could escape from this daily reality. Though others, when faced with similar situations, turn to alcohol or drugs, Chris opted to use all of this negativity surrounding him to propel him to live a meaningful life.
He shared with me that two things kept him going. First, though he didn’t get the love and affection at home that every child needs, he had a close and loving relationship with his grandmother. So whenever he contemplated things such as drugs, alcohol, suicide or running away from home, he thought of how heartbroken his grandmother would be and that deterred him from acting on his thoughts.

Chris and Tessa
Secondly, he made a vow that if he could survive such a difficult childhood, he would dedicate his life to making a positive impact on others, particularly children. That was the motor that kept him going through all the challenges and difficulties. He says, “I told myself, if I can make it through this awful experience, I will help kids so that they don’t have to feel trapped and alone like me.”
He attended the State University of New York, where he got a Bachelors degree in Literature. As he contemplated how his life could be used to help others, he was drawn to the continent of Africa. He grew up in the United States, a place where wealth and privilege are often taken for granted. He saw widespread poverty in Africa. He saw orphaned children who seemed lost and lonely. Thinking back to his own childhood, he wanted to give of himself to them to relieve their suffering.
He knew that if he was to live his dream of impacting the lives of children around the world, if he was married, then his wife would need to share a similar vision. He had relationships throughout his life but none of them materialized beyond the dating phase.
Chris  and wife Deb
In early 2000, he joined an internet dating site. After sharing his information, he was shown the pictures of three women that the system suggested would be a match for him. He was drawn to a particular one of the three. Her name was Deb. What drew him to her was that in her profile, she was pictured in Africa surrounded by a group of kids. He later learned that that picture was taken in Namibia as she served in the Peace Corps. That captivated him – to the extent that he didn’t even contact the other two suggested women.
They met and really hit it off as they got to know each other. They share a similar vision of giving of themselves to help children around the world. Six years ago, their dream of spending their lives together became a reality as they got married. They settled in Michigan, Deb’s home state. Each of them had a vision of a life of selfless service to others and now as a team, they were ready to do it together.
Chris worked with a social services organization in Michigan. He worked closely with those known as “the lost boys of Sudan” – boys who lived in refugee camps after fleeing for their lives in that war torn African country. The boys came to the United States through a charitable program.
He started a book club in his town to feature books about Africa. At a book reading, he met a man from Uganda who lives in Michigan and works at Michigan State University. Chris was intrigued when the man told him that he grew up in that country and wanted to make a difference for children so he started a school for orphans.
Chris in Uganda with students from school for orphans
Chris and Deb wanted to get involved and that’s just what they did. Two years ago, Chris made a solo trip to that school in Uganda and met the school officials and students. That year, the couple learned that they were expecting their first child. They both traveled to Uganda during the 6th month of the pregnancy to do some work at the school and in the community.
Chris shares how profound and life-changing the experience was. He was able to see these orphaned children going through the first graduation in the history of the school. He was able to share his special touch with them – helping to calm their fears in the process.
He also shared that there were heartbreaking experiences during his visit. He saw widespread poverty. He visited children whose fathers abandoned them and their mothers were dying of AIDS. Their lives now hang in the balance as they have to face the world without the presence of either parent. He and Deb sponsor some children in that country by contributing on a regular basis to their education. The secondary school system can be quite costly so they have taken on the cause to help educate these kids from a financial standpoint and also by visiting with them when they travel to Uganda.
The couple returned from Africa and just under two years ago, Tessa was born to them. Chris shares how he was excited about the birth but then the excitement quickly turned to fear. He did not know how to be a dad. He didn’t have a good example growing up so he was concerned that he would not be effective in the role. He says, “Parenting brought up anxiety about the troubles I experienced as a child.”
 He and his wife decided that he would work from home so he is a stay at home dad. He didn’t know any others like him in his community so he went on the internet to learn how he could connect with other stay at home dads. It was then that he learned the power of social media to not only connect with people but also to share life philosophies. He decided to start a blog because, as he says, “I see the blog as a platform to do good things.”
Chris and John Cave Osborne (author of Tales From the Trips)
at Modern Media Man Summit
Through Book Dads, he and others read children’s books and write reviews on them. That way, parents can learn about the books they buy for their kids before buying them. I am one of his book reviewers, by the way. Chris is a real professional to deal with and is just a good person.
Tessa is his world – along with Deb. He is very attentive to her in every way and he just wants her to grow up to have the same kind of compassion that he and his wife have. Though he has a degree in literature, he wasn't inspired to write after graduation. So for years, he did not utilize those skills. Tessa's birth sparked a renaissance in his writing and now he's a true professional at it.
He says, “I have always wondered what my legacy will be. Now that Tessa is here, I realize that fatherhood is such a unique opportunity to do something great. Some people don’t take advantage of that opportunity but I want to make the most of it. When I die, regardless of anything I may have ever done, the only thing I want people to know is that I was a good father.”

I honestly tell you that as I interviewed Chris for this article, I had tears in my eyes. And even as I have typed this, I’ve had goose bumps thinking about his inspiring journey. I am so touched, thrilled and overjoyed to even know someone like Chris Singer – so good-natured, such a humanitarian, such a wonderful human being.

Chris and Rodrick in Florida
My family and I had the awesome privilege of meeting the Singers as they visited South Florida just last week. And they are quite an impressive family. My wife was pleased to know that Chris had been asked to do some video work on a project in her home country of Haiti, but his trip was cancelled due to some unrest in the capital city, Port Au-Prince. He’s just the type of person you meet and you know that your life will forever be enhanced as a result of meeting him.
Please join me in celebrating the mission of one who I believe is a great man. He lives in a country where wealth and privilege are treated by many as their inherent right. Yet his greatest passion is eradicating poverty and hopelessness around the world.
His childhood was not the glamorous life that many have yet taken for granted. He had a difficult path to take but what a journey it’s been. One of the quotes that I have written is, “That which I thought was the death of me became the key to my victory.” That can be said of him. He channeled the negativity of his past to propel him to be an exceptional man – a loving husband and father and great humanitarian. For that, he ought to be applauded.
As always, if you would like to nominate someone – anyone – for our Upbeat Dad of the Week, please do so by sending an email to: Be sure to tune in next week Friday – and every Friday - for our Upbeat Dad of the Week.
Thanks for reading about Chris’ story. And I hope that, like him, you will use your gifts to enhance the lives of others within your sphere of influence.
Chris with wife and daughter
Enjoy your day.
The Upbeat Dad

Thursday, January 27, 2011

10,000 Hits Milestone! And Countdown to Upbeat Dad Community Forum!

Good Day! What a beautiful day it is!

I’m excited to share that earlier today we reached a MAJOR MILESTONE! This afternoon, we reached the monumental milestone of 10,000 hits on our blog! Yes, 10,000!

Let’s put this in perspective. We officially launched the blog on Monday, October 4, 2010. It was launched with the goal to reach fathers throughout the world to encourage them to hang in there and be very involved in their kids’ lives. What’s ensued these 3 ½ months has been simply magical!
Here are some statistics that might let you know just why I’m so excited:
  • On December 31, 2010, I shared the post Major Milestone and Year in Review. On that post, I shared that the previous day, we hit the 5,000 pageview mark. I’m not a mathematician but I’m a certified public accountant. So if I do the simple calculation, that tells me that in the month of January we’ve had approximately 5,000 more hits – and the month doesn’t end for a few more days. That’s beyond comprehension, in a sense, but it’s also quite pleasing. This clearly means that we’ve struck a chord on a global scale with the message that we share.

  • As I write this post, we have 10,086 hits on the blog, 682 followers on Twitter and 315 Facebook fans. As you read this, I’m pretty certain that each of those numbers has increased. I have written 114 blog posts and sent 2,285 Tweets. You may wonder why I so frequently talk about the numbers. If you have followed this blog for any length of time you will know that my passion is to reach the world with the life-changing message that strong, involved fathers help to produce strong kids. Each of these numbers that I reference represents a new opportunity to share this message, in my view. It’s not about numbers to me – it’s about lives. If I had my way, we’d have billions of hits because that would mean that billions of lives are being touched and families throughout the world are being encouraged.

  • We have daily readers on every continent  – well, except Antarctica (do they have internet there anyway?). From Asia to South America to Australia to Europe to North and America and the Caribbean, people are reading the Upbeat Dad blog each day and are sharing our message with others. In early December, I started a weekly post on Saturdays to welcome the new countries to the blog. And today, I can say we’re pretty much maxed out. I’m not sure I’ll be doing one this week because we now have readers in all the countries in the world that I’ve identified as our target market – except one. I’m still waiting on our first hit in China – that will come in time, I’m sure. But I’m thrilled with the dozens of countries we have on board.


  • Over 60% of our readers are women. Hard to believe, huh? It was for me initially but now it makes perfect sense. My original agenda was to address men on the issues of fatherhood. But then I quickly realized that the many issues concerning fatherhood affect each of us – men, women and kids. Women have been on-board with our vision from day one so as I write a post each day, I think of how the issues raised affect both dads and moms. The platform I have is something I will never take for granted. Men and women have so much to do with the issues that affect our kids. So if we can engage in productive dialogue among ourselves, then we can make significant progress.

So there you have it – these are just some of the highlights to show the exciting things happening here at The Upbeat Dad.
Now on to the next big thing – The Upbeat Dad Community Forum! I tell you, that there’s a certain buzz in the air. Do you hear it? Something big is on the horizon! And two weeks from today – on Thursday, February 10 from 7-9 PM – we will have our inaugural Upbeat Dad Community Forum! I’m more excited than I can say! It’s going to be awesome!
The planning for that event is coming along great! We have speaking commitments from the Miami Dolphins football organization! That’s huge and quite an endorsement of our efforts to bring the community together to address the topic Where Are Our Fathers? We also have speaking commitments from 2 family law attorneys, a local City Commissioner and a former parole officer who is currently a Criminal Justice professor.
The term forum suggests public discussion. And discuss we will! The aforementioned persons will share their own unique perspective on the plight in our society as men are missing in action. But a significant portion of the evening will be devoted to hearing the voices of the persons who attend. We really want to engage in productive discourse at this evening.
One major goal I have for this event is to duplicate in person what’s already transpired online these past few months. I received a phone call from a young lady two days ago. She wanted to ensure that women are invited to the event as well. She was excited to hear that both the male and female perspective will be heard that day. She told me that she went on the blog and she felt the energy – “It’s electric,” she said. I want to bring that same energy to this live event.
I have done seminars and conferences before but none quite like this. This one is what I consider to be the cause of a lifetime. I really envision that this event will be the catalyst for a chain reaction that will reverberate around the world. Are you feeling it yet? Even the hair on my bald head is standing!
I consider this whole vision of the Upbeat Dad to be a life-changing force that will bring hope and healing to many lives that are broken throughout the world. I have said it many times before and I say it again here that this movement is way bigger than me. I’m just privileged to be serving in the capacity that I am. And if the feedback I get on a daily basis from all over the globe is any indicator, we’re on to something huge. So I encourage you to remain engaged with us.
If you’re in the Miami area, do join us that evening. And if you’re out of town but you feel that you cannot afford to miss this event, then come on down! We’d love to have you!
Here are the details of our forum:      

Come let your voice be heard at The Upbeat Dad Community Forum!
You'll enjoy this intriguing discussion on fatherhood!

Cooper City Church of God Fellowship Hall
9191 Stirling Road
Cooper City, FL 33328
Thursday, February 10, 2011
7 PM - 9 PM
Name: Rodrick Walters
Phone: 954-288-4788
RSVP by Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dads, Moms, Married, Divorced, Singles, Everyone’s welcome!
We wanna hear from you!

Free Admission!

Come on out and express yourself on this thought-provoking subject!

Among the issues that will be addressed are:
  • Absentee father syndrome: Where are our fathers?
  • How fair is the family law system?
  • From father to visitor: Being dad after divorce
  • Why every child needs a dad
  • When good fathers go bad
  • Why parents use children as tools in a game of Tug of War?
Do make the effort to join us that evening if you can. I truly believe that it will be a life-changing event for many.
As with everything that we do, this is all about our children – to ensure that they get the loving, supportive fathers  that they deserve. We’re headed to a great destination so I encourage you to join us – and hang on for the beautiful ride!

Enjoy your day,
The Upbeat Dad

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How To Use Social Media to Become a Better Parent

A few years ago, I got a new Blackberry phone. I’m a big fan of those smart phones! My previous Blackberry had breathed its last breath and it was time to get a new one.  As the new phone arrived and I was getting used to it, I saw the Facebook application pre-installed on it. I was so upset!

I got on the phone and called the service provider to complain that they pre-installed this social network application on my phone. “I don’t do social networking,” I said, “Tell me how to get rid of it!” The representative told me that it comes with the device so I couldn’t uninstall it. But I could just ignore it and use only the applications I find useful. I got off the phone annoyed that they were trying to get me into social networking.
Fast-forward the clock to today and here’s the life of Rodrick Walters – as I write this, I have over 1,400 Facebook friends, over 300 fans of the Upbeat Dad Facebook page, over 600 followers on Twitter and we’re rapidly approaching 10,000 pageviews on this blog. I mean, I only launched the Upbeat Dad just under 4 months ago. Not bad for a guy who hates social networking huh?
So what happened between these two extremes? How can a guy who hated social networking become such a dedicated professional at it now? Well, here’s what happened:
I always heard others talk about social networking and how they got in touch with people from high school and other points in their lives. My view was that the people I need to be in touch with, I am already in touch with by email or phone. My sister joined Facebook and was trying to convince me of the rewards of that kind of networking. I wasn’t interested at all. At the time I was a small business owner trying to grow an accounting practice. The last thing I needed was a new time-consuming tool to waste my time – or so I thought.

But here’s the thing – anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that my greatest passion is making a difference in the lives of others through the mediums of speaking and writing. Since 1995, I have had a vision to impact the lives of other around the world in a profound and meaningful way.
Accounting, to me, is good and it has afforded me the opportunity to earn a living since I graduated from the University of Texas in 1993. But, even though I still do practice accounting and do tax returns, I have never been convinced that it is what I was born to do. I have been professionally trained to do it and I think I do it well. But my passions really lie elsewhere – in seeing and meeting people and touching their lives through inspiration and motivation. I do touch people’s lives through accounting and it has opened many doors for me but though I get a thrill from helping people to reduce their tax liability, I get a greater thrill from helping others to realize their purpose in life.

A friend and mentor of mine was visiting South Florida from the Cayman Islands. We had a conversation over lunch about where I am on my path to success. I told of my continued dreams and aspirations and he said to me, “Rodrick, why aren’t you on Facebook? That’s the wave of the future. And especially since you want to do motivational speaking and writing, what better place is there to develop an audience? There are millions of people all over the world on it every day.”

Those words got me thinking. I thought about how I had another blog that I had started. It was about general motivational topics. And to me, the content was pretty good. But guess what? I had no vehicle in place to drive traffic to it. So each day, I consistently had 3 readers – yes 3. And I was one of them!
I decided that I’d bite the bullet and go the social networking route but I really didn’t have time to waste - remember I was trying to grow a business.  What’s transpired over the past 2-3 years has been simply magical and amazing! I’ve developed the audience that I’’ve been seeking since the mid ‘90s. I pretty much became transparent and shared who I am – listening to others, sharing my thoughts on subjects and engaging in productive dialogue.
This was great – and before long, I shut down my other blog because to me, I was sharing the same information but now on Facebook. And that social network is a dominant force on a global scale! A client of mine now even calls me, “Mr. Facebook!”
Then came The Upbeat Dad – and oh, what a ride it’s been so far! With the blog, the Facebook page and the Twitter account, the Upbeat Dad is really making an impact on a global level. One of the greatest thrills for me is that I get to connect with others who are like-minded. We share experiences on a daily basis through our blogs, tweets and other such messages. I have gotten innumerable ideas from simply interacting with others dads and moms.
I have on-going dialogue each day with people across the world – on practically every continent. I get ideas on parenting that I haven’t thought of previously. And I share my perspective on different matters. And it’s all productive and life-enhancing. To me, as long as we are breathing, there’s always the opportunity to learn something new. And with the speed of the internet, messages as far away as Australia literally come to me in seconds. The world has really become a small place thanks to the internet and the power of social media!
Chris Singer and Rodrick Walters
Just last week, I had the awesome privilege of having face to face meetings with two different colleagues from the social media world who visited the Miami area. One was Chris Singer, owner of Book Dads. He was here from Michigan with his family. He will be featured this Friday as our Upbeat Dad of the Week. His is an awesome story as he helps both authors and parents through the books reviewed on his website. I'm also a contributor on that project. Make sure you catch his inspiring story this Friday!

Dr. Barbara Greenberg and Rodrick's wife and kids
The other was Dr.Barbara Greenberg, a clinical pyschologist from New York. Co-author of Teenage as a Second Language, she was here for a book-signing. Her organization is Talking Teenage. Hers is also an awesome story as she travels, making a difference by helping parents communicate better with their teens. My daughter is a pre-teen (12) so the message is certainly relevant to me!

I took my wife and kids to meet them both and we really had a wonderful time. They were even more impressive in person than online. But without the online interaction, there is absolutely no way we would have established a connection.
One of the more beautiful aspects of social media is that, for the most part, it’s free. Yes, F-R-E-E - at least for the consumers. Advertisers take care of the costs. So everybody wins – the social media company gets paid advertising dollars, advertisers reach their target audience and consumers use the tools that they need and have the opportunity to get the products made available by advertisers. How powerful a concept is this?
I can really say that social media has opened my previously closed mind to great possibilities. Now I can see a clear path for me to share this message on a larger scale than ever. I’m a dreamer – and I dream big dreams! Will I end up on the Oprah Winfrey Show? At the White House? Buckingham Palace? Who knows. I only know that I’m loving every minute of this ride! And the beautiful thing is that the cause is way bigger than me – it’s about sharing the positive message that kids deserve to have loving, caring fathers who are active in their lives.
As we’re getting ready to launch the public event part of our vision with the Upbeat Dad Community Forum in two weeks, I’m excited that finally I can begin making some headway into establishing and contributing to charitable causes around the world. I have made contributions before but not to the extent that I’m about to embark on. The earthquake in Haiti, for instance, has uprooted the lives of so many. And there are orphans left to wonder if there is any hope. Single mothers all over the world find it hard to make ends meet. Fathers die in war and families are left shattered. And the list goes on.
Some of the tenets that guide my life are “to whom much is given, much is required” and “with great power comes great responsibility.” I do not take lightly the privilege that I have been given to have this platform. Lives all over the world are hanging in the balance. Mine was such a life several years ago as I was in turmoil going through a divorce. I wish I found an organization such as this to encourage me through that difficult period.
Remember the song, “It’s a small world afterall?”Well, with social media leading the way, ours has indeed become a very small world. We can stand back and let the train move without us. Or we can get on the train and make the most of the ride. We have the opportunity to learn from others as well as to share with others the lessons that have guided us as we all seek to become better parents.

I encourage you to join our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. There’s always something fresh, exciting and new. And believe me when I say that this is only the beginning – in the grand scheme of things, we really haven’t started anything yet. The best is yet to come! And as I always say, it’s not about me in any way – it’s about our children and being the very best we can be for them.

I also encourage you to utilize the different social media tools or other tools to share your own unique message with others. My view is that if only one person is impacted by something that we share, then the effort was worth every moment. Think about this and consider how you may share your gifts with the world.
Have an exceptional day!
The Upbeat Dad

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Paying Child Support a Privilege or Punishment?

For most of my life, I have heard the term child support. To me, when I heard it, there always seemed to be a consistent theme. Whether it was during my childhood in Jamaica, growing up in Houston, Texas or living as an adult in Miami, Florida, the term child support was always used in a negative sense. How often have we seen headlines of a deadbeat dad who’s been jailed for not paying child support? In mid-2010 I saw the news headline, “World’s Worst Deadbeat Dad Jailed for Owing over $200,000 in Back Child Support.” There always seemed to be a negative connotation with that term.

When I first got married in the mid 90’s, to me, just like my parents (who’ve been happily married for over 45 years) we would be married “till death do us part.” Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t make it to 6 years. We had a child, though – a lovely daughter. So when the dust settled, there I was sitting in court signing documents to pay child support.
And the demeanor of the judge just caused me to think that in her mind, I was being punished just like any deadbeat dad who so frequently walks into the courtroom. It didn’t matter that I was highly involved in my daughter’s life from the moment she was conceived – going to every doctor’s appointment, being in the delivery room, taking her to daycare, taking her to the park and so on. I was now divorced and I didn’t get custody so paying child support was my reality.
Upon further inquiry, I found out that the judge in my case became involved with family law because her previous job was going after dads who refused to pay child support. In hindsight, it didn’t surprise me that she seemed so hostile. Because not knowing any different, she likely perceived me as any other dad that she deals with on a daily basis. My mom always says, “The good have to suffer with the bad.”
In my post, What Exactly is Child Support?, I share my views on the topic. It is not a negative concept by any means. It’s literally supporting your child. The inherent flaw in that term, in my opinion, is that people are led to believe that child support is all about money. Certainly money is a part of the equation but in the big picture, it’s relatively minor. I could have committed to a life of making timely child support payments and never seeing my child and the court would have been happy with me – because I’d be a good dad.
But I go beyond that to ask the questions: Will I be there to mentor my child? Will I be there for her emotionally? Will I teach her the life lessons that have guided me? Will I help her with homework or go to PTA meetings? Will I be there as she begins dating to help her know the qualities she should look for in a man?
If I am absent from her life yet I make timely child support payments, to me, I am the ultimate deadbeat dad. Money can never buy the love and affection of our kids. Our kids are not problems that we just throw money at and they get solved.
To me, child support is the ultimate privilege. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been supporting my daughter from the moment she was conceived. Money has been a necessary component but quite frankly, she has no idea about what money has been spent on her – during the former marriage and since that marriage. She only knows that she loves her dad and mom and they love her. And they both have been highly involved and active in her life since birth. To me, that is indeed the ultimate privilege.
Too often we read about dads that have to be dragged, kicking and screaming into court to pay child support. Too often, kids get the short end of the stick because men, in particular, refuse to support them financially or emotionally. Writing a check or getting a payroll deduction is simply the financial consideration. But there’s so much more to it.
I’m quite concerned that some dads pay child support only to avoid going to jail. How sad and unfortunate. I cannot comprehend that mentality. I know times are hard so making timely child support payments may not always be feasible. But to neglect our children emotionally is totally inexcusable, in my view. When I wrote post When Good Fathers Go Bad, a female reader made the following comment:
“Regardless of your relationship with an ex, children are the innocent victims. They need a mother and a father equally. There is no excuse to emotionally or financially abandon your child. The pain a child feels from the rejection of a family member is often carried with them for the rest of their lives.”
I could not have said it any better.
One other quick point I want to make about the topic of child support is that when our exes are mean-spirited and hard to deal with, I know it’s not always easy to write that check and send it to them. They could even deny us access to the children but as I always say, children are innocent in all of this. So we really should not withhold from them what is due to them – not money or anything.
I know men personally who struggle every time they write that check because they see it as them writing a check to their ex and in their view, she doesn’t deserve it. So let me share these words of encouragement – our children are our children. They have always been and will always be our children. Their mothers might put us through the wringer, as the expression goes, but our children are ours. Let’s support and take care of them – financially, emotionally and in every other possible way.
So as I close this post let me reiterate the answer to the question “Is paying child support a privilege or punishment?” It is the privilege of a lifetime! Today, my daughter is a well-adjusted 12 year old. She lives with my wonderful new wife and me. We now have a 5 month old son. And guess what? I pay my child support 24/7/365. My kids are my world and I enjoy every moment of being with them.

I often say that I do support fathers’ rights. But prefer to think of fatherhood as a privilege. What an awesome responsibility it is! I hope that each of us – dads and moms alike – embraces the concept of 24/7/365 child support because it leads to successful, well-adjusted kids of whom we can all be proud.
Enjoy a wonderful and productive day.
The Upbeat Dad