Saturday, February 5, 2011

Welcome New Countries - February 5, 2011

We'd like to welcome the following countries that have joined our growing list of readers over the past week: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Columbia, Lithuania, Morocco, Uganda, Venezuela and Vietnam!

Please check out The Story Behind The Upbeat Dad to find out what we're all about! Also, at the top of the page, look for the section: Check Out Our Most Popular Posts to see the stories that our readers like the most. Each Friday we do an Upbeat Dad of the Week feature where we highlight a father whose involvement has made his kids' lives better.

We encourage you to become engaged in our conversation by posting comments to the posts you read. Also, join us on Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

You'll enjoy and share our excitement about fatherhood. Everybody's welcome - dads, moms, kids and anyone who believes strong, involved fathers help make strong kids.

Have a great day.

The Upbeat Dad

Friday, February 4, 2011

Upbeat Dad of the Week: James Davis

James Davis and wife Mary
In many of our lives, there are certain individuals who have made such a positive impression on us that we owe the persons that we have become, in large part, to them. Some, by their example, have consistently demonstrated a willingness to serve others with their time and talents. Our featured father this week is such an individual. So it is with great pleasure that I say our Upbeat Dad of the Week is James Davis. Few individuals have impacted my life to the degree that he has. You will soon know why I hold this man is such high esteem. His is a remarkable life – one highlighted by a consistency of service to his fellow men.
James Davis is my uncle. He’s my mother’s older brother. If this post was being read by my family members only, I would refer to him as “Uncle James.” But since it’s being read worldwide, I’ll use “Mr. Davis.” I have known him for all of my life so most of the issues that I will share in this post, I have witnessed firsthand.
Mr. Davis was born and raised in the rural part of Jamaica. When he became an adult, he migrated to England, as did some of his siblings. He lived and worked in England for 8 years yet somehow he desired to leave the life that he was afforded there to return to Jamaica to be of service to his fellow countrymen. In the late 1960s, he did just that - he returned home. He married the love of his life, Mary (also called "Meg"), and settled in the parish of Manchester.
In Jamaica, he found the opportunity in which he could be best of service. Having been raised in a large family with two loving parents, he realized the importance of giving children the proper guidance and providing them with the best environment in which to succeed.
One of the issues that was quite prevalent in Jamaica at the time - and still exists today – was the fact that many children are raised without a father or father figure. And what often results is the stories that make headlines for the wrong reasons – i.e. crime, violence, etc. When positive father figures are present, children tend to make better choices and generally show more respect for authority.
The government of Jamaica started a home for boys in the district of Mt. Olivet, Manchester. Mr. Davis became the superintendent of this home in the early 1970s. The home functioned as a stable environment for boys, many of whom knew nothing but instability prior to their arrival. Ranging from age 7 to 18, many of these boys were orphans. Others had loving parents who were not able to provide for them financially.
As the chief administrator of the facility, Mr. Davis was given the task of creating the best environment for the boys to succeed. He hired the necessary staff and supervised their training to ensure that they were well equipped to shape and mold the lives of these boys. He had to ensure that for the years that each boy spent at the facility, they would leave equipped with the life skills they needed to help them pursue their dreams.
One of the guiding principles of Mr. Davis’ tenure at the home was that education is the key to success. He believed in the proverb that many of us were taught as we went through the education system in Jamaica: “Labor for learning before you grow old; for learning is better than silver and gold. Silver and gold will vanish away but a good education will never decay.”
He ensured that each boy at the home was given the best chance to succeed through education. Children learn in different ways; some need special attention in order for them to grasp the lessons taught to them. He was an integral part of the process to enable them to learn.

He was not only the chief administrator but he was also involved in the carrying out of the functions of the Boys Home. In addition to ensuring that the boys got a proper education, he also taught them skills such as farming and raising livestock. In the rural part of the country, those skills are of vital importance.

For many of these boys, “Mr. Davis” is the only father they have known. His was a labor of love as he treated the boys like they were an extended part of the family. One of my fondest childhood memories was going with my siblings to Mt. Olivet in the summer for weeks at a time. I recall “Uncle James” carrying out many of the roles that I am describing here. It seemed effortless to him but in fact, it takes a special level of dedication to care for the children of others like they were your own. 

James Davis' children - Orville, Janice and Cleon
Mr. Davis and his wife had 3 children, the oldest of whom was born exactly 4 weeks before I was. As a family, they served the community in different ways. His wife was a high school teacher. They both were leaders in the church and the community at-large.

In the Davis home, love and discipline were demonstrated on a daily basis. In many of our homes today, the dinner table discussion is a lost art form. For the most part, now we just grab our meals at our convenience and then jet off to do other tasks. Or perhaps we sit in front of the television and are entertained while we eat.
Not so in the Davis household. Even to this day when I go to their home in Jamaica to visit, breakfast, lunch and dinner are all family meeting times. There’s nothing to distract from the discussion – no television, radio or anything else. That way, there is necessarily a closer bond that is formed.
James Davis and son Cleon at graduation
For his children, education was vitally important. But more than that, service to others was strongly encouraged. As adults, each of them has contributed immensely to the well-being of others.
Their oldest, a son named Orville, was a youth minister in his church. He mentored and encouraged young people. The second, a daughter named Janice, is an educator. She is currently a teacher in Japan – where she teaches Japanese students how to read and write the English language. The youngest, a son named Cleon, is a doctor in Jamaica – an anesthesiologist. He serves others with his gifts through the medium of practicing medicine.
As is often the case when we learn about the lives of great people, Mr. Davis’ story has had a very difficult chapter. On Christmas Day 1998, Orville had traffic accident that claimed his life. That was a bitter pill to swallow for each of us in the family. It was particularly tough for a loving father to lose his firstborn child in such a tragic way. Orville was my closest cousin and best friend so his loss was very difficult for me to deal with as well. But today, over 12 years later, collectively as a family, we have come to accept that we cannot control certain occurrences in our lives – we can only do our best with the challenges life throws our way.
Mr. Davis served at the Boys Home for 20 years before leaving to become a church minister, continuing to be of service to others. Both he and his wife have since retired and reside the parish of Clarendon. They are actively involved in their community, still giving of themselves for the advancement of others.
With all the work that he has done throughout his working years, I believe that his legacy will most be defined by the work that he did at the Boys Home. The boys came to the home at the most vulnerable stage of life. Without his labor of love, many of them might not have become the successes that they are today. Most of them have gone on to successful vocations and have started families of their own. I consider myself a child advocate so as I reflect on the life of service that my uncle has given to these young lives, I have to applaud his efforts.
Rodrick in Jamaica with "Uncle James" and "Aunt Meg"
Please join me in recognizing Mr. James Davis as the Upbeat Dad of the Week. His life and example have left such as impression on me that I constantly think about how I, too, can serve others with my life. Many people look at the problems of the world today as simply spectators. But he has viewed the same problems and has dedicated himself to eradicating them. He has fathered 3 biological children but so many other children have become good citizens of this world today because he chose to father them. It is for this reason that I recognize him in this way.
As always, if there is anyone you would like to nominate as our Upbeat Dad of the Week, please do so by sending an email to We love to share stories of positive fathers and father figures for the ways in which they touch the lives of others.
James Davis is one who has so given to others that his legacy will live on perpetually. I know that my life has been changed by his example. I hope that your life will be as well. His commitment to selfless giving has endeared so many to him.
I hope that after reading about his life of service, you too will dedicate yourself to the well-being of others. Have a wonderful day.
James Davis with wife and children
The Upbeat Dad

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Diary of a Child Advocate

When I was studying at the University of Texas at Austin in the late 80s to early 90s, I became exposed to so many different forms of music. One form that particularly appealed to me was what is classified as ‘easy listening.’ My favorite group in that genre was and still is The Carpenters. Something about their songs is so soothing to me.
One of my Carpenters’ favorites is Bless the Beasts and the Children. My roommate and I always stayed up late after hours studying and I would often call my favorite radio station because at night they took requests. I often requested that song. I wasn’t even sure why it appealed to me so much but it always seemed to strike the right chord in me.
Almost 20 years later now, I reflect on that song and I know just why it appealed to me so much. It really states something so deep and profound. Check out this excerpt from the song:
By the Carpenters

Bless the beasts and the children
for in this world they have no voice
they have no choice

Bless the beasts and the children
for the world can never be
the world they see

Light their way
when the darkness surrounds them
give them love
let it shine all around them

Bless the beasts and the children
give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe
Keep them warm

As I look at these lyrics, there’s little wonder why the song appeals to me so much. The fact is that the most vulnerable citizens of this world are the beasts and the children. I’d like to focus on the ‘children’ part of the song, if you don’t mind.

Each day, children are born under various conditions. Some are born to happily married couples; some are born outside of marriage; some as a result of unintended pregnancies. And we could name so many more scenarios that all come back to the same point – they are born, through no choice of their own. They come into the world and until they grow to an age when they can be self-sufficient, they need love, care and devotion in order for them to be the best that they can be.

For quite some time, I’ve had a special place in my heart for kids. Perhaps it’s because during my own childhood, though I had a wonderful home life, I had a very challenging time socially. My speech impediment which caused me to stutter was just one of the many issues that caused me to develop very low self esteem and self confidence. I just wanted to fit in like other kids but those efforts seemed perpetually futile.

Having that experience has given me a special compassion for children. During high school, I was the lead nursery attendant at our church after my sister, who previously held that position, went off to college. To me, reading to children or playing with them and seeing their eyes light up is priceless.

Babies come into the world without prejudice or resentment to anyone. They are innocent as doves. My mom always says, "To the pure, all things are pure." Our innocent, pure kids are the most vulnerable people in society because, as the song says, “…in this world, they have no voice; they have no choice.” Decisions are made on their behalf and whether they like it or not, they have to go along with them.

It really does concern me that every day adults make life altering decisions that affect children in negative ways. Some fathers routinely make decisions to abandon kids because they are an inconvenience that they didn’t want. Some mothers make decisions to keep children away from fathers because they hold a grudge against the men who they're no longer in love with. Courts make decisions that significantly impact the direction of children’s lives and at times, those decisions are made without much basis.

I am a volunteer with a local organization in the Miami area. In that organization, I mentor fathers in the inner city. Just yesterday I went to a meeting at which a family law attorney spoke with the fathers. The attorney shared very good information about how the family law system functions. She said something that resonated with me. Her words were, “Sometimes custody is decided based on whether or not the judge got up in a bad mood that day.” That statement, as shocking as it may sound, is very true.

I am the father of two kids – a 12 year old daughter  and a son who will turn 6 months old this weekend. They are my life and my world. I see in them true greatness that will impact the next generation in a positive way, even as young as they are.

My daughter is from my first marriage. As I shared in the post The Story Behind the Upbeat Dad, when that marriage dissolved, I really had a difficult time dealing with the different issues that arose – legal and otherwise. But when the dust settled, I just wanted to know that the decisions that were made by adults on my daughter’s behalf were in her best interest. Because in the grand scheme of things, my agenda was irrelevant – and so was the agenda of my former wife. All that mattered was what was best for our daughter and her future.

I see myself as a child advocate more than anything. I am not on the side of fathers; neither am I on the side of mothers; I am on the side of children. I believe that today, almost 10 years after that difficult chapter of my life, my daughter is quite fine. I have been an advocate of hers since the moment she was conceived and I continue to this day. And for our son, the same applies. I’m an advocate of his as well. My wife and I are determined to provide both of our kids the best environment in which they can not only survive but also thrive.

In one of my poems I wrote:

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

Children are so wonderful, so innocent, so special. If we as parents and other adults would really seek to become their advocates instead of seeking our own agendas at times, I believe that each of our kids would be much better for it. In this world they have no voice, as the song says. Therefore, won’t you be that voice for a precious child. Their only voice might just be yours. They deserve the best decisions to be made on their behalf.

Please join me in this quest to advocate for those who will lead our world for the next generation. Anything less than our very best effort is not good enough. Let’s endeavor to do our best for those who in this world “have no voice.”

Enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Education in the Fatherhood School of Hard Knocks

This morning I had an interview at a local radio station here in Miami – Hot 105. I was there to talk about the Upbeat Dad Community Forum that we’re having next week Thursday, February 10. While I was in the lobby waiting to go into the studio, I was speaking with a lady who was also there for an interview. We had an enlightening conversation as she shared with me the work that she does in the community of South Florida.
When we spoke about the forum, she was quite interested in what I had to say. Then she asked this very intriguing question, “What qualifications do you have to teach on the topic of fatherhood? Are you a psychologist? Family therapist?” How profound! I didn’t get the sense that she was being negative and questioning my credentials – she just wanted to know how I came to the point where I teach on such a topic. I have been asked those questions on a couple of other occasions. Wanna know my response? Well, here we go:
My response was, “That’s the beauty of what I do! I’m a father like any other father. Most persons in the general population do not have formal training in psychology or the behavioral sciences. So they relate to me and the message that I share.” Isn’t that something?
10 years ago, I was minding my own business as a Certified Public Accountant. I have had aspirations of being a motivational speaker since the mid 90s. I had a contract with an international seminar organization and I traveled throughout the United States and overseas teaching seminars and workshops on various topics.
But when I sensed that my travels were taking their toll on my then family, I put those aspirations on hold. My wife and daughter came first. So I went back to having a regular job in accounting – one that had no travel involved. As much as I love to travel, to me, family comes first so I had to put those thoughts into action.
As I shared in the post, The Story Behind the Upbeat Dad, in the early 2000s (a little over 9 years ago), I went through a very difficult, challenging experience when my marriage ended in divorce. I was devastated. I lost most of what I had accumulated from a material standpoint. I really didn’t care about those things anyway – I only cared about continuing to be a loving father who’s highly active and involved in my daugther’s life.
I am no different from most people I know – a regular everyday, hardworking person who loves the institution of the family. But when my family went through the turmoil of divorce, I was left with the choice to remain active in my daughter’s life and do what I believe is best for her or just let the legal process dictate the direction of her life.
Had I just committed to paying child support and seeing her every other weekend, the courts would have been happy with me. I would’ve been just like any other father who’s happy to take a back seat and hope that his child turns out ok in the end. But as far as I see it, I would be a failure as a father – because I would’ve allowed the process to cost my daughter and me the close bond that we share today.
Each day, families all across the globe encounter the hungry lion called divorce. I call it a hungry lion because as long as you stay away from it, you’re gonna be ok. But when you encounter it, it’s ferocious and can shred you to pieces. When these families encounter divorce, very few parents are adequately trained in a professional sense to handle the situations that arise. But those who experience the turmoil that sometimes ensues can share of their very personal experience with the process.
Over the past 12 years, I have been a father so I have gained great knowledge and practical experience. But the past 9 years – the period when divorce became a reality in my life – have given me what I believe to be equivalent to Masters Degree in fatherhood.
Think about this: I had to learn how to continue being a loving father during the awful divorce. Then the divorce ended so I became a father who had his child come by a few days a week for what they called, “visitation.” I hated that term – how do you go from being a dad to a visitor? I recently heard that in Florida they now call the concept “time sharing”. That, I totally endorse.
Then when my former wife moved back to her home state, I had to learn to be a long distance dad – calling my daughter daily and going over her homework over the telephone. I called the school and her doctor to ensure that I was in touch with what was going on with her. In the ideal world, I would’ve had a good working relationship with my former wife at that time but the reality is that I didn’t. My daughter would come to me during the summer and holidays but during the school year, I was a long distance dad.
Then 3 ½ years ago when my daughter came to live with me primarily. I had to become a daily dad, instead of a long distance dad. So going to PTA meetings and teacher conferences became the norm. Taking her to school and picking her up after school while trying to grow a brand new company wasn’t easy by any means. But the rewards were so great! I got to see her go from struggling scholastically to being on the honor roll. That didn’t come accidentally – I had to learn why she wasn’t making good grades and then helped to create the conditions under which she would excel. And excel, she did.
Almost 2 years ago, I got married again. I had to reassure my daughter during that transition to having a new household member that she is and will always be a top priority. And just 6 months ago, we welcomed our son into the world. This was also another teachable moment for me to assure her that all is well and there’s no need for a sibling rivalry. She will always be my first child and she has the opportunity to mentor her little brother.
So I guess you can say that for most of the past 12 years, I have been enrolled in the school of hard knocks. No text book or professor could have taught me the real world, practical lessons that I have learned throughout all of this. I respect the formal education system immensely. But I know that I’m a better father and a more qualified spokesperson on the issue of fatherhood because of the route my life has taken the past several years. I often say that after the divorce, I was left with a choice – and I chose to become better instead of remaining bitter.
Quite interestingly, some of the most avid readers of the Upbeat Dad blog are psychologists and family therapists. Two weeks ago, I met with a colleague, Barbara Greenberg, an author and a clinical psychologist. She visited the Miami area for a booksigning. I love the work that she does helping parents understand their teens. Just yesterday I had a lengthy conversation with Sue Atkins, a parenting expert and TV and radio personality based just outside of London, England. Both of these ladies do great work helping families in different ways. They’re formally trained experts in their fields.

They both attest to the fact that the journey that brought me to the point of become a parenting expert in my own right is breath-taking. Sue’s favorite expression when we spoke was, “How fascinating!” I don’t really seek accolades but the fact is that this work, the Upbeat Dad, is impacting lives all over the world. And that is my satisfaction – not anything else. I’m just a regular guy who’s an advocate for children. I am really not on the side of fathers. Neither am I on the side of mothers. I am 100% on the side of children so I seek to do my very best for them.
Perhaps as I get more involved through my work, I will take classes to obtain greater knowledge. I’m an avid reader and I love to read the writings of other persons in the parenting field. All this knowledge when put to good use can help families navigate their way through the issues and challenges that life presents on a daily basis.
I really look forward to the forum next week Thursday. The background and details of the event can be seen in the following postings:

If you’re in South Florida, come on down – we’d love to have you!
If you’re ever faced with challenging situations regarding your role as a parent like I was so long ago, I hope that you make decisions to do what’s best for your kids. It was never my goal to go through emotional turmoil and financial hardship so that I could speak to others about the role fathers should play in kids’ lives. Life threw me a bucket of lemons – I just chose to make lemonade and the result is that my daughter is better for it. And the privilege to share with the world the lessons I’ve learned is one I will never take for granted.
Our kids are a joy and a wonder. I hope that each of us will always seek to do for them what is best.

Do enjoy your day.
The Upbeat Dad

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Talking to Your Kids About Hard Economic Times

Yesterday afternoon my brother-in-law called me to share with me a story he saw on CNN’s website. I was driving at the time so I couldn’t look it up (by the way, don’t worry – I use a hands-free Bluetooth headset when I’m driving).  The story was about talking to our kids about hard economic times. He thought it might be an interesting topic for me to address on the blog. I agree wholeheartedly. So here’s that post:
The past few years have been different than any other time in recent history. The global economic crisis is said to be the worst such period since the Great Depression. Home foreclosures, credit crisis, bank bailouts, auto industry bailouts, major corporations filing for bankruptcy – and these are just some of the headlines we’ve read about. With these issues that have plagued the global economy, millions of lives have been affected.
Fathers and mothers have to find new ways to provide for their families as they lose their jobs. Some go back to school because of the declining demand for the services that they have always provided. Here in South Florida, the mortgage/real estate crisis has had a significant negative impact on the economy. Record foreclosures have left communities in shambles. Mortgage and real estate professionals who routinely made thousands of dollars on each transaction have had to seek other means of earning a living. I have seen that first-hand with many accounting clients of mine. It has really been a tough time for them.
I think it’s easy to talk to our kids about how the crisis has affected the economy as a whole. We can watch the 6 o’clock news with them and talk about why General Motors had to file for bankruptcy protection. Or why there are record foreclosures. But when the crisis has hit our homes, it’s a bit more challenging. Do we really need them to know the daily struggle it is for many of us? That brings up a whole new set of issues.
Children have an inherent need to feel secure. Our son, who will be 6 months old this coming weekend, is beginning to show signs of this. When he was a newborn, he would just lie in the crib and be oblivious to everything going on around him. Now he doesn’t like to be left alone. When he wakes up and is in his crib in the room alone, he lets know he’s awake by crying aloud. Sometimes he may be in the room with us and is lying down but wants to be held – so again, he exercises his lungs to let us know he wants to be picked up. That’s just something innate in kids – the need for security.
In our homes, many of us over the past few years have had to deal with some tough situations as a result of what’s occurred economically on a global scale. Because we have so many readers, I am certain that some reading this post have had to deal with some of these issues: foreclosure, eviction, bankruptcy, repossession. Others have had to deal with less significant issues – i.e. having the phone, the lights or water cut off. But these are all signs of the economic times we’re in.
How do we deal with these issues as parents? Do we just handle them as best as we can and not mention them to our kids? Or do we teach them the tough lessons we’re learning during this time? That’s something to think about, isn’t it?
My response to all this is that there is no right or wrong answer. We have to take it on a case by case basis. In general, we have to be wise about how we handle sharing with our kids our daily reality. For our younger ones, I believe that we should shield them as much as possible from some of the issues we have to deal with. It’s easier said than done, I know. But sharing with them some of our challenges might do more harm than good.
For instance, if you have 5 year old and your home is foreclosed on and you need to move to an apartment, it may not be the smartest thing to say, “Honey, we don’t have any money so the bank took back the house from us. Now we have to live in a small apartment.” Something more appropriate would be, “We’re moving to a new place and you’ll get to meet new friends.” Putting a positive spin on it can turn a delicate situation into one in which they feel good about the change. Kids just want to be happy anyway so they can easily adapt to such a change.
For our older kids like teenagers, it may take a bit more intuition to handle these difficult situations. What do you do when your child answers the house phone and a creditor is on the other line? Or when you come home to the darkness with a disconnection notice on the door from the electric company? This is a bit tougher, right?
A friend of mine has satellite TV and one day there was a thunderstorm and it temporarily disabled the signal. Her daughter said to her, “Mommy, the TV isn’t working; can you please pay the bill.” Ouch! You see – her daughter assumed the only reason that the TV wasn’t working was because the bill wasn’t paid.
Even the most difficult of situations can be handled in a delicate sense to reassure our kids that all is well. Earlier I used the example of having to move into a small apartment because of a home foreclosure. If the child is a 15 year old instead of a 5 year old, I think an appropriate way of addressing the situation would be to say, “We need to move into an apartment for a while so we can get back on track. It’s a tough economy and many families are going through this – we’re not the only ones. But we’ll be fine, ok.” You see what that does? It addresses the situation in an honest way but there’s a positive way of saying it.
That approach is so much better than saying something like, “We don’t have any money – I don’t know how we’re going to make it. The bank is taking the house and is trying to make us homeless.” That does nothing to reassure a child that things will get better. Did you know that many kids end up blaming themselves for their parents’ financial woes? They say things like, “If Dad and Mom didn’t have to take care of me and buy me stuff, they might have more money to pay the bills.”
We just have to be careful with how we handle these difficult situations with our kids. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts or suggestions about how to handle these situations. A positive exchange of thoughts and ideas can yield positive results. Feel free to leave a comment here on the blog.
If you’re currently being affected in a negative way by the economy, just hang in there. You may have heard it said that tough times don’t last but tough people do. Things do get better in time. Do your best as a parent to help reassure your kids that all is well, despite the challenges you may be facing. That’s just part of being a loving parent – doing your best while letting your kids know things will be fine.

All is well. All will be well. You just do your best with what you have and in time, things will work out for you and your family.
Enjoy your day.
The Upbeat Dad

Monday, January 31, 2011

Why We’re Having the Upbeat Dad Community Forum

Last October, we started the Upbeat Dad with the purpose of touching lives around the world. And as I shared in the post from last week Thursday, 10,000 Hits Milestone and Countdown to Upbeat Dad Community Forum, we have exceeded expectations in terms of our reach. Every continent on planet earth is tuning in on a daily basis – except for Antarctica. I’m not too sure if they have the internet there  anyway! But it’s really caught on quite well on a global basis.

If you look at the history of our posts, you’ll get the sense that I have a large vision for making a difference in the world through this organization. You’ll also see that though I love to write and demonstrate that by doing a post every day, I’m more a person of action. So our community forum which will be held next week Thursday, February 10th in South Florida is a significant action that we’re undertaking. Please see the post referenced above for details of the event.

Recently I’ve told some persons who have contacted me about the forum that we have enough problems in our world and in our homes for me to just identify the problems and talk or write about them. Talk is cheap – isn’t that what they say? Yes, talk is cheap. I want to do something to solve these many issues that plague the family because I believe that, with all the different issues that we identify, everything seems to lead to one conclusion – children get the short end of the stick when fathers aren’t involved in their lives.

Some dads don’t care to be involved in any way, shape or form. They helped to create the kids but they want no part of raising them. I’ve heard some use the term sperm donor to describe these men. Other men do want to be involved but the system discourages them because of the way it functions.
Two weeks ago, I spoke with a family law attorney who has practiced over 25 years in South Florida. She’s actually going to be speaking at our forum next week. She told me that the law, as it is written, is fair to both parents and the kids. But the way it is practiced is one-sided and biased against men. Women most often get their way – and though it might appear that it’s the men who lose, it’s the kids who are the real losers when the court becomes involved.
Let me emphasize that she is a practicing attorney and a female. And with her extensive experience, she has seen the inner workings of the system from the perspective of her clients – both male and female. So she has more credibility than most to speak on this matter. And she’s saying what most people who have been involved with the system believe.
As I wrote in the post The Great Oxymoron: Family Law, I believe that the very system that is supposed to be pro-family is the one that destroys families on a daily basis. I’m a man so I see things more from a male perspective. But can I tell you something? I’m not on the side of men. Neither am I on the side of women. I’m on the side of our children all around the world. The Carpenters sang, “Bless the beasts and the children, for in this world they have no voice.” That is so profound and so true. In the courtroom, they have no voice – yet decisions are made that impact their lives in a profound way.
So I have decided to use the Upbeat Dad organization to serve as a buffer between the law and our children. In other words, I want the children to be protected from the potential negative impact of decisions that they have no role in making. So I guess you can say that I’m a child advocate more than anything.
In our post Announcing the Upbeat Dad Community Forum, I likened the concept of the forum to the ground campaign in military combat. With over 10,000 hits on the blog in less than 4 months, the air campaign has gone quite well. But the ground campaign is where the victory is won. Having a productive exchange of ideas in an open forum is the key to solving our issues.
I don’t expect everything in the forum to be smooth sailing. It's an open and honest discussion on fatherhood. Fatherhood and all issues related to the topic affects men, women and kids. At this event, we want men and women - whether or not they are parents - to come out and share their unique perspectives.

I know that people are passionate and some wear their emotions on their sleeves as they display their passion. That’s why as we have the forum next week, I will emphasize the need for a respectful exchange of thoughts. I’m not trying to reenact the scenes from some of the controversial talk shows we see on TV. A respectful, healthy exchange of ideas in an open forum will, in my opinion, be an enlightening experience for all.
The theme of our event is, “Where are our fathers?” Here are some of the questions that we will be asking at this event: 
  • Absentee father syndrome: Where are our fathers?
  • How fair is the family law system?
  • Why parents use children in a game of tug of war?
  • Does the family law system promote the deadbeat dad syndrome?
Each of these questions could be the title of a book. You could really open a can of worms with each one. But the reality is that these issues are the very ones that we have identified that cause our fathers to be missing in action. This is why I believe that they must be looked at.
I do plan to have these forums in different cities throughout the United States and in time, overseas. Fatherhood is a global issue and ours is a global vision. So without doubt, very soon we will be taking the show on the road, as the expression goes, to the nations of the world.
If you are not able to attend our forum, fear not. We have secured the services of a video company and they will be taping the event. So you’ll see clips of our forum at your leisure. Stay tuned for more on that after the event. It’s all about sharing a message so I’m excited to share this with you even though you may be at a distance.

So I revisit the issue raised in the title of this post, “Why we’re having the Upbeat Dad Community Forum.” It’s all about our kids and what’s in their best interest. Collectively, we can identify, analyze and solve these problems. And the winners will be our kids.
If you’ll be in South Florida on February 10th, we’d love for you to join us. We’re going to have a good evening – one that I strongly believe will be a catalyst for positive changes in our homes and in our lives. I can think of no better cause than one in which we do what’s best for the most innocent and vulnerable among us – our children. That’s something that ought to make us excited.
Please join us in this bold endeavor. Because our children are worth every effort we make.

Have a wonderful and productive day.
The Upbeat Dad

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Planting the Seed of Success

Today’s post is just a quick and simple one to encourage us to chase our dreams. Each of us has goals and dreams that we feel will make our lives complete. Some might seem impossible to us. Some seem possible. But whatever the case may be, we all have goals and dreams.

Many of us set career goals only. But I also like to set family goals with my wife as we try to build a successful life together. I believe strongly that 2011 will be a great success for us because of certain plans that we have. And seeing those plans beginning to come together is exciting no doubt.

I encourage you and your spouse or significant other, if you have one, to set goals and map out the plan for your success. I believe that the limit to our potential lies in our heads. Success is all ours for the taking if we would only plant the thought in our minds that it is possible.

Do you want to be so accomplished that you can take family trips at will without much strain on the family budget? Do you want your kids to get a full ride to college via scholarship? This is all possible if you could only envision it being a reality.
My poem Like Planting a Seed addresses this concept – that ultimately, our potential for success lies within ourselves and not with others. Enjoy reading it:
Like Planting a Seed
By Rodrick Walters

Impossible is nothing if you only believe;
for whatever you imagine you can achieve.
The greatest success must start with a dream.
The life you desire must first be foreseen.

The road to success is like planting a seed,
and watching that seed become a tree.
You nurture it, protect it, that seed that you have sown,
and when it’s grown, it stands tall on its own.

The seed of success must be sown in your mind,
and nurtured, protected with each step you climb.
No matter how strong the winds of life blow,
you will rise above and stand on your own.

So never, my friend, be afraid to dream—
that’s the seed that will help you to reign supreme.
So dream your dream, it’s all your own;
and with it, I promise, you’re never alone.

How successful will your family be? Pretty much it is as you envision it to be. You can accomplish great things together. I sure hope you enjoy bringing that which you envision to reality.

Enjoy your day.
The Upbeat Dad