Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reflecting On Our New Arrival

Rodrick's newborn son

A week ago today, our family was thrilled to welcome a new child into the world. We already have a 14 year old daughter and a 2 year old son. Now we have another son to add to the mix! The 3 Musketeers, if you will! In the week that has passed, I'm amazed at all that's transpired. Some of it has been predictable; some of it I couldn't have seen coming. But altogether it has set the stage for what I envision to be a fulfilling experience.

As you probably know from reading this blog, I'm passionate about the institution of the family. I've achieved a few things in my life but nothing compares to the role of being a husband and father. There's such a sense of purpose that comes with raising a family – going through the process of welcoming children into the world and teaching them how to take their place in the world as productive citizens. It's not all fun and games - it's serious stuff. But it's such rewarding stuff. And here we are, doing it all over again!

Rodrick and family
As I reflect on the new birth, I'm humbled at the thought of the responsibility given to us - to successfully raise 3 children, each with a unique personality. It's a daunting task, on the one hand. On the other, it's an opportunity to put into practice the principles that are at the core of what my wife and I believe - children are precious gifts and ultimately, their success in life depends, to a great extent, on the environment in which they are raised.

Now here we are - adding a new child to our family and hoping we strike the right chords to help him and his brother and sister to live meaningful lives. There's no magic formula to successfully take the journey we're embarking on. Much of it is unchartered territory for us. But I'm fully convinced that, as the expression goes, "love will find a way." Love will help us make the right decisions as we mold these young lives.

In the week that has transpired since the new birth, I have seen a preview of what the coming months and years will be like. Remember, we have a teenager and a 2 year old. Our daughter is a high school freshman so she's been very much aware of what to expect with the new birth. She's been a trooper these past few months. As the pregnancy progressed, she has stepped up and assumed more responsibilities around the house. She has done a great job of doing her chores - like washing dishes, doing her laundry, etc. Her room isn't always as neat as it should be but still, she's done great so far.

Rodrick's teenage daughter and newborn son
She does all of this while learning to navigate her way through the challenging experience of being in high school. Her school is very competitive and it requires her to work harder than she has up to this point - lots of late nights and early mornings. And occasional weekend school activities too. She's involved in certain extracurricular activities that are demanding of her time. She's also involved in the youth group at our church. Needless to say, she has her hands full.

As parents, we know that, since the younger 2 kids need our involvement more, quite easily our daughter could become less of a priority to us. If we're not careful, we could invest all our time on the younger 2 while she drifts along. But then, wisdom says that, she needs us now more than ever. Why? Because she's at the stage where she's beginning to make life-altering decisions. Think of this - in just over 3 years, she's off to college. She's now seriously thinking about her future career. Soon she'll start dating; soon she'll be driving. So yes, she needs us to help her through this phase.

Then comes our 2 year old. My wife and I have been told by so many people that as long as the baby's in the womb, he will be ok. But when the baby's born, it's another story. So said, so done! I can tell from this moment, that the challenge of raising these kids will be more with the younger 2. If we learn how to manage the relationship between them, then they could become best friends for a lifetime. If we don't, then they could become lifetime rivals. We have such a significant role to play in this.  

When our older boy came to the hospital to see his new baby brother, he was excited! He smiled with the pride of a big brother. At this time, the baby was in the bassinet. Then the baby started crying. My wife picked him up and held him in her arms, trying to sooth him but he didn't stop. Then the 2 year old started crying, wanting her to hold him too. But she couldn't pick him up as before; after all, she just gave birth. I tried to sooth him but he wasn't having it - he just kept crying. He wasn't a happy camper at all. It's like he felt displaced by the new arrival. So I left the room with him till he calmed down a bit.

Rodrick's toddler and newborn sons
Then the day after my wife and newborn were discharged from the hospital, we went to the pediatrician for the baby's first doctor's visit. As we sat, talking to the doctor with the baby in my wife's arms, the 2 year old folded his arms, turned his back, and with a frown on his face said, "That's not fair! That’s not fair everyone!"

Now, even though he knows the baby's name and says it all the time, sometimes when he ask him the name, he says, "I don't know!" It’s just his way of trying to say he’s not ready to concede the limelight to a younger brother.

In the midst of all this, my wife and I recognize that this is all normal. We were told it would happen. Our friends and family tell us of different stories where the same thing occurred. My mom even tells me that when I was a newborn, my older brother (who's 2 years older than me), punched me in my stomach when she wasn't looking. I invaded his territory - our mom's arms - and he wasn't happy at all.  

Our 2 year old will be just fine as long as we are aware of the dynamics at work here. He actually has gotten better over the past few days as he's seen that the attention isn't all gone away from him. We make a concerted effort to make him a part of all that's going on. We try to help him know that having a new little brother is actually a good thing.

And another thing has worked wonders - from early in the pregnancy, my wife's OB-Gyn encouraged us to get a gift for him from the newborn. That way, he would be more open to embracing a little brother - call it a peace-offering if you will. We did just that - we got him a toy car. He absolutely loves it and I think we've set the stage for a great relationship between them both.

Rodrick's toddler son with gift from his newborn brother

One thing that I didn't see coming in all of this is that he and I are probably closer today than we've ever been. You see, before, everything we did was as a family. But now that my wife is the primary caretaker of the newborn, he needs me a bit more now. So we've started to do things together - one on one. We've gone for a few walks, I've read to him, I've cooked for him more than I have before. Now I'm thinking of the limitless possibilities of what we can do together - introducing him to different sports I played growing up - baseball, basketball, tennis. It's a really cool thought - he needs more of me and I'm more than happy to oblige!

Then there's our newborn. He's an adorable little guy and we're so thrilled to have him. Studies show that 90% of brain development occurs in the first 3 years. So the environment that we set around him will shape and mold him for years to come. With both our older children, it just seems like the newborn stage was short-lived. They progressed so quickly. With our new one, I want to enjoy every moment, letting him know that he's in a home where love and respect for each family member is paramount.

Rodrick's newborn son
One thing I know we need to be careful of it helping him to develop his own identity. He’s the last child and it’s easy to have expectations of him based on what we see in his older siblings. Also, I’m sure that many of his clothes will be “hand me downs” from his older brother. That might not seem like a big deal but for a baby brother, it could become a real issue. Another thing that we need to be aware of is that older siblings often feel that the younger ones are spoiled because they get away with things that the older ones don’t get away with. We just need to look out for it.

So there you have it! As I see it, this is just another opportunity to put into practice the principles that I write and talk about with the entire Upbeat Dad movement. It's less about what I might write and say; it's really about what I do. No one is perfect; my wife and I don't have the answers to everything. But I believe that as long as our actions are guided by love and by what's in the best interest of the children, then we'll be just fine.

Parenting is one of the most thrilling experiences one could have. And to have the opportunity to raise 3 kids is more than I could possibly have hoped for. It's the opportunity of a lifetime - one that we readily embrace. I do not know how things will turn out ultimately but I'm confident that, if we play our part, each of them will grow up to become successful, productive members of society who will make us proud. And that thought has me feeling pretty "upbeat" right now!

Enjoy your day,

Rodrick and his children

The Upbeat Dad

Monday, October 8, 2012

Setting the Right Priorities: Saying “No” So We Can Say “Yes” To Our Kids!

Rodrick and his son

In the recent past, something has come to my attention regarding my relationship with my kids and I thought that I’d share it here on this blog because I believe it’s a good lesson for working parents, especially dads. It’s not something that’s very easy to write because it’s somewhat a confession of my own shortcomings as a parent. At the same time, I think that it will be an encouragement to others; therefore I’ll be transparent in sharing what I hope will be a wake up call for many.
Our 14 year old daughter recently started high school. I take her to and from school daily. We leave pretty early in the mornings – by 7:15. We also have a 2 year old son. Generally, when I leave each day, he’s still sleeping. My days can be pretty demanding – with my daily responsibilities at the office and then meetings and other commitments after work. So I often don’t get home until after 8:30 pm. My son’s bedtime is 9:00. Very often I make it home after 9:00 and miss saying good night to him. It’s not out of the ordinary for my only interaction with him during a workday to be during phone calls from the office.

I’ve been noticing that he is growing so fast and doing so many new things each day. His vocabulary is expanding rapidly, his personality is coming into its own and part of me wonders just how much of his young life I’m missing. I’m busy working to provide for the family and giving my all to see that our plans come to fruition. I’m focused and determined to see the Upbeat Dad Organization continue to touch lives around the world. It’s an awesome responsibility to have the vision for a multifaceted organization and then take slow, methodical steps to see the vision realized. But as I work, I see that my frequent absence from home is taking its toll on the relationship with my son.

Most recently, I recall coming home after picking up my daughter from school one day and dropping her home. I, then, had to leave shortly for an evening meeting after being home only 10 minutes. When I told my son that I’m leaving he got so upset that he folded his arms and walked away. I tried talking to him but he was having none of it. He was visibly hurt – even at age 2. He waited all day to see me and when he finally got that chance, he was short-changed after only 10 minutes.

That whole scenario spoke so loudly to me that on my way to that meeting, it bothered me all the way. After the meeting, on the way home I began thinking about my daily life and my obligations and realized that he was absolutely right. I’ve been cheating him of the precious time that he deserves. It’s not in any way that I don’t care to spend time with him. As young and impressionable as he is, I want as much time with him as possible and I want to make every moment count.

I know that my schedule can be very demanding so what my wife and I implemented in our household is a set time – usually on a Friday evening – when we cut off the outside world and just bond as a family. No phone, TV, iPad or anything else - just us. We usually go to a restaurant or to some form of entertainment. We’ve done that consistently from the beginning of our marriage and continue to do so to this day. So each week, though I get pretty busy, I know that that allotted time for all 4 of us is on the calendar. And on the weekend, we really spend some meaningful time. It’s time throughout the week that can be a challenge.

With our son, his schedule is different from everyone else’s. He wakes up about 8:00 AM and goes to bed at 9:00 PM. My daughter and I have our time each day on the drive to and from school. Then my wife and I have our time early in the morning and when I get home at night. So the only person who gets short-changed is the youngest, most vulnerable one – our son.

It really bothered me that, as much as I share the message on the importance of fatherhood, I was losing that essential connection with my own child. And it’s not that I don’t want to build and maintain that connection; it’s just that I’m trying to juggle so many responsibilities – career and family. Still, regardless of what reasons I may have, a 2 year old routinely getting 10 minutes or even no minutes with his dad each day is not fair to him.

I was faced with the reality of this situation and had a decision to make: either keep up the same routine or make drastic and radical changes to ensure that my son and I continue to build on that essential bond between father and child.

So here’s what I did: I took an inventory of my daily and weekly obligations; then I considered the additional opportunities that are routinely presented to me for consideration – opportunities that saying “yes” to would mean saying “no” to time with my son.

I reviewed and dissected each of these things and realized that, too easily, I said “yes” to opportunities that, though good for my professional advancement, cost me that time with him. I realize that when I’m trying to build on the vision of the organization and work on other opportunities that arise, I have to put in the time. I also realize that my obligations should be first to my household and then to my career.

So what I’ve decided to do is cut out some of the evening obligations that consume my time. And, in some cases, I push back the obligations so that I can have a few hours with my son and then when he goes to bed, I can get to them. As I write this, it’s 11:30 PM. I had hoped to have it written before but time got away from me. Still, I came home to spend some meaningful time with him before bedtime. And now that he’s asleep, I can get back to this work.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve implemented these changes. Some weeks are more challenging than others but, for the most part, the changes are allowing me to build on that special relationship. In just this short time, I’m really seeing a new degree of closeness that I think was lacking. We have a long way to go but I know we’re on the right track.

And as I recall, when my daughter was the same age, I had a similar issue. I had a job that required me to travel extensively. One day I was working locally and told her I was leaving for work. Her response was, “Daddy, are you going to the airport?” Those simple words changed my life and my perspective. Read 7Words That Changed My Life: Daddy, Are You Going to the Airport? for more about this.

Why do I share this post? Well, I believe that my story is not all that unusual. Men all across the world get up daily and go to work with the mindset that they must provide for their families. So they go out and put in long hours and then go to networking events, meetings and other places. They leave early and come home late, seeing very little of the kids. So in essence they are absentee dads living at home. (See The Absentee Dad Living at Home for a post I wrote about this very issue.)

Just like these men, I also have an obligation to provide for my family. Still, I realize that climbing the corporate ladder is not worth it when it’s at the expense of time spent with one’s family. There’s much that we can do ensure that our professional advancement is not at the expense of time with our wives and kids. I often say that we express our love to our kids by the time we spend with them.

To give a good example of this principle in action, think of President Barack Obama. I don’t get into politics here but I think it’s good to note that he makes it a point to be home by 6:30 PM each day he’s in Washington DC to have dinner with his family. Sure he works crazy hours throughout the day and late into the night. But I think it’s admirable that he ensures that his wife and 2 young daughters have his undivided attention at dinner time so that their connection remains intact.

If you find yourself in a position where you’ve lost or you’re losing that essential bond with your kids, I hope that this post has spoken to your heart. There’s much that we can do to ensure our obligations to our kids are kept. Maybe your job is flexible enough for you to work around your kids schedule so you can take them to school, go to their games, play catch in the backyard, etc. All of these things are available to us if we are diligent in creating and maintaining that bond that our kids need.

Parenthood is the role of a lifetime. As a dad, I know the importance of my involvement in my kids’ lives. So I’ve made some necessary changes to ensure that I’m very much a part of their daily routines. Not long ago our daughter was in day care. Now she’s in high school and soon will be gone off to college. Our son is 2 now and I’m sure that before long he’ll be asking to borrow the car keys to go out. They aren’t young forever so, as the expression goes, we have to “make hay while the sun shines,” and enjoy meaningful time with them while we can.

We have more control than we think. Sometimes, when we say “no” to some things, we say “yes” to so much more – time with the kids. Do make the changes you need to. And share this post with those who you know would stand to benefit from its message. Our kids deserve our very best. And I believe that, with the case I’ve sought to present here, many men and women will look within and do the right thing and make changes in their kids’ best interest.

Keep these thoughts at the forefront of your mind and do what you know you need to do. You’re well on your way to being just the type of parent that your kids deserve.

Enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad

Friday, September 21, 2012

Preparing Parents for the High School Years!

Rodrick's daughter, now a High School freshman

This fall semester, my daughter started high school. Let me say that again…MY DAUGHTER STARTED HIGH SCHOOL! I can’t believe it! It might sound cliché but it really does seem like yesterday that my little girl was in day care. Now she’s a high schooler! Unbelievable!

I must admit that I have mixed emotions about this entire experience. You see, to me, she’s my child – my baby. And she’ll always be. But guess what? When she leaves this school, it’s off to college and quite possibly, she will no longer live with us at home on a permanent basis. My wife and I marvel at the fact that our daughter is becoming an adult – right before our very eyes.

With all this said, I can only imagine the emotions that parents like us are feeling all across the world right now, as our little kids are growing up. We have a sense of pride, yet we know that as life takes its natural course, they grow up and begin to chart their own path in life. It’s bittersweet, no doubt.

Think about this for a moment. If your kids just started high school, like ours, over the next four years here’s what’s likely to happen. They will: 
  • Decide what area of work they would like to pursue as adults
  • Become increasingly into their friends and less into you
  • Learn to drive
  • Go on their first date
  • Be exposed to the temptations of sex, drugs and alcohol

With this post, I don’t have the pretense that I know it all and have the solutions to the issues that parents face. I’m just a husband and father learning as I go along. Yet, I believe that life has taught me some very important lessons that have equipped me to help guide our daughter through these critical years.

It wasn’t very long ago that I, too, was a high school freshman with my eyes set on what life had to offer. And somehow, I’ve made it this far. It hasn’t been smooth sailing by any means. Still, I believe that the challenges I’ve encountered will help me to effectively parent our child through the next 4 years.

Here are some tips that we can give to our kids. I believe they will help them to successfully get through high school and on to college or to face life’s other challenges. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive. If there are additional areas you think should also be emphasized, feel free to leave a comment on this post. So here’s the list:

1. Set Goals. One of the most important and effective tools that one can develop in life is the art of goal-setting. I have heard it said that goals are a magnet to success; I totally agree with that. It’s never too early – or too late, for that matter – to learn this life-changing art. As your kids begin this phase, encourage them to set goals for their high school years. Here are some that they can start with:

  • Get on the honor roll and join the National Honor Society
  • Maintain a grade point average of a certain amount (4.0 would be ideal but if not that, it should be something that requires them to work diligently)
  • Make the varsity team during their freshman or sophomore year
  • Become class presidentGet a full scholarship to their dream university

These goals can help to motivate them and challenge them to stay on track. Encourage them to write them down. They should review this list often, especially when they are tired and exhausted and want to quit. Ask anyone who has learned to perfect the art of goal-setting – in their lives, in general, or in business. You’ll find that the impossible becomes very possible with the simple process of writing down the things that one desires and then pursuing them. This is indeed heavy duty stuff!

2. Manage Time. In many ways, high school serves as a preview of what the working world will be like. Unlike college, high school is very strict and rigid when it comes to time. For instance, when I was in college, I had no more than 3 classes each day, and I chose the times I wanted them. If I wanted afternoon classes, I chose them and just slept late. But in high school, kids have to get up early – sometimes, ridiculously early hours. Then they go to school and are in class all day. And if they’re involved in extra-curricular activities, they have to find time to do those activities, while keeping up with their studies. This mirrors what happens in the real world. It requires effective time management if one wants to succeed. If our kids can master this skill, then they’re well on their way.

3. Choose Friends Wisely. If you’re like many people, some of the closest friends and strongest influences that you have are with those who you meet in high school. The old saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Smart kids somehow seem to attract other smart kids. And those who goof off and waste time seem to attract like-minded kids. It’s important that our kids make wise choices when making friends because they will have an influence on them for a lifetime. Do your best to ensure that these friends and their parents have the same value system that you try to instill at home. Before long, when your kids go off to college or to face other challenges in life, you won’t have as much input in this process so while you’re able, help them to maintain high standards in choosing friends.

4. Get Involved in Extra-curricular Activities. If I could return to high school today, one of the first things I would do is become involved in activities that were not required in order to graduate. I remember during my senior year, I applied for so many scholarships. One of the main things that was asked of me was what activities I was involved in outside of the classroom. I struggled to name any. I wasn’t involved in sports, drama club, band or anything. My grades were fine but it became increasingly apparent to me that these activities were highly regarded. 

When I got to college, from my first semester until I graduated, I was always involved in such activities. And you know what? I became so much more well-rounded. My communication and leader ship skills were honed – much more than they were when I was sitting in the classroom. It doesn’t really matter what type of activity it is – sports, cheerleading, clubs, yearbook committee, etc. Kids learn so much about what it takes to succeed in life as they become involved. Ask them what they want to be involved in. Then make every effort to facilitate their involvement. Believe me, this works wonders.

5. Communicate Openly. Perhaps the most important lesson that parents of teens can learn is that communication is a two way street. As our children grow older, they begin to frame their own world – they choose friends, go to parties and really spend a lot of time away from home. When we learn to not only convey our expectations of them but also listen to them, then we have in place a system that facilitates open and honest communication. Issues will arise, no doubt. 

As much as we like to think our kids are immune to the traps that many others fall into, we should be aware that the issues they face are real. If we can foster open communication with them about matters such as sex, drugs and alcohol, then they will be more informed when they make choices in these areas. They may not always make the choices that we would make or that we would want them to make but if they have a standard against which to measure their thoughts and actions, then they will more likely make the right choices.

Well, that's about it. Like I said, this list is by no means exhaustive. But I think it’s a good start.

You know, when I took my daughter to her first day of school, it really hit me that the next time I take her to a new school, it will be when I drop her off to her college dorm. And quite possibly, it will be months before I see her again. She’s growing up. My wife and I really only have 4 more years with her in the house on a daily basis so we ought to make the most of it.

Parenting is the role of a lifetime, isn’t it? It comes with different phases and different challenges. If you’re in the phase of parenting a high schooler, just know that others, like me, are in the same boat and we’re cheering you on as you go through the process. We’re all learning together; we make mistakes but we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue trying to be the best parents that our kids deserve.

I wish for you and your family the very best as you go through these transformative years. Just lovingly care for your kids and someway, somehow, you will make it and so will they. Soon they’ll embark on the next phase – adulthood! That’s something to look forward to!

Enjoy your day,

The Upbeat Dad

Friday, August 3, 2012

Upbeat Dad of the Month: Greg Battersby

Greg Battersby

One of the things I enjoy most about my work is that, on occasion, I have the privilege of getting to meet fascinating individuals who embody the message that we try to share at the Upbeat Dad Organization. When dads are actively engaged in their kids’ lives, great things happen. And when those great things result in increased opportunities to share a positive message on fatherhood, that’s icing on the cake, as the expression goes. Today’s post is about such a dad. It is with special privilege that I say that our Upbeat Dad of the Month is Greg Battersby.

I had the privilege of interviewing Greg and I left that conversation quite impressed with his story. An intellectual property attorney based in Westport, Connecticut, Greg has been married for 42 years. The marriage has produced 2 sons, the pride and joy of his life. Both adults now, his sons are pursuing their life callings but it was during their formative years that the uniqueness of this story began.

Early in Greg’s career, he was a successful attorney with a large firm based in New York City. He was climbing the corporate ladder and making great strides in the ultra-competitive market that New York is. His wife is an educator. They were a young family – 2 professionals and 2 kids – living the American dream. From the outside looking in, one would think that this life was all that one could hope for.

An age-old expression says, “The reward for hard work is more hard work.” And Greg was getting rewarded – both financially and with more work. With the increased workload, he was beginning to realize that the demands of his career were starting to take their toll on his family life. He would routinely work 12 hour days and not be able to spend meaningful time with his sons. The words of the song Cats in the Cradle rang in his head. If you don’t know it, Cats in the Cradle is a song about a working dad who was always so busy that his son grew up in his home but they never made a connection. And later in life, he looked back with regret.

Greg dreamed of being a constant presence in his sons’ lives – doing things such as coaching Little League baseball and other activities that meant much to them. On the one hand, he was living the life that many would envy but deep within, there was an emptiness that could only be filled by being the kind of dad that would have a close bond with his kids.

Greg and son, Adam, during Little League practice
After talking through this dilemma with his wife, they came to the conclusion that he needed to make the critical decision to take a different path to success – one that included not only work in the corporate arena but also meaningful time with the family. He resigned from his high-paying job in New York City and the family relocated to Westport, Connecticut. There Greg worked with a smaller firm – one that allowed him to continue his successful law career but also gave him the flexibility to be the kind of dad he felt his sons deserved.

What has transpired since then is something made for the movies! He became a Little League baseball coach, just like he dreamed. His son Adam was quite gifted and really took a liking to the sport. With his dad coaching him and giving him tips along the way, Adam developed a passion for the game.

Now here’s the kicker. Greg noticed that Adam was very good in the batting cage, as he swung at different pitches. But that success didn’t always translate to the field. He would occasionally struggle when he batted in real games where pitchers threw different pitches at different times. A concerned father, Greg wanted to help his son make the transition to the field from the controlled environment that the batting cage is.

To use the catch-phrase, a light bulb went off in his head! He thought about how helpful it would be to have a machine that could throw different baseball pitches interchangeably. Baseball players could attest to the fact that you hit a fastball differently than how you hit a curve ball, or a slider, etc. Greg thought that a machine that could simulate different pitches that one could encounter in a game situation would be helpful. That machine didn’t exist so, to work he went.

He assembled a team of experts to develop such a machine. After 2 years of research and development, a prototype was created. And being the intellectual property attorney that he is, he patented his invention – with 13 patents altogether. This brilliant idea simply came from the concern of a loving dad who wanted to see his son perform better on the baseball field. And out of it was born a ground-breaking business concept.

Batter using ProBatter pitching simulator
Greg wanted to get the product into the hands of major league teams.  He got his big break when, in 1999 at the baseball winter meetings, the ProBatter pitching simulator was introduced. The Boston Red Sox team was impressed and wanted to learn more about it. Sporting gear companies such as Wilson and Rawlings took interest as well.

Greg knew he had a hit on his hands but in order to capitalize on it fully, he had to start a company that would develop and market the product. ProBatter Sports LLC was established in 1999. The company found an investor who helped to fund the cost of developing and producing the pitching simulator. In the years since its founding, the company has experienced a meteoric rise to success. Several major league baseball teams including the legendary New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox organizations use the product to help their batters develop. Over 20 NCAA college teams use it as well and the product is used in more than 200 batting cages and training centers throughout the country and abroad.

With the patented technology, the company has also developed for other sports – namely softball and cricket. It has contracted with the British national cricket team to help to develop their batsmen (yes, batsmen is the proper cricket term!) The cricket market is limitless and with increased opportunities in places such as Dubai, India, England  and Australia, the potential for a huge global presence in this sport is limitless.

The most beautiful conclusion to this story is this: Adam, the son who Greg just wanted to help to become a better player on the baseball field has since graduated from college and started working with the company. He started as a junior salesman, rose up the ranks and is currently the President of the company founded on his behalf. He runs the day to day operations as ProBatter Sports LLC explores new ways to capitalize on the niche that it has developed.

Adam Battersby, now President of ProBatter Sports LLC
Greg continues to work as an attorney as the co-founder of the IP law-firm Grimes & Battersby LLC with offices in Norwalk, Connecticut and New York City. His wife, Susan, continues her career in the school system, now as a high school housemaster. His other son, Damian, is a successful veterinarian who is married to another veterinarian. A fitting reward for such a dedicated husband and father.

Greg’s advice for dads regarding their kids is, “Enjoy them. They’re young for a short period of time. Young kids understand one thing - time. It’s all about the time (you spend with them).” He added, “I would choose my relationship with my sons over having a $100 million company. My kids can say, ‘My dad never missed my (Little League) games.’”

Greg and sons, Adam and Damian
In a world that is dominated by the so-called rat race, where people are willing to do just about anything to get to the top of the corporate ladder, it’s quite refreshing to learn of someone such as Greg Battersby. He made the difficult choice to give up advancement in a large firm for the opportunity to be an engaged, active dad. And years later, his sacrifice has been well worth it. Not only was he an involved dad but in the process he also established a global sporting brand, one that has limitless potential. And he still has the privilege of practicing law, the career he has loves all along.

I yearn to see the day when stories such as this are the norm – a man who chose a strong relationship with his kids over his career. The reality is that when we make such choices, we don’t really have to give up our careers. As his example shows, the career situation often takes care of itself. When we do the right thing for our kids, things just work themselves out in our favor and in our kids’ favor.

Today, Greg can proudly look on his sons’ achievements with knowledge that, along with his wife, he played a vital role in their success. For this he ought to be applauded. An Upbeat Dad he truly is.

Have a great day.

Greg with wife, sons and daughter-in-law
The Upbeat Dad

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why Penn State Should Suspend Its Football Program

Coach Joe Paterno with players


If you live in the United States or you’re even remotely in tune with the news in the country, you’ve likely heard of the scandal at Pennsylvania State University. In late 2011, former Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was charged with 48 counts of sexual abuse of boys of different ages. In June 2012, he was found guilty on 45 of the 48 counts and faces a lengthy prison sentence, one which will be handed down in September 2012.

Before we go further, let me give you a “heads up:” this post is somewhat lengthier than a typical one that I write on this blog. The reason is that I think it’s important to first share some background information on the case and how things have progressed to this point, in the event that you’re not familiar with it. I’ll first lay out the facts and then share why I have come to the conclusion that the program should be temporarily suspended.
Sandusky coached at Penn State for a 30 year period beginning in 1969. During his tenure, he was quite successful working alongside legendary coach Joe Paterno to lead the Nittany Lions’ football program to multiple winning seasons and bowl appearances. Their team won the national championship twice in the 1980s.
In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization serving underprivileged and at-risk youth. In 1998, he came under investigation by the campus police, following a claim by a mother that her son had been molested by him in the showers on campus. He officially retired shortly after this investigation, and was awarded "both an unusual compensation package and a special designation of 'emeritus' rank that carried special privileges, including access to the university’s recreational facilities."

After retirement, Sandusky hosted many summer football camps and was active in The Second Mile. On November 4, 2011, a grand jury that had been convened in 2009, indicted him on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. The indictment came after a lengthy investigation that explored allegations of him having inappropriate contact with an underage boy over the course of four years, beginning when the boy was ten years old. The boy's parents reported the incident to police in 2009. The grand jury identified eight boys that had been singled out for sexual advances or sexual assaults by him, taking place from 1994 through 2009. At least 20 of the incidents allegedly took place while he was still employed at Penn State.

In December 2011, Sandusky was charged with an additional 12 counts of sexual crimes against children, bringing the total number of counts to 52. Four of these counts were later dropped. The grand jury's second presentment charged him with an additional count of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and two additional counts of unlawful contact with a minor. The additional victims were participants in The Second Mile and were between the ages of 10 and 12 at the time of the sexual assaults.

Jerry Sandusky under arrest

Now the story has come to the surface and the public has learned about the shameful acts that occurred at Penn State. It’s certainly a “black-eye” on one of the most prestigious, respected universities in the country, if not the world. It’s known not only for its elite football program but also for its academics. Yet despite repeated claims by different victims and eyewitness accounts of what was happening, the“powers that be” at the University opted to, in effect, give Sandusky a license to carry out his crimes against children with little or no consequence.

In early July 2012, the report by a special investigative council headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh was released. The report states that four “of the most powerful people" at Penn State "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.” The four were: Coach Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz (who oversaw the Penn State police department), and former University President Graham Spanier.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh
The Freeh report states that by allowing Sandusky to retire in 1999 as a “valued member of the Penn State football legacy,” he was allowed to continue to sexually abuse without interference. Through being able to leverage the "visibility of Penn State, combined with his ability 'to continue to work with young people through Penn State'", he was essentially facilitated in being able to continue with his core method of “grooming" boys as "targets for his assaults”.

Upon Sandusky retiring in 1999, no restrictions were placed upon him continuing to bring boys to the showers on campus. Freeh's report is very specific on this matter: Paterno, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier "empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University's facilities and affiliation with the university's prominent football program. Indeed, the continued access provided Sandusky with the very currency that enabled him to attract his victims".

I know very little about Penn State personally. I only know of their storied football program and its reputation for excellence. Paterno’s coaching tenure at the university began in 1950 and he became head coach in 1966. In late 2011, shortly after the story broke, he was fired for knowledge of, and lack of participation in stopping, Sandusky’s actions. Shortly after his firing, he was diagnosed with cancer and died in only a matter of months, in January 2012.Some say that “Joe Pa,” as he was affectionately called, was Penn State. The names were – and to a certain degree, still are – synonymous.

Ok, so here’s the point of this post. Until now, I have tried to present the facts as they are known. For the remainder of this writing, I will share my opinion on just what I believe should happen going forward. Considering all that has occurred in this case, in an effort to rebuild the public trust, Penn State should temporarily suspend its football program. This is more than football – it’s a human tragedy. So I think that, in the process of restoring the integrity of its program, it should “call timeout” and then take its program in a new direction.

You may or may not agree with my approach and either way, it’s fine. Just so that you understand the reason for my conclusion on this matter, let me share with you my perspective. As you may have read on this blog, I am the father of 2 children – a teen daughter and a son who’s almost 2. I went through a divorce 10 years ago and I got a dose of reality about what the family law system often does to the relationship between dads and their kids. This experience caused me to develop a heart of compassion for the innocent children all over the world who are effectively abandoned by their dads – particularly when marriages and other relationships fail.

I decided, after my own plight, to dedicate my life to the cause of children. I guess the best term that could be used to describe me in this campaign is a child advocate. I wrote the post Diary of a Child Advocate to share the reason for my passionate support of children. See also the post Spotlight on Child Abuse. So with this campaign in mind, I started the Upbeat Dad Organization, not so much for fathers but for the innocent children who they help to bring into this world.

The Carpenters sang, “Bless the beasts and the children; for in this world they have no voice, they have no choice.” That is certainly true. I believe that our most vulnerable citizens are children. They come into the world through no choice of their own. And throughout their childhood, decisions are made by adults on their behalf that are totally out of their control. If the decisions are to their detriment, then they are powerless to stop them. In all of this, although I’m a father, I do not side only with fathers – or with mothers. I try to side with the children, the ones who have no voice.

So with this as the backdrop, here comes Jerry Sandusky. He has a non-profit organization through which he helps at-risk and underprivileged children. He becomes a mentor and a hero to them – a father-figure, if you will. He develops bonds with them and they trust him fully. We’re not talking about the stereotypical molester lurking in the woods awaiting an unsuspecting potential victim. We’re talking about a respected citizen - a married man and a retired football coach with 6 adopted children and several foster children. On the surface, he’s someone who parents would love to have their children around.

Then this same Jerry Sandusky is the one who used his position of authority in the lives of many boys to sexually, psychologically and emotionally abuse them. He used his non-profit entity as a means of access to these boys and then he took pleasure in their sexual exploitation on Penn State’s campus. Some have used the words “monster” or “evil” to describe him and based on his actions, it’s hard to argue against that.

Now, some might argue that those crimes were committed by Sandusky alone and he is getting his just reward – life behind bars. Why then would some advocate, as I do, that the university should suspend football? Joe Paterno and other officials didn’t molest the boys – it was Sandusky alone. Well, this is where I make my strongest point. These officials represent the university and its football program. They knew that a pedophile was in their midst. All of this is factual, based on the evidence presented in the court case and in the Freeh report. Conversations took place; emails and other correspondence about the criminal behavior went back and forth. Yet nothing of any consequence was done to stop it.

Did you know that in most – if not all – states in the US, a sex offender is required to be registered in the city where (s)he lives? Such individuals cannot just live where they want to or go anywhere they please. They are known to be a threat to the safety of the general public, and thus, their movements must be monitored. In no case can a known sexual predator – especially a pedophile – have unlimited access to little children. Yet school officials knew that a sexual predator with a liking for boys was in their midst – using the school’s facilities for his awful acts and they chose to “look the other way.” And as they did, more and more boys were victimized. 

Why would the Paterno and company take such a stance? Why would they remain silent while the young, vulnerable children suffered? Why would the claims of the victims be repeatedly overlooked? It doesn’t make much sense, does it? Well, based on the Freeh report, it appears that a calculated decision was made to keep silent and deal with the matter internally. One suggestion, based on the report, was that Sandusky should get counseling. They wanted to ensure that he was treated humanely. So they wanted humane treatment for him while he continued his inhumane acts. How disturbing!  

In the eyes of the officials, the reputation of the school and its football program were at jeopardy if Sandusky was to be revealed as a pedophile. Certainly the university could stand to lose millions. “How so,” you might ask? Well, for starters, potential recruits might not commit to play their collegiate career at an institution where such a scandal could take place. Especially as the years went on, the potential fallout from such a revelation could have been huge. Sanctions could have been imposed and officials fired. The negative publicity could have been a long-lasting stain on the reputation of a respected institution.

So, in the years of silence – at least 14 – Penn State football continued. In those years, the program prospered. They made bowl appearances. Paterno continued his legendary tenure, becoming more of an icon with each passing day. A statue was even erected in his honor in front of the football stadium. Penn State football maintained its glamorous image without the stain of a child sex scandal – making millions in the process.

Sandusky after Alamo Bowl victory in 1999
It is quite evident that the school officials, through their actions, put money and reputation ahead of the interests of the innocent children that they knew Sandusky was harming. He was the criminal but, by their willful silence, they effectively became accessories to the crimes. By “sweeping the problem under the rug,” the awful behavior by the pedophile continued for well over a decade.

Now the scandal that they sought to avoid has caused them to become a national disgrace. Sandusky faces a maximum sentence of 442 years in prison and a minimum of 60 years under Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines - at his age, effectively a life sentence. The legendary Joe Paterno was fired in disgrace, and unfortunately died in the midst of the criminal proceedings. Other school officials have either been fired or have resigned.  

Famous alumni such as Todd Blackledge, Franco Harris and Matt Millen have come forward to condemn the actions by the university. And with the conviction of Sandusky and the release of the Freeh Report, the institution now has a permanent stain on its once impeccable reputation. Some argue that it’s the worst scandal in the history of US sports. That might very well be a true assessment.  

I just think that with all that occurred – particularly the lack of institutional control – the school should suffer the consequences of its actions. As the victims continue to heal and the school begins the process of trying to regain the public’s trust, I believe that Penn State football should take the bold step of suspending its football program for at least one or two seasons. That, in my view, will demonstrate the school’s commitment to rectify the obvious lack of good judgment that so many of its representatives displayed. 

Statue of Paterno
The university has already begun to implement various measures to signify its commitment to restore its reputation. Most recently – this morning, in fact - current university President Rodney Erickson announced the removal of the 900 lb statue of Paterno outside of the football stadium on campus. In a statement, he wrote, "I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno's statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our university and beyond. For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue…" He added that, had the statue remained in its current location, it would “be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse."

I applaud such efforts by the institution to try to regain the public’s trust. Children were abused for many years under their watch. More will need to be done over time in order for Penn State to once again be synonymous with excellence and integrity.

The best thing that any adult can do for a child is to protect his or her best interest. As grownups, we have the responsibility to care for and nurture those within our care. We ought to not only say these words but to live them out in our actions. I am disappointed in Sandusky’s behavior but I’m more disappointed in the other officials who did nothing of consequence to protect the innocent, vulnerable ones.

In the grand scheme of things, football is of very little importance. Children are precious gifts to us and they deserve our very best. So, for this reason, I believe Penn State should do the honorable thing and demonstrate their commitment to these ones who “have no voice.”

I’m just one person with an opinion. Will this plea get to the ears of the “powers that be” at the university? Who knows? But I hope that as you’ve read this, it has caused you to become more aware of the responsibility that we all share to protect children. You or I may not be at Penn State but we live in our own neighborhoods; we go to the parks, to the malls and to different places of worship. We can be advocates for children within our own sphere of influence.

Let us commit to being the caretakers of those who will one day lead the world long after you and I are gone. It’s a noble calling to intercede for these innocent ones in our midst. In so doing, we will help to ensure that something as awful as what occurred at Penn State will never occur again.

I welcome your thoughts on what I’ve shared. I don’t expect that every reader will agree with my recommendation. I do, however, hope that you would understand my perspective and, at a minimum, agree with me that we owe it to all children to always look out for their best interest. Remember, “they have no voice; they have no choice,” so it’s up to us to do what’s right on their behalf. Only our very best is good enough.

Keep these thoughts in mind as you enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad

ADDENDUM (Tuesday, July 24, 2012)

Less than 24 hours after this article was written and posted, the NCAA handed down unprecedented sanctions against Penn State for its role in the child abuse scandal. I thought I’d add the following addendum to this blog post to bring it to a fitting conclusion:

NCAA President, Mark Emmert
On Monday, July 23, 2012, the NCAA hit Penn State with a $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998. The career record of Joe Paterno will reflect these vacated records, dropping him from 409 wins to 298 and making him now 12th in all time wins among NCAA football coaches. He was previously 1st.

The university also will have six bowl wins and two conference championships erased and also must reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period. The athletic program also will be put on a five-year probation and must work with an athletic-integrity monitor of the NCAA's choosing. Any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.

The NCAA said the $60 million was equivalent to the average annual revenue of the football program. It also ordered Penn State to pay the penalty funds into an endowment for "external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university. NCAA president Mark Emmert said, "In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable. No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims."

Rodney Erickson, Penn State President
Penn State president Rodney Erickson said, "We had our backs to the wall on this." He said the school accepted the penalties to avoid the so-called "death penalty" that could have resulted in the suspension of the football program for at least one year. "We did what we thought was necessary to save the program."

In this post, I called for Penn State to do something radical to turn the page from this dark chapter and move forward. As it turns out, they didn’t opt to suspend their football program; instead, the NCAA has implemented penalties that are likely far worse than a self-imposed 1 or 2 year suspension. According to many experts, it will likely be 5 to 10 years before Penn State could possibly return to the ranks of elite football programs.

I believe that these severe sanctions have sent a strong message and will accomplish the purpose for which I wrote this article. Penn State prospered for over a decade while trusting, vulnerable children were traumatized by the horrible acts. I applaud NCAA leadership for being the “voice” for these children. Erickson said, "The tragedy of child sexual abuse that occurred at our university altered the lives of innocent children. Today, as every day, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse."

Let’s hope that, from this very public case, the message sent will not only change the culture at Penn State that allowed child abuse to occur but also any place where this issue exists. Children are wonderful and precious gifts and they deserve to live at peace in this world, without fear of being powerless victims who “have no voice.”