Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Holiday Season Appeal to Dads

At the Upbeat Dad Organization, the cornerstone of what we try to do is build long-lasting family relationships – primarily focusing on the father-child relationship. Based on our experience, when fathers are lovingly engaged in the growth and development of their kids, family bonds are stronger and kids tend to grow into well-adjusted persons who become positive influences on society. When dads are disengaged and neglect the responsibility of helping to raise the kids they help to bring into the world, the mothers have a greater burden in giving them all they need to become productive members of society.

While many of us celebrate the wonders of the family unit, I readily recognize that many do not enjoy those same wonders. Some find this season to be very difficult because of a variety of reasons. Many children do not quite know what it’s like to celebrate the season with their dads. And unfortunately, many of these dads just don’t get it – they don’t understand why they need to be around for their kids.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, each night 24 million kids in the United States go to bed without their biological father in the home. Without a doubt there are many reasons for this statistic. Therefore, there is no one solution to fix the problem. In some cases, the fathers are to blame; in other cases, it’s the mothers; in other cases, it’s the family court system; and the reasons go on and on.

With this brief post, I’d like to challenge dads to make a new commitment during this season. You may ask, “Why not address the moms? Or the court system?” I do address these at different points on this blog. But by nature, I believe that although there are forces that one cannot control, one should focus on that which he can control. So I try to empower fellow dads to work through the obstacles that do exist – with the family court system and with other forces – so that through it all, the father-child relationship is preserved. 

Earlier this year, I met a single mother while at a speaking engagement and she shared that the moment she told her boyfriend that she was pregnant, he disappeared and she has not seen or heard from him since then. As extreme as that situation may be, I believe that many of us men become emotionally - if not physically - distant when it comes to raising our children. We do not see ourselves as vital contributors to their upbringing so we disengage and watch from the sidelines, figuratively speaking.

As men, we are driven by accomplishment – in our education, our careers, in athletics, even in winning the heart of our favorite girl. We get a feeling of euphoria when we get that much desired raise or promotion; a sense of pride brings out that smile in us. We give each other high-fives when our fantasy football team has a great weekend!
When it comes to our roles as dads, however, far too many of us do not embrace the thought of accomplishment that comes with being active participants in the raising of our children. We willingly “burn the midnight oil” to complete projects that helps us shine in our careers but do not have the same zeal in helping our kids to complete their own projects.

We want them to become straight-A students but quite often we don’t have the patience to work with them along the way. My own daughter – now a 15 year old – struggled quite a bit in her studies when she was younger. I had a choice and I’m glad I chose to sit with her, then with her teachers, then with her tutors to get her on the right track. Today she makes good grades almost effortlessly. I believe it’s due in large part to the fact that she knew I cared about her success scholastically.
It is easy to be passive in our approach to fatherhood but I believe that such an approach inevitably yields undesired results. We set goals in our careers; why not set goals in our roles as dads? Why not set goals to spend more meaningful time with our kids? Why not set goals to be their strongest advocates as they look to see what they want to be when they grow up?

As we enter this holiday season, let’s do some self-examination and see what more we can do. Even as I write this, I know that I can do more. There is always more that we can do. I often say that our children are with us for a relatively short time; but that short time helps to determine how they will live the rest of their time on earth.
We cannot expect them to naturally gravitate towards success when we ourselves didn’t gravitate towards success in our studies and our professions. With hard work and determination, we succeeded. Let us now take the same approach – hard work and determination – to play our part in the success stories of our children.

May you and your family enjoy a wonderful  holiday season!

The Upbeat Dad