Friday, May 28, 2010

Where do you go with parenting questions?

The Motherlode blog at the New York Times had an interesting post today about how parents might actually not so know as much as we think about their child's development. Regardless, it brings up an interesting question - where do you go for parenting info?

The comments were almost as informative as the blog post itself, especially in revealing the gap between how moms and dads find information. One dad wrote:

"Back in the day, the dads at Y-Indian Guides would ask for my Dad's opinion -- mostly a function of being prematurely gray and having had two kids ahead of me -- so I'm not sure that the model has changed all that much. A fair amount of the standing around on game sidelines includes quick queries and short answers. I'm not going to read a book or a magazine article."

So the question for you dads - is that true? Are books and magazines out? Do you surf the net, or just ask other dads when you have a fathering conundrum? Or just try to figure it out as you go?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Telling Your Children Your “Story” - Plus, Your Chance to Win a Free Book

Have you ever thought about how you are going to tell your children about your life?

According to author and Generation Y expert Michael McQueen, the current generation of kids yearns to know all about their parents – the good and the bad. And one of the most important things a father can do is to leave a legacy for his children – a legacy they can learn and live from.

Enter Memento, a new book by McQueen that makes it manageable and fun to record your life in writing for your children.

Memento is filled with great questions that allow you to “go deep” and show your real self to your kids, so that when you pass on, they will have a treasure trove of stories to turn to for wisdom and guidance.

Chronicle Books, the publisher of Memento, has given us five copies of the book to give away to readers of The Father Factor and we're running a little contest:

Send us your response to this question from the book for a chance to win a copy of Memento. The five winners will be announced on Monday morning, so the deadline for entries is Sunday, May 30, at midnight!

Remember – answer this as if your child is asking you: “What is your favorite movie and why?” And make sure to include your name in the comment!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Don't Fumble the Baby...

Last week, I had an opportunity to speak at a briefing hosted by Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL). The purpose of the briefing was to present these findings of the Commission on Paternal Involvement in Pregnancy Outcomes, a project of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. A key aspect of the commission is to determine ways to reduce infant mortality, which is surprisingly high in the US.

As a member of the commission, I had an opportunity to share a pretty personal perspective on how, as a very new dad, I first learned just how important fathers are to the health and well-being of infants. A reporter wrote this story about my remarks. Are you ready for some football?

The 21st Century Dad

Parenting magazine has a wonderful article by the editor of Babytalk magazine, Shawn Bean. He charts the identity of a new species of father. Well, not perhaps "new" so much as rising to the challenges and joys of 21st century family life. NFI's president Roland Warren is quoted several times and we were especially happy to see the shout-out to one of NFI's most popular products: The New Dad's Pocket Guide.

Read the whole article here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Going "Gaga" about Sex

I came across this interesting article about Lady Gaga’s pledge to be celibate and, although I am not supportive of everything that is Lady Gaga, I have to applaud her courage to take a public stand on such a controversial topic.

Interestingly, not only has she chosen this lifestyle for herself but she is also encouraging her fans to do so as well. In a recent interview she said, “So it's OK not to have sex, it's OK to get to know people. I'm celibate, celibacy's fine." Wow.

And, Lady Gaga is not the only “sex symbol” that is speaking out about a “better way” in our oversexed culture. Check out what Rachel Welch recently said during an interview about her new tell-all book, “Beyond the Cleavage”:

“Sex is being held up for the new generation as the be all and end all. It's supposed to be an expression of your regard for someone. It's in our faces every waking minute. We worship sex, but for most people it doesn't take that long. It has its place, but it's just too prevalent. I know I sound like a prude, but can't we have cheerleaders that don't do spread eagle and grinding? Britney Spears would remember that she was a lot more happening when she wasn't pushing it. I did some of it myself and at some point it wasn't productive.”

Even some folks on college campuses, which are one of the most active breeding grounds for the “hook up” culture, are getting into the act. For example, a group of students at Princeton University launched an organization called “The Anscombe Society” that is lobbying the university to establish a Center for Abstinence and Chastity to better support students who chose to “buck the trend” and be celibate.

Given the growth that we have seen in recent years in STIs, unplanned pregnancies and father absence, this vocal support is none to soon. But it seems to me that there is something else going on here. Indeed, Lady Gaga, Welsh and these Princeton undergraduates are remembering a lesson that many in our culture have long, and conveniently, forgotten. Specifically, sex is not just a physical act but it is also imbued with emotional, relational and spiritual aspects as well. And, physical and pharmaceutical barriers, while they may prevent pregnancy, etc., they don’t protect one’s heart, emotions and soul like chastity can. I think Lady Gaga said it best when she exclaimed, “Even Lady Gaga can be celibate…you don’t have to have sex to be loved.” Words both accurate and worth going “gaga” over…

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Postpartum Depression... in Dads

This is from today's Wall Street Journal: "More than one in 10 fathers become depressed after the birth of their child, and their postpartum depression is linked to greater risk of the mother developing depression in that period as well, according to a study published Tuesday." And "...a growing body of evidence suggests that depression in either parent is linked to long-term behavioral and psychiatric problems in the child."

While I certainly was not depressed when my son was born 4 months ago, there were certainly a great deal of new pressures on me both at work (provide) and home (nurture and guide). I can easily see how these pressures, along with the strong emotions that come with the arrival of a new child, could lead to depression.

What I found particularly disturbing about the article were the reader comments attached to it. One person said he did not understand why the Wall Street Journal would even print the article, especially in the business section.

Why wouldn't they!?

First, when fathers or mothers are depressed, it has a profound impact on their child's development, which in turn, effects just about everything that child does in the future, such as doing well in school, getting into college, thriving in a career, etc.

Second, fathers are whole people. When they are depressed at home it has an impact on how they do at work. Thus, business can suffer. This is the fundamental premise behind work-family balance programs. If dads are working too much, they are not paying enough attention to their kids, who desperately need it. And if they are depressed about what is happening at home, they don't pay enough attention at work.

It is all linked.

Finally, you have to hand it to the guys in the article who admitted to being depressed. That is not easy for guys to do, especially publicly.

Were you depressed or maybe just sad after the birth of your baby?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Of Dads and Heroes

This humorous and poignant article sums up a lot of what it means to be a great dad. I particularly enjoyed this line:

"I used to think that having the kids adore me was one of the keys to fatherhood, but over time I’ve learned that we dads keep doing the things we do for our kids because we know we’re being heroic in our own way, even if they don’t. And because we love them."

Read the entire article here - Super Dad: An Essay on Fatherhood.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Heroes for My Son

There is a great new father-son book out called Heroes for My Son, by best-selling thriller writer, Brad Meltzer.

Asked why he wrote the book, Brad shared this humorous and moving answer:
"It began the night my first son was born. I was stuck at a red light, and I remember looking up at the black sky and thinking of this baby boy we were just blessed with. That’s when I asked myself the question for the very first time: What kind of man did I want my son to be? ... at that moment, I decided that I wanted to write a book over the course of my son’s life-and then when I eventually gave it to him, he’d realize what a brilliant father I was. I’d assumed Norman Rockwell would of course be resurrected to paint the moment, because it would be that perfect.

But the book was just a list of silly platitudes -- until a friend of mine told me this story about the Wright Brothers: Every day Orville and Wilbur Wright went out to fly their plane, they would bring enough materials for multiple crashes. That way, when they crashed, they could rebuild the plane and try again. Think about it a moment: every time they went out-every time-they knew they were going to fail. But that’s what they did: Crash and rebuild. Crash and rebuild. And that’s why they finally took off.

... that’s the kind of story I wanted my son to hear: a story that wouldn’t lecture to him, but would show him that if he was determined…if he wasn’t afraid to fail…if he had persistence (and a side order of stubbornness), the impossible becomes possible.

Since that time, I’ve been collecting heroes for this book, which has been one of the most rewarding projects of my life."

NFI highly recommends this collection of stories about the people throughout history who can inspire your children to greatness in both the big things and the small things. It is perfect for bed-time reading, as each story is short, inspiring, and to the point.

We will be previewing one of the hero stories in next week's Dad Email. Click here to sign up for the Dad Email - it's free!

Buy Heroes for My Son here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day - Take 2

There was a lot of pressure on Vinny and I to make mommy's first Mother's Day memorable. I knew that getting a Hallmark card and some flowers would not be enough. The "thought" only counts for so much...

So, we (notice how I am attributing rational thought to a 4-month-old) decided to make mom a homemade card and other hand-crafted items instead.

So, I headed over to Michael's to pick up the materials the Friday before Mother's Day. I wanted to make a cast of Vinny's footprint or hand print, so I bought the kit to do so. I also wanted to make a card with his hand and footprint on it, so I bought construction paper and finger paints (nontoxic, of course; do they sell toxic finger paints?).

The next step, of course, was to go retrieve Vinny at day care so we could make the gift together in the one place where mom would not be around - my office.

When we got to my office, I was ready to create. Vinny was asleep. Had I fully read the instructions on the footprint-making kit, I would have known that it was best to leave the child asleep while making his footprint. Instead I woke him up, and upon inserting his foot into the plaster gel, he began kicking, squirming, and crying. I tried to do the same with his hand. In seconds, he had space-age gel between all of his fingers.

I knew I had to act fast. The gel was hardening. My co-workers (Renae, Jason, Mike, Amy, and Natalie) were doing their best to help, but it was too late. The gel hardened and the project was lost.

Good thing I had a Plan B. The finger paints. I decided to use red, because it stands out on light-colored construction paper. It also stands out on clothing. Mine and the baby's. All of my co-workers had deserted me at this point, except Renae, who must like crying babies trying to make handmade Mother's Day gifts.

Nevertheless, after much more kicking, squirming, and crying (mine and the baby's), we were able to get two decent footprints and two decent hand prints onto the paper.

I was sweating by the time it was over. After many paper towels, we were able to get all of the paint and gel off Vinny's hands and feet. There would be no trace elements left for mom to ask about when we got home -- "Why does the baby have red paint on his feet? And why are your pants covered in that same red paint?"

Alas, mom did not suspect a thing. Baby was clean, and I had changed my clothes by the time she got home. Whew...

So, on Mother's Day, when mom opened her card, the hard work paid off. She loved it. Vinny and I did a telepathic high five. To prove that I did not make any of this up, here is photographic evidence of happy mom and baby, with handmade Mother's Day card. If you stare at the picture long enough, Vinny will give you a telepathic high five, too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Boring Stuff is the Best

Disney's "Up," released last summer, is a fantastic film for young and old, and has some great fatherhood themes - showing how father absence can impact kids and how important it is for male mentors to step into their lives.

I love the part where Russell, the little boy in the film, is talking about how he doesn't see his dad very much. His dad just isn't that interested in him. He goes on to talk about eating ice cream with his dad, and counting the red and blue cars that go by. "It may sound boring, but I like it the best."

Oddly enough, walking through town to go get an ice cream cone is one of my favorite memories with my dad. We forget how special the mundane is; how those little moments can create opportunities and memories. Elaborate plans and fanfare are not always (or even usually) necessary.

What "boring" thing can you do for your kids today?