Fathering in 2016 is not for the faint of heart. One week ago today, 49 innocent children of other dads were fatally gunned down on that fateful night in an Orlando nightclub. On the day of each one of their births, that was not the dream the fathers had the first time they held their babies in their arms. I’m not sure a lot of dads talk about this, but I can say that most dads when they hold their newborns for the first time (aside from stark fear), get bonded to a commitment of sheltering, providing, strengthening and dreaming big for their little nugget. We hope for the best, we don’t envision nightclub massacres as young adults. For those of us who didn’t have kids in that space last week, our kids lived the trauma through the stories and images of the news-feeds. None of us immune to a society at war, violence is our cultural tapestry. This is fathering in 2016.
I’m not interested in gun rights or laws, that’s a reaction to protect physical bodies, I’m interested in a higher virtue. How do we protect our kid’s young hearts and minds against such trauma? This is not the only one, it was just the next one. How do we raise young men to cherish and protect the value and virtue of women when they are exposed and entrapped to the lies of pornography the moment they discover the power of the internet? How do we protect the self worth and original beauty of our daughters in a world of insecure selfies begging comments of adoration, celebrity idol-worship and the photo-shop wonders of multi-billion dollar beauty industry? Hey Dads, we are not the only ones who want to shape our kid’s minds and hearts. There’s a lot of money out there shooting to own them, it’s profitable to these systemic evils to enslave them for a long life of consumerism to their goods and services. This is fathering in 2016.
What’s my advice after 20 years of such fathering, here’s my take:
- Be present – You have a powerful voice and presence in your kid’s life, own it. Don’t leave a chasm of space physically or emotionally for something or someone else to fill, it’s yours first, embody it in the life of your child.
- Love their Mom – If you are still together, show your son what loving, cherishing and serving a woman looks like. If you are not together, honor that relationship in front of them. Negotiate time well and keep your personal remarks to yourself. It’s their Mom, honor that for them no matter how painful it is for you.
- Choose your words – your words have the power to build up, your words have the power to tear down. Don’t misuse your power. Be a man, have the strength to choose your words wisely. Any fool can fly off the handle dispersing poison. Embrace wisdom instead, you carry power to change a reality with your words.
- Grow up – You’re a Dad, you did adult things to bring another human into the world, you are not a child. Grow up. It’s not about you, walk out into your adult-self with confidence and a freedom to be the adult you always wish someone would be for you. Your future is wide open with opportunity, don’t retreat back, grow up into it.
- Don’t give up – You’re not perfect, Dad. You may have already broken my advice commandments 1-4 already today, welcome to the vulnerability of your humanity. But in this moment, in the remainder of this day, don’t give up. Your kids will hold out hope until the day you die that you will be the Dad they always dreamed of and you still have today. They believe in you; I’m begging you for you to believe in you. They need you, don’t give up on your best self.
Fathering in 2016 is not for the faint of heart, leadership is not for cowards. It’s time to show-up, Dad’s. The future depends on it.