“Am I Kissing Him Too Much?”

“Am I kissing him too much?”

When my first son was born, I was overwhelmed with joy and love. I just wanted to gobble him up with affection. But I had never been down this path of life before and I didn’t know what was “proper”. I think every dad shares that vulnerability.

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A new article on the AP wire, The new dads: Diaper duty’s just the start, carries a quote that really caught my attention: “Before, when everyone made motherhood seem like such a big deal, men weren’t chipping in as much.” (I urge you to read the article.)“proper”. I think every dad shares that vulnerability.

Before my Mom audience* lynches this guy (‘cuz mother IS a big deal!), can I take a run at explaining what this dad wanted to say? Motherhood is a big deal. So big, it is very easy for dads to feel like we’re on the outside looking in… like we don’t “get it”. I think what this dad intended to say was that he’d happily engage in caring for the baby if his wife would empower him to participate.

Men, most men anyway, are not natural caregivers. We’re just not wired that way. Nonetheless, the arrival of a new life in one’s home, in one’s arms, sparks a desire in most men to participate even in the earliest efforts to care for this life. We need permission and encouragement from the mothers of our child to dive into parenthood. My wife gave me that and it opened the door for the great realization that It’s Good To Be The Dad!

I recently helped out on a project with the National Center for Fathering. We converted a great book on the first stage of fatherhood from print format to ebook. “Forming a Lifelong Bond: For Dads of Infants” is an encouraging and insightful project that will inspire every new dad. Working on the book, I waffled between “Glad I did that right” to “Ouch, wish I had known that.”

So, dads (even expecting ones, you know who you are), would you do a couple things today? Read the AP article and realize that you’re part of a remarkable generations of dads. Own it. AND, please download the ebook and make some time to read it in the next couple weeks. There’s a lot of wisdom waiting for you there.

Oh, was I kissing my newborn baby too much? No. Turns out you can’t kiss ‘em too much. Smooch away dad, smooch away!!!!

Clark H Smith

* And for my “Mom audience” (you know who you are), would you make note of this blog post and these two resources. Would you share these thoughts with a young man who is now or is about to be a new dad? Motherhood… Parenthood is a big deal and we dads want to help. Would you think of ways you can encourage and empower us as we stumble into this incredible role of father? Thank you!

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What’s Worse?

The old joke goes something like this…

Q: What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?

A: Finding half a worm.

Here’s another one…

Q: What’s worse than an unsupervised three year old learning how to start a lawnmower?

A: … we’ll get to that in a minute

First, I want to tell you about a wonderful man – family and friends called him “Daddy Don”. Daddy Don was a gracious and generous man. Long ago, he volunteered to help me with some upgrades to a house I had just purchased.

Now, I’m pretty handy. I grew up as a carpenter’s son and I know my way around power tools pretty well. As we cut boards out on the deck and headed inside to do our work, Daddy Don did something I’d never done, or seen done, before. He bent over and unplugged the circular saw. In a flash, Daddy Don’s wisdom washed over me. He was, indeed, a good great dad and he wanted me to be a great dad by not putting my children at risk. I’ve never forgotten that simple, unspoken lesson or the wisdom behind it.

There’s a great verse in the Bible that encourages older men to “…teach young men to be wise.” (Titus 2:6 NLV). That’s exactly what Daddy Don was doing, he was transferring the wisdom he earned throughout his life into my young life. That’s great advice in both directions. Older men, be eager to share the lessons you’ve learned (often the hard way!) with the younger generation. Younger men, show openness to your seniors, honor their journey through life and soak in their wisdom. “Learn on their nickel”.

What? The lawnmower… Oh, yes, my ADD kicked in there for a moment.

Recently, I was riding my bike through a beautiful, upscale suburban neighborhood. I was not surprised to hear the roar of a lawnmower, but when I realized it was coming from a tiny little tot standing next to an unattended mower, I was alarmed. I hopped off my bike and ran up to the open garage doors whistling and yelling loudly.

Eventually a grandma aged woman appeared and asked me what the problem was. “That little boy is all alone and starting the lawnmower.”

“No,” she protested, “he’s just playing. He can’t start it.”

Just then, on cue, the tyke turned the electric start (I told you it was an upscale neighborhood) on the mower and it fired up. Sadly, the woman expressed no great alarm, just mild disappointment as she sauntered over and led the lad away from the mower. In reflection, I probably should have called 911 in hopes of making a greater impression.

I shudder to think about “what’s worse” than what I witnessesed.

I got back on my bike, my heart racing, and rode away – wishing desperately that that family had a Daddy Don around to impart some life-saving wisdom to them… and so very thankful that I’ve had a Daddy Don in my life.

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Flip The Script

My research associates at the Internet tell me that “Mother’s Day began in 1870 and became official in 1914 while Father’s Day only became official in 1972”. Furthermore, my associates inform me, “In recent years, retailers have adapted to the holiday by promoting greeting cards and traditionally masculine gifts such as electronics and tools.”

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My sources don’t come out and say it clearly, but I assume these greeting cards and masculine gifts are to be given to Dad. Can anyone confirm that for me? In the weeks leading up to Father’s Day, I usually drop hints about the things I can’t wait until Christmas for (e.g. iGrill remote thermometer that sends meat smoker temp signals straight to my Tablet and Smartphone via Bluetooth … stuff like that).

But around our house, we don’t always march in the direction the retail Pied Piper is leading us. Two years ago on Father’s Day I invited all the kids (and the Babymomma, of course) to brunch. Before they fetched their Hallmark Cards and tool kits, I presented each of my four sons a gift. Nothing extravagant, but thoughtful.

Let me remind my readers that my family does something very unique at Christmas. The boys each get four gifts – The Jesus Gifts. You can read more about it here. The “big gift” is the Gold gift. My wife and I put months of thought into a gift that honors the life, character, interests, and love language of each child. Hopefully, the Gold gift blesses and encourages the child in a significant way. That’s the goal anyway.

That’s the goal and that’s the role of Dad – to bless and encourage our children. I thought to myself, “I’m not going to be selfish and let this day just be about me getting stuff. I want to flip the script and in my daily role of Encourager in Chief, I want to let my sons know that I’m proud of them and that I pay attention to their lives.”

So on this particular Father’s Day, I presented a book to each son. They weren’t expensive books and nothing too profound. Just something that said, “I know who you are and I love you.” At the table, I said a few words about each child, noting their interests, activities, and steps forward in the last year.

The kids (and Momma who knew nothing of my caper) were wonderfully surprised by my gesture. Granted, they were in their teens to twenties so No, I was not smothered in slobbery, loving kisses, but I hit the mark and I knew it.

Anytime the commercial world turns the spotlight on something, a wise person will at least look in the opposite direction and see if there is any value to be found. I love receiving gifts, it’s my love language. But remember that Golden Rule thing, “gift unto others as you would have others gift unto you”. Likewise, if you want encouragement, give it. If you want honesty, give it. If you want love, give it.

What do you want this Father’s Day? Flip the script. Give it!

Dads, Amp It Up!

My youngest son’s plans for a high school Senior Trip did not materialize as he had hoped, so he invited my wife and I to host him in Chicago for a long weekend. Our pleasure!

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Over five days we took in all the sites and calories our feet and waistlines could withstand. Downtown Chicago is very accessible by walking or by short hops on mass transit. But what amazed me was Gideon’s “competency” in this new, big city. (Kansas City is the largest city he’s ever been in and, as locals know, the downtown area on weekends is not as busy as a single Chuck E. Cheese.)

As I watched Gideon order from a complicated menu, introduce himself to strangers, or navigate around a strange new town, I thought back on the “home work” we’d put into helping our boys be confident travelers in a huge world. Maybe some of these ideas will encourage other dads.

I’ve spoken previously about teaching my sons map skills and navigation. That’s a direly urgent competency every maturing child needs – and you can’t start too young. It was enjoyable to have Gideon correct me when my navigating sense escaped me in the concrete jungle. Dads, teach your kids to know where they are and find where they want to go!

I also enjoyed watching Gideon navigate menus, sometimes complex ones. Almost as soon as the boys could speak, I was encouraging them to look at the waiter and state their order. Yes, even saying “Happy Meal” is a developmental step in the right direction.

My wife and I would take time to talk with the kids about the menu, help them explore options, and anticipate what the server was going to ask. Watching a seven year old look the waiter in the eye and order “a pork chop with mashed potatoes and green beans” seemed like such a great accomplishment. I still relish the compliments we received about the boys from impressed servers. (By the way, I quickly taught the boys to say “I would like…” instead of “Can I have…”. Economics 101 is understanding that when you bring the money, the answer is always “yes, you can have…”.)

I also prepped my sons on how to engage retail personnel. For example, if they wanted a pair of pants in a size not found on the shelf, I’d kneel down to their level and say, “I’m going to help you find a store clerk. I’ll be right beside you. You should look at the clerk and kindly ask, “Do you have these in a medium?” I’d say by the time my sons were five and six, I was very active in helping them connect with adults this way. Dads, teach your kids how to function in the material world.

The third thing I noticed on this trip I noticed was Gid’s comfort in greeting strangers and even engaging them in conversation. Granted, personality has a lot to do with this one, but dads can do a lot to instill social confidence in their children.

Looking back, I never treated my children like shadows, just an extension of me. When I met a friend, I always introduced them to my children. And, if possible, I’d try to make a connection between my child and the acquaintance – “Hey Bob, Noah here is an arrowhead collector, too.” That shows my children that they have worth even in the grown-up world.

I would often take my sons with me when I met with men’s groups I was leading or even to casual lunch. This helped them learn how to “navigate” relationships beyond the playground. Dads, teach your kids that they have value to adults even though they are still young.

On the whole, I always tried to recognize the skills I was using as an adult and help my children begin developing those skills very early on. I see a lot of dads “waiting” for their kids to mature before amping up the life skills. Hmmm… I guess amping up the life skills sooner than later is how they mature.

Food for thought. Hope you find something that helps.

March Dadness

A long season of college basketball is winding down to the championship round. The wins and losses are tallied and a few go on, most go home. As always, the stories behind the game are what matter, what last. Hot off the press, enjoy this interview I just did with Kansas basketball legend, Danny Manning. Be sure to read my comments that follow.

from www.coachmanning.com

from www.coachmanning.com

Q1… Danny, you’re kind of a big deal. You led KU to the 1988 NCAA Basketball Championship, you played on the 1988 USA Olympic team, you were a two-time NBA All-Star, and you helped coach KU back to the 2008 Championship. You have two, young adult children, do they consider you a basketball legend? Do you have to remind them that you’ve accomplished a thing or two in life? 

Our children know I played the game of basketball. Basketball is something that I did for a profession. It is not who I was or am. It is more important to be a husband, brother, friend and so on….

Q2… I understand that you put off taking a head coaching position for several years because you didn’t want to relocate your family. Can you tell us more about that? What led to that decision? How difficult was it for you, personally, to delay the prestige and compensation of a head coaching job for the sake of the family? 

When I retired from the NBA, we wanted to make sure our kids had as much stability as possible in their teen years. We felt being in same place, not moving city to city during high school was the avenue best for them. This would provide them great stability.

Q3… You have kids of your own in college now and you’re not there to keep an eye on them. Would you share any advice you gave them about this chapter of their lives? How have you guided them about handling new levels of independence and responsibility?

We always told our kids to be responsible, hardworking, loving people. Now that they are in college we can’t watch every move or every step they take. Hopefully what we taught them growing up will help them make sound decisions in life now.

Q4… Like you, your dad was a pro ball player and a coach. As a dad, though, what advice did he give you that has served you well in life? 

The advice my father gave me in regards to sports and basketball was to make the game easier for your teammates and find ways to help team be successful other than the glorious ways that everyone gets to see.

Q5… We see many college coaches who get involved in the lives of their student/athletes. What wisdom or skills for life do you hope to impart to your players at Tulsa? 

We want to prepare our young men here at Tulsa for life. We are able to teach them quite a few great work ethic characteristics thru the game of basketball. Sooner or later the air will go out of the ball and you will not be able to run, jump, or move as fast as you were able to at a competitive level. This happens to every athlete at some point in their career. We want to make sure they are prepared to be a husband, brother, etc for life. We want them to understand basketball is something you do, did, not what you are, was.

Did you pay attention to Q&A #2. Read it again. Head basketball coaches at good schools get paychecks with lots of zeros in them. You rarely see a coach jump from one school to another except for mo’ money. An even rarer sight is Danny Manning. He put off the fame and fortune of a head coaching job FOR YEARS so he could provide something priceless for his kids – a stable home. I get goosebumps just typing that last sentence.

Dads, we all have our heroes. We all have players that make us waddle out of the La-Z-Boy and give a cheer. We need that in our lives. If you want to be legendary in your own home, if you want to give your kids something money can’t buy, give them stability. Give them confidence that home is the safest place on earth. The old song went “I Wanna Be Like Mike”. As for me, and my house, I want to be like Danny.