Welcome to the first Fatherhood Round Table Discussion on Mocha Dad. As you all know, I am passionate about being a better father and since I’ve been blogging, I’ve discovered several other men who are just as committed as I am.
Unfortunately, it seems as if fatherhood has fallen out of favor in America. The media is full of stories of absent fathers, abusive fathers, and incompetent fathers. While we cannot deny that these portrayals of fatherhood are accurate, we can proclaim that they are not the only images that deserve attention.
It is my contention that fatherhood begins at home and there are many fathers who are doing their part to build strong marriages and raise well-adjusted children. To prove my point, I have selected six diverse bloggers who are doing their part to improve the image of fathers to share their thoughts on fatherhood.
Allow me to introduce them:
- Eric Payne – Father of two children and author of Makes Me Wanna Holler
- Fred Campos, Jr – Father of two children and author of The Thoughts of the Average Christian Servant
- Paul Easter, III – Father of two children and author of Dear Mr. Man
- P.J. Mullen – Father of one child and author of Real Men Drive Minivans
- L. Dijon Anderson – Father of two children and author of No Off Season for Dads
- Shawn Dennis – Father of two children and author of Dad Unmasked
- Maxwell Reddick – Father of four children and author of Soul Brother v.2
Throughout the course of this Fatherhood Round Table, we will discuss issues such as marriage, in-laws, religion and many others.
I know you’re eager to hear their different perspectives on fatherhood, so let’s start the conversation:
MD: Explain how you felt when you first found out you would be a father?
Eric: Honestly, I wasn’t too thrilled. I didn’t think it was a good time. My wife and I weren’t married yet and just like a man I was worried about how much having a baby would cost.
Fred: The first time, I was not married nor expecting it. I was shocked for about 10 minutes, followed by extreme excitement, then concern about my ability to be the best father possible. The second time, I was married and was expecting it. I was on cloud nine! I knew I would be involved in another world changing life and I was very excited. The LORD has blessed me twice with such a great opportunity. LORD willing, I will experience that joy one more time in March of 2010.
Paul: I was very excited. I did not know what to expect and was also a little afraid. I remember what my father meant to me and the disappointment of his leaving my life. I wanted to make sure that my child never felt that same disappointment. My love for my wife and family has held true. I have never had the desire to leave.
P.J.: In a word, elated. Many of my friends already had children and I enjoyed being the cool uncle, if you will. After a false start we were fortunate to get pregnant and have our son.
Dijon: I was sooooooo not fired up. I remember when my wife called me to let me know; we were both fakin’ as if we were happy. But, as I look at it now, it could not have been a better time!!!!
Shawn: I was in shock very happy when I found out. It was so fast. We decided to try and POW! It happened.
Max: When I first found that I was to be a father, my first reaction was one of deep and utter terror. My wife and I had been told that she would be unable to conceive, so it came as a complete surprise. And I couldn’t even think for the many questions that raced through my mind. How would I care for this child? What can of father would I be? I was still in college at the time, so I had to ask myself would I be able to finish school or would I have to drop out yet again?
MD: How would you compare yourself to your father?
Eric: In many ways we’re similar as far as work ethic and overreaching desire to please/cater to the needs of family. However, I believe I’m more emotionally engaged with my children than my father was with me.
Fred: I have a good father and he has trained me to be a better father—something every father desires. (“Stand on my shoulder son, so that you may see farther.”) Nevertheless, I repeated many of his mistakes. I don’t blame him; I am responsible for my own actions. Nevertheless, we must be careful what we teach our kids through our history and private actions. More is caught than taught.
Paul: My father and I are just the opposite in most regards. I am choosing to stay with my family. Honestly, it’s not much of a choice. I am told that I look like him and have some of his mannerisms. However, because he was not there for my teenage years, I don’t know this to be true.
P.J.: We are definitely different. He traveled quite frequently for work and as a result we didn’t really spend a lot of time together. As difficult as this is for me to admit we didn’t really have a common bond or interest. I’m determined to do things differently with my son. Even when I have a chance to reenter the workforce it will be on terms that will mesh with my family’s needs.
Dijon: That’s hard to say. Times, places, and other factors make us the same and different. I believe he instilled a lot of spiritual and moral character in me.
Shawn: My father and I are complete opposites.
Max: Since my children have come, I think I have spent that entire time trying not to be my father. Yet, try as I may, sometimes glimpses of my father emerge. My father was not a bad father. In fact, I think that he was a very good father. But he acted just as his father had, and probably as his father’s father had. He believed his main job was to raise me to be a man, but he was limited by his interpretation of manhood. In his mind, a man did not show emotion or affection. In his mind, a man’s job was to discipline his children and that discipline often bordered on abuse and was accompanied by yelling and screaming. We respected him not out of love but out of fear. In his mind, a man’s job was to make money and provide for his family. In his mind, once this was accomplished, his time was his to do what he wanted, so he did not spend much time at home. When we were growing up, I cannot ever recall him ever hugging us or telling us he loved us. We really believed that he hated us. Only within the last five years or so did he ever utter the words, “I love you,” and that was only because he thought he was dying. However, he is a much better grandfather than father. My children and all his other grandchildren are absolutely crazy about him. And every now and then, he will now hug me. Every now and then, he will tell me he loves me and is proud of the man I have become. And I am satisfied with this. Better late than never. But I do not want my children to wait all their lives for them to know I love them and that I am immensely proud of them.
MD: What is one skill every father should have?
Fred: There are many skills a father should have. Perhaps near the top should be the confidence and encouragement that only a father can give. Don’t miss a chance to say “Good job!”, “Well done.”, “I believe in you.”, “I love you.” Apparently research shows hearing those words from dad goes farther than just about anything anyone could ever tell your kids. The absence of those words, scar children for a lifetime.
Paul: Patience. It is important to know that our children look to us for the example. Everything (and I mean everything) is under intense scrutiny. The things we do (good and bad) are constantly under review. Our children are not “little adults”. They look to us for their cues. We have to have the patience to allow them to learn.
P.J.: If I had to choose one thing, I would have to say patience. Mostly because I am lacking in this department and strive to correct this as best I can.
Dijon: Knowing how to talk to their children
Max: I believe that perhaps the greatest skill a father can have is the ability to empathize. My son is fourteen now. In February he will be turning fifteen. Often I see him going through many of the things I went through as a teenager. Often I see him confronting the same issues I confronted as a teenager. And most importantly, often I see him making some of the same mistakes I made as a teenager. My first impulse is to turn into my father, to yell and scream, to stomp about. But I have to catch myself. I have to recall that as a young man, this approach was never constructive. I have to recall that as a young man, this approach was often counterproductive. So, I stop for a second to catch my breath, gather my strength and gather my wits about me. And then I offer myself to my son as an older, wiser man, as a mentor, as a friend—as a father. And together we attempt to work through whatever he is going through. I would rather him respect me in this way than respect me though fear.
MD: How do you feel about the media’s portrayal of fathers?
Eric: It depends. Depending on the circumstance or ethnicity, fathers are portrayed differently by the media. Overall we seem to be typecast. There’s the super-dedicated, patriarch. There’s the comical dedicated father (e.g. George Lopez). There’s the bumbling, “God bless his soul, he tries” father (Modern Family). There’s the good for nothing father. The list goes on depending on the genre. However in the news we’re given little to no attention at all as compared to mothers.
Fred: They display fathers as bumbling idiots who are not present or out of touch with their kids. I am extremely displeased with the media of our time—overall. They have long since lost the art of being the world’s “watch dog” and have given in to sensationalized “yellow journalism.” This means, they focus on what sells and improve corporate ratings, rather than the overall general public best interest. The general public is not off the hook either. We would rather hear about plane crashes, murder, drugs and things that we fear, than to hear that most people are good and the world is slowly becoming a better place. With that in mind, the reality of parenting, and especially today’s fathers, is grossly under reported and shamelessly slanted by the media.
Paul: The media portrays most fathers as absent and bumbling. This is contrary to the fathers I choose to associate with. I have hope that we are not the minority.
P.J.: By and large it is rather poor. I recently read a post about a New York Times article that detailed the results of a study that showed families were better off with both parents in the picture. It wasn’t so much the information, but the way it was presented as if it were some shocking revelation. The issue basically boils down to the continued marginalization of the role of fathers and that needs to change.
Dijon: They consistently make us weak, immature, and dumb! It can be degrading at times.
Shawn: I find it daunting when the media portrays fathers as losers, and not caring about the kids. I especially disturbed by the stereotypes of the black father.
Max: I think the media does a very poor job of portraying fathers, especially minority fathers. And this is important because often people believe that what they see in the various media is reality instead of an invented reality. The various media often portrays fathers as detached, uninvolved partners. And minority fathers are portrayed as even more detached and uninvolved, and often as wholly absent or even depraved in some way.
MD: Do you find any difference in raising girls and boys?
Eric: As a father raising both, I think boys need more structure. If left up to their own devices, the results could be catastrophic; whereas girls seem to have sort of heightened awareness of their surroundings and cause and effect (at least in my experience).
Fred: Every child is different and the parenting required to properly raise your children is different. The goal of parenting is to raise children that are: “Healthy, wealthy, and wiser than you, who grow up and LEAVE and become productive servants of society.” I find it very different raising a daughter verses raising a son. However, the answer to your question has more to do with their love language and personal temperament than stereotypical gender roles. Trust me. I have a son in ballet!
Paul: While there are differences, they are generally looking for the same things; love, patience, and presence.
P.J.: I only have a son at the present time. I can imagine there are a few fundamental differences, but for the most part the lessons on being a good person are universal.
Dijon: I don’t have girls, but I know there is a difference. They go through a lot more changes than I think boys go through.
Shawn: I couldn’t tell you because I have daughters! Seriously though, I think daughters need a bit more emotional support then sons.
Max: Let me preface everything I have to say by saying that there should be no difference in raising girls and boys. Let me preface everything I have to say by saying that I attempt to raise my boys and my girls the same. But I find that I sometimes fail miserably. I have even dedicated a whole post to the subject. I love both my sons and daughters equally. But my daughters seem to have my heart in a chokehold, and they know it. They manipulate me unmercifully. And when it comes to my sons, I find myself being a little harder on them. My father emerges, and not only that, since I do a lot of work in the community with troubled youth, any time I see my sons exhibiting any behavior even close to that of the young men I mentor, I see red. However, let me conclude by saying this. Raising either gender has its unique challenges, and in the end, I am not attempting to raise good men or good women, but good people with the capacity to think and reason and show love and compassion and somehow leave this world a better place than they found it.
That’s the end of our discussion for now. The panelists and I will continue the discussion in the comments section. Feel free to comment and ask questions. We want your honest opinions and thoughts, but keep it civil and respectful. If you have a question or comment for a specific panelist, please address him by name and I will forward the comment to him for a response.
In the next installment of the Fatherhood Round Table Discussion, we will discuss: manhood, marriage, work/life balance, and discipline.