Welcome to Part II of our Fatherhood Round Table Discussion. Our panel of fathers has provided some incredible insight on the subject of fatherhood. The discussion has been enriched by your thoughtful comments and questions. If you’re just joining us, please read Fatherhood Round Table Discussion – Session I to get caught up.
Once again, allow me to introduce our panelists:
- 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
Today’s discussion will address martial issues and delve deeper into parenting issues that all fathers face.
* * * *
MD: What do you teach your son(s) about manhood? Your daughter(s)?
Eric: I teach my teenage son that he is the sum total of his words and actions and I encourage him to choose wisely and accordingly, stand by them and even when you make mistakes, it’s okay. I’m teaching my pre-school age daughter that manhood is about being respectful, protective and caring.
Fred: My number one mission is to drill home to my children that their goal in life is “To be a servant to others.” Rick Warren got it right in his bestselling book, “The Purpose Driven Life.” The secret to life is “It’s not about you.” True manhood and success in life, comes from serving others and the attitude you have towards accomplishing that God given goal. Whether you are a waiter or the President of the United States—your measure of success is how we’ll did you serve mankind. True manhood or womanhood is learning and exemplifying this fact.
Paul: I try to teach my son and daughter that manhood is a love for God, a love for family, and a love for self. If my son can be this man and my daughter can find this trait in someone, then that’s a good start. For my daughter, I work hard to model the man I hope she finds someday. I am working on confidence, self-respect, respect for others, and the knowledge that they can achieve greatness through God.
P.J.: I plan to teach my son that a man is there for his family in whatever way he can be and that his family’s needs come first. As a father to a son, it is also important to be the right example for how women should be treated in the way I show love and respect for my wife.
Dijon: I am now trying to teach them survival techniques. I am also trying to help them make their own decisions using logic.
Shawn: I teach them it is VERY important to be smart and responsible. They should always take responsibility for their actions.
Max: I have written a post about my vision for my sons titled “Far Better Men than I.” I teach my sons to define manhood for themselves. I teach my sons not to define manhood by possessions, by sex, by any outer manifestation, because if you define manhood from without rather than within, if that thing by which you define your manhood is suddenly taken away from you, your manhood goes with it. As far as my daughters are concerned, I try to model for them the kind of mate that I believe they should want to spend their lives with. I treat my wife with love and respect, and I treat my children with love and understanding. With my boys I can share my experiences as a man; however, since I am not a woman and cannot share those experiences with them, I leave that to my wife.
MD: How has being a parent affected your marriage?
Eric: Naturally, there is less time available for the two of you. You have to make time. But parenting creates an opportunity for you to work together so you learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses and learn how to support/provide for one another.
Fred: It has taught me how utterly selfish I am as a human being. This reality teaches me to better serve my wife. I don’t think I would be as good a husband had I not had kids that reflect my own selfish nature.
Paul: It has only made it better. To be honest, we know that we can’t always do the things we did before we had children. We can model to them what a healthy relationship is to the best of our ability. Parenthood has only made our relationship stronger because it has forced us to find compromise in the way we do things.
P.J.: While I’m only 19 months into the game I think it has made my marriage stronger. With every milestone or challenge we have faced we have always given each other the latitude to make decisions that are in our son’s best interest. We also discuss everything in order to keep ourselves in synch with one another on both major and minor issues.
Dijon: I am definitely not as free as I was; yet, it makes me be a better planner and I have to think of others besides myself!
Max: My wife and I discuss this frequently. I believe having children has brought us together around a common purpose—raising our children to adulthood. It seems that everything we do, every decision we make is informed by our role as parents; however, often we get so caught up in this role that we forget our first roles as friends and as lovers. Often we wonder about what will happen when the children leave. Often we wonder what will happen when our purpose and our energy is no longer given to being parents, and we must begin the task of getting to know each other all over again without the children as intermediaries.
MD: How do you keep the spark in your marriage?
Eric: Go out on dates. I will occasionally buy silly little things for her to let her know I’m thinking of her.
Fred: I didn’t get it right the first time—didn’t even make it down the aisle with my daughter’s mother. Thankfully God is a God of second chances. So when I did get married, I married up—way, way, way up the food chain. My wife, Karen is smarter, quicker, faster, and better looking than me just to name a few of the many quality that she has. She keeps me on my toes and I am always playing catch up. From that frame of mind, I view marriage a little differently than some. For starters, I am always thankful to be married and always feel I have not arrived and could be better. This mindset helps me think of her first in most things I do. For the perfect spark, you have to have date nights, get away from time to time (without the kids), and remember that the marriage is superior to parenting. Spouse stays, kids leave. Any questions?
Paul: It is difficult to do. I love my wife, but often the pressures of the day are overwhelming. This is something that we have to constantly work at.
P.J.: From the time I was courting my wife I learned a fast lesson that the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach. I have expended a lot of effort honing my culinary skills and trying out different things as a way to show her that she is important to me. For my wife, the small things mean more than any grand gesture I could make, so when I take the time to make her lunches, bake her breakfast muffins or prepare a special meal in the middle of the week for no reason she appreciates it.
Dijon: Send the kids away! I also let them know that we need our own time together.
Max: I hate to keep dropping links, but there is no short answer to many of these questions, and many of my past posts provide more complete and thorough answers. One such post would be “Tea and Crumpets with My Lover.” When the kids take up all of your time and most of your energy, you have to work hard to keep the love alive. But somehow we manage. One thing I like to do is to mail love letters to her at work every now and then. Also, we take every opportunity to make alone time for ourselves. Sometimes we take time off of work and meet at home, and at other times we schedule weekend trips for ourselves.
MD: When you and your spouse disagree about a parenting issue, how to do you deal with it?
Eric: We’re still on our learning curve with this one. I think recently we’ve learned to agree to disagree.
Fred: I think my wife has been wrong once, but I can no longer remember the exact details. We agree on most everything—our parenting styles are very close and we constantly over-research most parenting issues. That said, we don’t see eye to eye on everything—not to burst your bubble. If I truly disagree with Karen on a parenting issue, I will defer to her—always. She has alpha dog power on parenting issues. Now if it deals with finances, work, business, laundry, money or dishes; I supersede her—I’m alpha parent on these issues.
Paul: We intensely make our points of view clear. When we don’t agree, we stop talking about it until we can we can discuss it without arguing. We look to our Bible for direction and resolution.
P.J.: We are both still learning on the job, but we have always handled any disagreements that have arisen with a level head and through rational conversation. We both realize that as individuals we will approach situations differently and so we each give the other space to make decisions independently. When something I try doesn’t work, I immediate solicit her advice and vice versa.
Dijon: Seek advice from others who have been in that situation. Also, we read our Bible to get advice.
Shawn: We try to find a middle ground.
Max: We take the time to discuss all parenting issues, but often we do have disagreements. When that occurs, we usually make a plus and minus list to reason our way through the issue at hand in an attempt to make a decision based on reason and not purely emotion.
MD: How do you balance work, marriage and raising children?
Eric: Living in New York you’re forced to fall into a routine that works for you or live a life of perpetual frustration and disorganization. So it’s pretty balanced because I’ve created a schedule to stay on track. On the weekends, I could care less, but during the week I try my best to stick to my schedule.
Fred: This is my greatest struggle! I am the bread winner. I’m a work at home, entrepreneur, world raising/kid changing, twitterholic, social media freak, who can do his job with a cell phone and a laptop. I take my laptop and cell phone with me everywhere I go—which is both good and bad. To add insult to injury, the more I work, the more money I make. There is neither a floor nor a ceiling. Therefore, I have to really plan downtime with both my wife and my kids. So here are a few tips I sometime utilize: (1) I try to go technology free from 6 p.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday. No emails, no cell phones, no laptops and no twittering. It’s tough, but my family should be able to count on me during these times. (2) I come out of my home office room at 5:30 p.m. and don’t re-enter until after the kids go to bed—or at least that is the goal. (3) I try to have lunch out with my wife at least once a week. (4) We try to take a vacation out of town with the kids and without the kids at least once a year. (5) We try, although not always successful, to have a date night at least twice a month. (6) I attend all school activities, volunteer regularly in the classroom and stay very involved in the PTA. I have a pulse on what happens at my kids’ school.
Paul: I leave work at work. This is relatively new for me. When we are with the kids, parenting is the task. When we are alone, we focus on our marriage. We tend to bounce in and out of the last two.
P.J.: I am very fortunate in that I am a stay at home dad. Recently I have stumbled upon some consulting work in the blogosphere and I usually get most of the work done during nap time when I’m home with my son or after my wife goes to bed. We are also very fortunate in that my wife’s job stays at work. When the figurative whistle blows, she makes like Fred Flintstone and is out the door without a care in the world. As far as our marriage goes we plan regular date nights where my mom will babysit for us or, as I mentioned previously, I’ll make an impromptu special meal in the middle of the week just to remind her I haven’t forgotten.
Dijon: Carefully! The cell phone and internet are important tools for us!
Shawn: I try to take as much time as I can with my daughters. It’s a little tough now that I’m trying to find a full time job, work part time and do freelance work.
Max: Balancing the three is a very tough task indeed. Of course, we must work to provide our most immediate and future needs. But in the same instance, we must remember that we work to achieve an end, and work is not the end itself. Perhaps, though, I am the worst at balancing work and home. Sometimes my wife has to call my office to remind me that my presence is not only needed at home, but it is desired. But I always try to keep in mind that we are a family first, and no matter how high I rise or how far I go, I would be very lonely, very discontent, if I did not have my family with me.
* * * *
That’s the end of our discussion for now. The panelists and I will continue the discussion in the comments area. Feel free to comment and ask questions in the comments section. 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.
Tune in for the next installment of Fatherhood Roundtable where we will discuss in-laws, discipline and fatherhood lessons.