It seems that a discussion of fatherhood was desperately needed. Our panel of seven fathers has shared its collective wisdom and experience in Session I and Session II to motivate others to believe that genuine, caring, committed fathers actually do exist.
Welcome to Session III of our Fatherhood Round Table Discussion. I’m excited about this session because we will get into more serious topics such as discipline, dealing with in-laws, and coping with fears.
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
After you’re done reading this session, please visit all of the panelist’s blogs. Their writing on fatherhood is eye-opening and poignant.
Now let’s start the discussion.
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MD: How do you deal with in-laws?
Eric: As best I can. I make myself available for them when they need me. I have no issues with in-law interference. They love me as their own.
Shawn: They are great. No issues at all.
Dijon: Ours are not a problem. We get along with them very well. We have been blessed.
PJ: One of my biggest regrets is that my in-laws don’t live closer to us. They visit for a week or so at a time a few times a year, but I wish they had more opportunities to spend time with their grandson. They are great people and were a huge help when we first brought our son home from the hospital. I’m also very fortunate because my wife and mother have an excellent relationship. My mom usually visits about once a week to spend time with little man. It is a huge help because it gives us some time to relax or tackle the household minutiae that builds up.
Paul: With difficulty. My situation is strange. Too much to get into in this forum.
Max: Hmm, the old in-law question. I have been very blessed because I have some very good in-laws. However, that is not to say my relationship with my in-laws is trouble free. My in-laws are very sweet, very supportive people, but in the same instance, sometimes they can be a bit overbearing. I think we all have dealt with the phenomenon in which the children ask you for something and you say no, and then they go ask their grandparents who invariably say yes. This is what I have to deal with most often. But in each and every case, I simply return whatever it is and respectfully explain to them why we said no. Of course they protest, but I insist that they respect us as parents. And then there are those times when we seem to be competing for my wife’s attention. My wife is the youngest and the favorite, so it often seems like they need so much of her time and attention. In this instance, I leave it to my wife’s judgment. I understand that she must find a balance between being a wife and a parent and a daughter.
Fred: 1) With out-of-town in-laws, we never stay with family. We get our own car and hotel. 2) The number one priority is our own nuclear family. We visit and add our extended family secondary to our personal family needs. 3) We put huge restrictions on what our in-laws are allow to buy and do for our kids. 4) We plan out all visits accordingly and never visit or stay long enough to allow them or us to get on each other’s nerves. 5) We never feel guilty about having to be or do anything with anybody. Again we have our own family traditions and in-laws fit in where possible.
MD: What is the best fatherhood lesson that you’ve learned?
Eric: I’ve learned that it’s not about me. I can reap many personal rewards by enriching the lives of my children. By enriching them I make my own life richer.
Shawn: That kids truly have their own personalities and there is only so much I can do to influence them.
PJ: The most important thing I’ve learned since becoming a father is that I have to make sure to keep my relationship with my wife as strong as it possibly can be. Not only will this help keep us strong as a family, but will provide an example for my son that he can use in his future relationships.
Paul: I’ve learned that all my kids want is time. I give them all that I can.
Max: The greatest fatherhood lesson I have learned is to be patient and be understanding. The journey of fatherhood is a marathon and not a footrace, and sometimes the lesson must be taught and modeled over and over and over again before it gets through.
Fred: Children forgive faster than adults and can love unconditionally. Always tell your kids the truth and realize they catch more of your actions than your words.
MD: What has been your scariest moment as a parent?
Eric: Watching my daughter have an allergy induced asthma attack.
Shawn: When my 7-year old daughter was 4, she fell face first on the concrete from the top of a playhouse. Blood was everywhere.
PJ: The biggest scare I’ve had as a parent so far has been when I found blood in my son’s stool. It was after hours for our pediatricians office so my wife and I headed straight to the ER. It turned out to be only a simple milk protein allergy, but I was terrified of losing my four and a half months old son. He was the most important thing in our world. It took several hours for my heart rate to return to normal after we returned from the hospital.
Paul: My kids were involved in a car accident with my mother-in-law. I was across town and my wife was at the airport. While your wife, KayEm, picked up my wife from the airport, I sped across town to get to my children. The car was totaled and the kids were in an ambulance. Although, they seemed to be physically okay, we went to the hospital to be sure. I was tense the whole way and it wasn’t until they said three words to me that I was able to breathe. The words were, “Daddy, we’re hungry.”
Max: In 2005, my wife and I had a child that died shortly after childbirth. Early in the pregnancy my wife began to experience complications. Later we were told that if we did not choose to abort the baby, my wife would have to remain on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy, and even then, the baby would more than likely be born with severe birth defects. The doctor told us she would give us time to decide, but before she left the room, we both looked at each other and nodded. We chose life. And everything went perfect for a while. For a while, we thought we were out of the woods. But as predicted, the baby came early, and the baby was so underdeveloped that he could not live. As I awaited the birth, I had never been so scared in my life. I had never faced anything like this in my life. It tried both my faith and my strength. I have never prayed so hard, I have never begged God so desperately as I did in pleading for the life of my child. However, my prayers were not answered. But my child’s death was not in vain. It pulled our family closer than it has ever been.
Fred: Being a co-parent with an Ex that has significantly different parenting styles. Or stated another way, “Having the faith to give over your child without always knowing who or where they will be with for extended periods of time.” My only advice is to pray and realize statistically, the world really is a safer place for kids today than it was when we grew up. It is unfortunate the media has conditioned us to think otherwise. If you don’t believe me, read “Grown Up Digital” by Don Tapscott.
MD: What has been your most fulfilling fatherhood experience?
Eric: I could never pinpoint one. It’s a growing body work that adds to itself to on a daily basis. But if I must pick one in particular, watching my son graduate from 8th grade was pretty darn fulfilling.
Shawn: That my daughters love me unconditionally as I do them.
PJ: There hasn’t been any one thing in particular that has been especially fulfilling. I would have to say that watching my son progress and develop through the first 19 months of his life with me as his primary care provider has given me the greatest sense of fulfillment.
Paul: There really has been so many that it is hard to just name one. Children are very fulfilling.
Max: I think I am living the most fulfilling experience at this very moment. My two oldest children are away from home, and they are doing well. And my two youngest children are now teenagers, young adults, and they are rapidly becoming the young men and women we raised them to be. It is hard to believe these young men and women are the same babies we brought home from the hospital so long ago, and it is almost surreal watching them grow up so quickly.
Fred: Having a purposeful and meaningful career, two unbelievable kids, an exceptional wife and a never ending forgiving God who desires to know and hang with me every step of the way.
MD: How do you discipline your children?
Eric: I was raised in a “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” household. As a result I hold true to that premise as well, but not in the literal sense. I dole out punishments quite frequently (no different than I do rewards) in the form of loss of privileges (for my teenage son and loss of privileges and time outs for my daughter) because I want my kids to understand that their actions have consequences. Although I’m not averse to an occasional spanking, I do know they can create a mixed bag of results and in my own personal experience getting spanked only sparked my stubbornness as a child. In essence my soft behind kept getting softer because of my hard head. I grew up in a loud and sometimes argumentative household so I make a conscious effort not to raise my voice except when absolutely necessary as I believe if done in excess this mostly teaches your children to tune you out. I love my children and they know I do. I talk with them about everything. I answer all of their questions, even the hard and awkward ones. I play with them. I crack jokes with them. I even wrestle with them. I have thousands of pictures of them and I attend all my sons games in every sport, all year round. I am their number one fan. But I am not their friend in the sense that I am not trying to be their peer nor do I want them to be mine. We are clear on this.
Shawn: I use time outs and take away certain privileges.
PJ: Other than clearing his dinner plate from the table when he tries to feed the cat rather than himself, we really haven’t had many opportunities to discipline our son.
Paul: Without anger.
Max: Some time ago I heard or read something that had a profound effect on how I discipline my children. That something was the question, “How can you hit and inflict pain on those you profess to love even in the name of discipline.” Since then, we have not spanked our children. If they do something that needs to be addressed, we first discuss the issue with them and describe in complete detail our expectations of them. If this does not suffice, we then began to take privileges from them. Thus far this has worked. We have had no major discipline problems, only those that you could expect from children of a certain age.
Fred: Children are very different and unique. Therefore, the answer to this question is there is not a “one size fits all.” Based on the temperament, love language, and the way each child perceives pain, will determine the how each child needs to be disciplined. For my sensitive and genius five year old son, a correcting voice or the loss of a clock or calculator would pretty much end the world. For my 10 year old social daughter, not being allowed to play across the street with her friend is Hell on Earth. That said, I am not a fan of corporal punishment under any circumstances. Parents that “spank” lack creative thinking.
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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 money, religion, and other provocative topics.