Dad Matters http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com A Blog for Dads. By Dads. Fri, 06 Mar 2015 11:00:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Adoption: A Father’s Perspective http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/adoption-a-fathers-perspective/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/adoption-a-fathers-perspective/#respond Fri, 06 Mar 2015 11:00:46 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2321 Here at Focus on the Family, we are all about family and adoption. Adoption is something that now that my kids are older, my wife and I have seriously considered. We know we have lots of love to give and we feel our hearts being prompted to look into this. One of my dear friends has adopted several children and works for an organization that sees families through the adoption process. Recently,she asked me about adoption and how dads view the process.

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Here at Focus on the Family, we are all about family and adoption. Adoption is something that now that my kids are older, my wife and I have seriously considered. We know we have lots of love to give and we feel our hearts being prompted to look into this. One of my dear friends has adopted several children and works for an organization that sees families through the adoption process. Recently,she asked me about adoption and how dads view the process. She gave me a story of one family’s journey through adoption and I would love to share a little bit of the Dad’s perspective as he journeyed through the adoption process… His name is Chris Smith and he shares some of his experience as an adoptive parent and the relationship with the birth parents:

Smith Family

An Adoptive Father’s Perspective:

Being at the beginning of the adoption process can be an overwhelming and scary experience.   After now having two incredible adoptions, I hope that maybe my experience can help to settle some of your nerves as you begin moving forward with this process.   Some of the biggest concerns that I had were bonding with the new child and how to navigate an open adoption.

First, it’s important to realize that adoption is a very spiritual process.  This is not a process of random chance.  God has a baby or babies in mind that are meant to come to your family.  As such, God will not set you up for failure.  If you just have the desire to love that child, you will.  I don’t like to use the phrase “love the child as your own.”  Your child is your child.  They may have found another way into your life, but that does not make them any less of your child.

Second, open adoptions are rarely understood by those who have never adopted.  The birth parents who choose you feel a connection with you.  That is why they are choosing you.  These parents love their babies very much and have come to realize that circumstances make it unable for them to give a child the life he or she deserves.  From the very beginning, you will have a bond with those birth parents.  At first that bond may revolve solely around the child, and that is okay.  Over time, your bond with the birth parents will continue to grow and develop.  In my case, that became extremely clear on Halloween night with my second daughter’s birth father.  Originally he was coming by to see her on her first Halloween.  Since she was only 3 months old at the time, she didn’t last too long into the night before it was time for bed.  After she was put down, he stayed with us for a few hours.  He and I were able to talk not only about Ellie, but also about sports, school, video games, etc.  That night I came to the realization that with this whole process, I have also gained a genuine friend.  Having your child’s birth parents in your life and your child’s life is a great blessing.  Treat it as such.

I wish you luck on your adoption journey.  It is a life-changing experience that serves as a great reminder of all the good that there is in the world.  Enjoy the journey!PicMonkey Collage2

They have an amazing story and please read about their journey here.

 

Focus is all about family and honestly when I see these kids in conditions and in homes that do not show them value, it breaks my heart! I feel such a tug that I wish I could adopt them all and just provide the love that they need and desire.

There are many stories out there that can give you the feeling like you should adopt. But I encourage you that you follow what the Lord is putting on your heart. There are so many children out there who just need a loving home and so many people who want to give that love to the children. Follow what the Lord has been prompting you on…He will make a way for it to happen.

I recently had the privilege of previewing our latest movie, “The Dropbox” and I can tell you I cried at how special these kids are and how much they just need a loving home. If you have any desire in your heart to adopt, or the Lord has been leading you in that direction, I would encourage you to watch this movie when it comes out in movie theaters in March of 2015.

 

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My 4-Year-Old Hasn’t Seen Frozen http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/my-4-year-old-hasnt-seen-frozen/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/my-4-year-old-hasnt-seen-frozen/#respond Wed, 04 Mar 2015 11:00:24 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2952 I have a confession to make. Is this blog a safe place? Okay … here it is:

My 4-year-old daughter has not seen Frozen.

There – what a relief it is to get that off my shoulders.

What? Is that so uncommon?

It is? Well, given the success of the movie at the box office and it’s Blu-Ray sales (and all of that, ka-ching! ka-ching!, merchandise), the film was well-watched by kids of all ages. Except for Daughter #1 and Daughter #2 (and their parents).

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My kids don't know who Olaf is ... let it go!

And Olaf is…?

I have a confession to make. Is this blog a safe place? Okay … here it is:

My 4-year-old daughter has not seen Frozen.

There – what a relief it is to get that off my shoulders.

What? Is that so uncommon?

It is? Well, given the success of the movie at the box office and it’s Blu-Ray sales (and all of that, ka-ching! ka-ching!, merchandise), the film was well-watched by kids of all ages. Except for Daughter #1 and Daughter #2 (and their parents).

In fact, my two little ladies haven’t seen many movies. There are some exceptions, of course. Daughter #1 is a proud owner of Mary Poppins. When I start breaking into song, I can blame a British nanny.

Before you send the Disney police to my door to force the Sage clan to watch Frozen, Big Hero 6, or whatever hit movie we’ve missed, let me explain.

My beautiful and very smart wife, Tiffany, and I hold a basic parenting philosophy that goes along the lines of: There’s plenty of time …

… for them to watch movies.

… for them to watch that TV show.

… for them to use the internet.

… for them to (fill in the blank).

There’s plenty of time for them to do these things when they get older. Why would we want to rush them? They’ll eventually have a chance, so long as Mama and Daddy deem them appropriate for their age.

Quick sidetrack: Do you ever wonder what “horror” stories your kids will tell their college roommates when they meet? I can just imagine the scene playing out where Daughter #1 recounts the story of how her crazy Daddy didn’t let her watch Frozen when it first came out. I can just see her friends gasping in disbelief.

That’s not to say that we keep any and all technology and screens out of their faces. Grandma bought Daughter #1 a kid tablet for Christmas this year. It did it’s part to keep her entertained whilst driving across Kansas, so it was a welcomed gift (and timely, at that). And we’ve downloaded kid-appropriate learning apps on our phones for our daughters to play with for certain periods of time.

Even so, in the case of Daughter #1, we still keep tabs on what she’s doing on the tablet, and limit her time with it. Again – when she’s older, she’ll have plenty of time later in life to decide to spend time consuming technology.

What we hope we’re doing is that we’re allowing her time to develop her imagination, as well as people skills. The thinking is that the less time she spends in front of a screen (no matter the size) the more time she’ll spend playing with us, or her non-screen toys or her sister.

Here’s my second confession: I spend way too much time in front of a screen – specifically my phone – while my kids are around. (That’s two confessions in one entry … this is starting to be cathartic).

I worry sometimes that what I’m portraying is starkly different from what I’m wanting them to do. That’s got to be up there in terms of worst parenting mistakes to make. I believe there’s a Parenting 101 course out there that centers on this very thing: your kids learn a lot more by watching you than by what you say to them.

I fear the message I’m sending is: what’s on my phone is way more important than interacting with you. And when I think of it like that, it’s a punch to the gut. That is the last thing I want them to think. I dearly want them to know that they are captivating. That being with them … not just in the same room, but really with them, is more important than keeping up with my Twitter timeline.

If you’re grappling with this whole intersection of kids and technology like I am, you should check out today’s Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast: Managing Technology’s Impact on Your Kids with Kathy Koch. I know I will.

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I Am Your Father. Come to the Normal Side. http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/i-am-your-father-come-to-the-normal-side/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/i-am-your-father-come-to-the-normal-side/#respond Sat, 28 Feb 2015 19:27:19 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2946 My daughter is getting married. She also wants me to walk her down the aisle while the Darth Vader theme song is playing.

No “Here Comes the Bride.” No sappy ballad from the 1970s. Emily wants the music of the evil galactic empire—killer of Jedi, maimer of ewoks—to bounce through the church as she enters into her new life.

I have several questions about this musical selection: Am I supposed to be Darth Vader in this scenario?

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darth vaderMy daughter is getting married. She also wants me to walk her down the aisle while the Darth Vader theme song is playing.

No “Here Comes the Bride.” No sappy ballad from the 1970s. Emily wants the music of the evil galactic empire—killer of Jedi, maimer of ewoks—to bounce through the church as she enters into her new life.

I have several questions about this musical selection: Am I supposed to be Darth Vader in this scenario? And if so, should I wear a mask? Is she Darth Vader, and thus giving her soon-to-be-husband a warning that, if he displeases her, he should expect psychic choke-holds? Does she just like music with a lot of dramatic downbeats? If she goes through with it, will I have to pay John Williams royalty fees?

I would ask her these questions, but she flees whenever I seem about ready to mention anything. She’s never been big on conflict, my daughter. Which makes her choice of music all the more ironic, I suppose.

But the whole thing has left me feeling a little … perplexed. I understand on some level that it’s her big day, and so she should be able to do what she wants. But heck, it’s kind of a landmark day both me and my bank account, too. Seems like that earns me at least a little say in the proceedings, if not a big ol’ veto stamp. And frankly, I don’t want “BOM-BOM-BOM-BUUM-BA-BOM-BUUM-BA-BOM ” be the lingering memory of my daughter’s wedding. I’m pretty sure that any court in the Galactic Empire would side with me legally.

But then I hear stories of parents who made their kids’ wedding their wedding. I hear about families who suffered some serious relational setbacks because of decisions—or non-decisions—made for that small little ceremony. I remember that, generally, I don’t even like weddings that much. Am I being selfish?

When my wife and I got married, she was pregnant and we were both in college, dirt poor. We got married in her parents’ back yard on a shoestring budget. It was the most stressful period of my life—a time when I felt so confused and guilty and scared of what the future might hold for the both of us.

Turns out, thanks to God’s wonderfully undeserved blessings, the future held some pretty fantastic things—a son and a daughter and good jobs and a great, great life. My daughter fell in love with a pretty neat guy. Both are deeply committed to God and both are heading into this marriage on a great trajectory—steering clear of the mistakes I made and beginning their lives together with confidence and love.

What else could a father ask for? Is it selfish for me to want the wedding to feel more traditional—more like the wedding I never really had? Yeah, I think maybe it is. Maybe it is selfish. Emily’s turned out to be such a witty, worthy, wonderful daughter. She’s become everything I could’ve ever hoped she would be. And now I want her to play my music, too?

When the big day comes, I’ll walk Emily down the aisle with whatever music she wants (if she wants me in that aisle at all). I’ll wear a mask if she wants me to. She’s given me so many wonderful days. I can give her just one.

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Parents Can’t Fix Everything… And That’s Okay http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/parents-cant-fix-everything-and-thats-okay/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/parents-cant-fix-everything-and-thats-okay/#respond Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:25:55 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2940 Sickness has descended upon our family’s home and hung around like that one party guest who you wish would leave early but who stays until 2 A.M. We’ve been like a bunch of sickly domino pieces crashing down on one another, and the kids have had it particularly rough.

Which is, like, one of the lamest things for a parent.

There really aren’t many things as sad and pitiful as watching your child get sick. It is especially heartbreaking (and frustrating) when there isn’t much you can do to fix them.

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Sickness has descended upon our family’s home and hung around like that one party guest who you wish would leave early but who stays until 2 A.M. We’ve been like a bunch of sickly domino pieces crashing down on one another, and the kids have had it particularly rough.

Which is, like, one of the lamest things for a parent.

There really aren’t many things as sad and pitiful as watching your child get sick. It is especially heartbreaking (and frustrating) when there isn’t much you can do to fix them.

You take them to the doctor, try all the medicines that you can, attempt to make them as comfortable as possible, and then wait for things to get better. It’s an agonizing process for parents.

A father holding his daughterFor me as a dad, it’s been difficult because I can’t fix it. And I like being able to fix it. The desire to make everything better for my wife and kids is one of my strongest and most irresistible urges. Not being able to accomplish that task and having to watch my kids be in pain? It’s awful.

The problem, though, is the temptation to then feel like it’s a reflection on you as a parent. As if somehow their contraction of the illness and their recovery from it was and is in your control. Maybe we can get past them getting sick since there are plenty of places it could have come from. But the healing process is all on us. At least it feels that way.

The same is often true for other areas of life and parenting. In a messy world, a lot can go wrong and impact us and our families. In those moments, in those trials, it can be incredibly difficult on us when we feel responsible for making everything better but, for a multitude of reasons, simply cannot. It can leave us feeling weak and ineffective or, worse than that, like failures.

Until we realize something important. Something that can free us from much of the anxiety that we heap on ourselves.

We can’t fix everything as parents… and that’s okay.

Which is not to say we can’t or shouldn’t even try. We should always try. We will always try. It’s in our blood. Realizing that we can’t fix everything doesn’t take away our desire to fix or the importance of that drive.

Instead, realizing that we can’t fix everything simply relieves us of guilt when fixes don’t come quickly… or easily. It’s a reminder that our success as parents isn’t tied to whether or not our children ever face challenges or trials (physical or otherwise), but is instead tied to how we walk through those times with them.

In a messy world, we aren’t always going to be able to protect our kids. It’s a hard truth. It isn’t easy to swallow. But we can, through caring for them and through living it out ourselves, teach our children what it looks like to persevere and forge ahead through the mess with faith, hope, and love.

That’s why it’s okay that we are not able to fix everything for our kids. Because they, just like us and all the generations before us, will face challenges that knock them down and seem insurmountable. And if we as their parents have showed them the way, their hearts will remember and turn to the only One who can overcome any obstacle or challenge we could ever face.

And that is a thing—a peace and a hope—more valuable than anything this world has to offer.

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A Neighborhood of Snow Angels http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/a-neighborhood-of-snow-angels/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/a-neighborhood-of-snow-angels/#respond Wed, 25 Feb 2015 11:00:01 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2924 This past weekend brought a lot of snow to Colorado Springs. Nothing on the scale of what the northeast is experiencing this winter (thank you God!), but the 7” that fell on our driveway over the course of two days was the most I remember shoveling in the 6 ½ years since we moved to the Rocky Mountains (believe it or not).

The snow brought along with it a gift – a snow day for Focus on the Family on Monday … plus a delayed start on Tuesday!

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Daughter #1 With Snowball

Abominable Snowman, or Adorable Daughter?

This past weekend brought a lot of snow to Colorado Springs. Nothing on the scale of what the northeast is experiencing this winter (thank you God!), but the 7” that fell on our driveway over the course of two days was the most I remember shoveling in the 6 ½ years since we moved to the Rocky Mountains (believe it or not).

The snow brought along with it a gift – a snow day for Focus on the Family on Monday … plus a delayed start on Tuesday! I won’t complain about a 3+ day weekend, any week of the year.

What I didn’t like so much was the shoveling. In all, I had two rounds of shoveling my modestly-sized driveway and front sidewalk. Accompanying me was my trusty dog, Ari, as well as (for varying amounts of time) Daughter #1, Daughter #2 and my wife, Tiffany.

The girls (including Ari) all had fun, while I trudged through the inches of snow with my rickety shovel. I know it’s a good snow when I actually need to use the shovel over my 24” push broom (the light/dry snow here often makes clearing the driveway fairly easy).

Now, the key fathering scene from the weekend occurred toward the end of round #1 of shoveling. By that time, Tiffany had taken Daughter #2 inside for her nap, leaving Ari and Daughter #1 as my companions. I was seeing the end of the road (literally and figuratively) when my older, widowed neighbor Mary had come out of her house and started toward our house.

After exchanging some pleasantries, talking about all the white stuff glistening around us (as even more fell on our heads), and making a fuss over Daughter #1, Mary extended her hand with a $20 bill and asked if I’d shovel her driveway.

By this point, I was ready to wrap up the last bit of my sidewalk and head in for warmer temps and a hot mug of cocoa (with a mound of marshmallows on top). But, I also grew up in a family that always took care of our next door neighbor, Linda, who also was widowed. I remember us shoveling her driveway a bunch of times. I was relieved when Dad bought a snow blower, thus rendering my shoveling efforts (of our driveway and Linda’s) unnecessary.

With that in mind, I shrugged off my exhaustion and told Mary that I’d gladly shovel her driveway. When she motioned me to take the $20, I declined. I told her it’d be my pleasure to do it and the money wasn’t necessary. At that point, Mary tried to haggle with me, trying to get me to take at least $10. I stood firm. I wanted to do this for her. To show her neighborly, and godly love with no strings attached. She reluctantly relented and thanked me profusely.

That’s when I realized that Daughter #1 was listening to the entire conversation. I couldn’t have planned that – I’m just not that good. I couldn’t have been more excited that she was able to see and observe me loving on our neighbor.

As soon as I finished up our sidewalk and I started heading toward Mary’s house, I figured that Daughter #1 would jump ship for a mug of cocoa. But, to my surprise, she tagged along. As we made our way over, I could spot one of my other neighbors firing up their snow blower and after clearing their own driveway, took care of two of the other driveways in the neighborhood. I could feel the neighborly love going around, as that neighbor and I were helping out where we could (though I wished I had a snow blower in the effort).

Mid-shovel toss, Daughter #1 asked questions about what I was doing and why. I was happy for the chance to answer that I was clearing Mary’s driveway for her because she would have trouble doing it herself. Daughter #1 then decided to help as much as her 4-year-old frame could muster. And, when she got bored doing that, she made games of picking up the large snowballs that formed as I slid my shovel through the snow. I love that little girl. I can only hope (and, obviously, pray) that she’ll pick up on the little moments where I try to show her what loving your neighbor can be about.

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6 Things That Rock About Being a Dad http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/6-things-that-rock-about-being-a-dad/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/6-things-that-rock-about-being-a-dad/#respond Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:17:41 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2913 On a long car ride back from skiing this weekend, two good friends and I got to talking about what we most enjoy about being dads – things big and small. In no particular order, here are six of the things we landed on that we most relish about being … Dad.

Broadening your horizons. If you approach life willing to experience new adventures, having kids is a great way to do it. While we hope our kids will adopt some of our interests, their varied personalities mean that they will have interests of their own that we’d otherwise never be exposed to.

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On a long car ride back from skiing this weekend, two good friends and I got to talking about what we most enjoy about being dads – things big and small. In no particular order, here are six of the things we landed on that we most relish about being … Dad.

  1. Broadening your horizons. If you approach life willing to experience new adventures, having kids is a great way to do it. While we hope our kids will adopt some of our interests, their varied personalities mean that they will have interests of their own that we’d otherwise never be exposed to. I know about a wide range of dog breeds, how to brush girl hair, what it takes to play a guitar, how to build a Pinewood derby car and a catapult, and so much more that I would never have experienced without my kids and their individual interests and giftings.
  1. Connecting with each child uniquely. Building on #1, what feeds and energizes each of your children is different. My daughter and I like to read and play board games together. My son and I enjoy hearty burgers, listening to music, and watching action films together. For one of my friends, he knows one of his daughters loves ‘dad dates’ at Jamba Juice, while another daughter gets her ‘love tank’ filled by kicking the soccer ball around.
  1. Showing affection. When children are younger, nothing beats the “Dad’s home!” party at the door when you return from work. It’s also fun to have unique exchanges of affection for each child. One child may be your hugger. You might have a special ‘high five’ or hand touch you share with another. Maybe you blow-and-catch kisses with your daughter. As they get older, the affection you share with your kids may change in frequency and form, but it’s still one of the most fulfilling parts of having children. Even to an independence-seeking teenager, it never stops being important.
  1. Stay feeling young. As dads, one of the unstated parts of the job description is to just be silly every now and then. Wrestle on the floor, have a tickle fest or make faces at each other. My kids get a huge charge out of it when I take to the trampoline with them.“Being able to be a kid around your kids keeps you young,” says one friend. “Especially when it’s just me and the kids, it’s great to cut loose, and just enjoy each other once in a while.”
  1. Bedtime routines. Whether it’s reading together, recapping the day, or closing out the night with prayer, that last touch point can often be the most meaningful connection to your children. As one friend shared, “If my kids have something they want to talk about, they can count on me coming in 1-on-1 at the end of the day and asking, ‘Is everything OK, and give them the opportunity to say something if it’s on their minds.” For me, bedtime has become when I have the most meaningful conversations with my teenager.
  1. Rich fishing with his daughterMaking shared memories. You never know when a moment with your kids is going to turn into a classic family memory. It could be a simple ride to the store where you have a conversation that sticks. Helping your daughter catch her first fish. Or, a vacation trip 1,000 miles away. But those shared memories can last a lifetime. The only requirement is making family time an ongoing priority.

As one friend wisely summed up: “You can always find excuses not to do something. But then you miss out on so much.”

Check out our related Facebook post and share what you think rocks most about being Dad.

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Father Oscar: What the Academy Awards Can Teach About Fatherhood http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/father-oscar-what-the-academy-awards-can-teach-about-fatherhood/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/father-oscar-what-the-academy-awards-can-teach-about-fatherhood/#respond Mon, 23 Feb 2015 15:32:38 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2909 The Oscars were held last night, and while Birdman took home the most prestigious award of the evening, fathers were just as much on center stage.

The stories we saw weren’t always easy to see or hear. In both Boyhood and Birdman, considered to be the two front-runners for Best Picture when the evening began, we see strained relationships between father and child. In Boyhood, Mason’s dad is great when he’s around … but that’s not often enough, and Mason feels the hole his father leaves behind.

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goldenpondThe Oscars were held last night, and while Birdman took home the most prestigious award of the evening, fathers were just as much on center stage.

The stories we saw weren’t always easy to see or hear. In both Boyhood and Birdman, considered to be the two front-runners for Best Picture when the evening began, we see strained relationships between father and child. In Boyhood, Mason’s dad is great when he’s around … but that’s not often enough, and Mason feels the hole his father leaves behind. In Birdman, Riggan has already been the distant, absentee father. And now he dearly wants to make amends to his angry, adult daughter.

There were other father stories on display last night.  And we see that same strain in many of them. Fathers matter, these movies tell us. How dads do their jobs has a huge impact on their children—for good or ill. And very often, dads don’t do their jobs very well.

And yet, the need for Dad—the desire for his love and approval—rarely goes away.

The first Oscars telecast I ever watched was in 1982, when I was 12 years old. I was personally rooting for Raiders of the Lost Ark that year, but On Golden Pond was up for a bunch of awards, too, including Best Picture, Best Actor, for Henry Fonda and best Supporting Actress for Henry’s daughter, Jane.

Henry won, and Jane bounded to the stage to accept the award for her absent father.

“Oh, Dad,” she said, overwhelmed, “I’m so happy, and so proud for you.”

I didn’t think about it much at the time. But there was quite a backstory behind those 10 words.

Henry Fonda had been one of Hollywood’s leading men for five decades by the time On Golden Pond came out, appearing in such classics as The Grapes of Wrath and 12 Angry Men. But he’d never won an Oscar.  By 1982, meanwhile, daughter Jane had already won two—but she was perhaps better known for her political leanings and the controversies that seemed to follow her wherever she went. Ten years earlier, she’d visited North Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War, and famously became known as Hanoi Jane.

The two famous Fondas never had a warm relationship. Henry was not an outwardly affectionate man, Jane says, and Jane’s political activism strained their affections almost to the breaking point. In many ways, their relationship resembled what audiences saw onscreen. Jane bought the rights to On Golden Pond as a star vehicle for her father—but in watching this interview, the reasons obviously go deeper.

She mentions in the interview that Henry Fonda died just five months after receiving his Oscar. Giving it to him, she says, was “one of the happiest moments of my life.”

Dads matter.  Henry Fonda mattered so much to Jane that she bought a movie for him and cast herself beside him, just so she could say the things she was desperate to say. They tried to heal wounds through scripted words, finding real-world solace behind the safety of fiction.

I was thinking about this when J.K. Simmons accepted the statuette for Best Supporting Actor for his searing role in Whiplash. And in his acceptance speech, he encouraged us to reach out to our own fathers and mothers—to show our appreciation to them when we have the chance.

“And if I may, call your mom,” he said. “Everybody … call your mom, call your dad. If you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don’t text, don’t e-mail. Call them on the phone. Tell them you love them and thank them and will be to them for as long as they want to talk to you. Thank you. Thank you, Mom and Dad.”

It’s good advice, I think. Sometimes that call is easy. Sometimes, depending our relationship with our dads, not so much. Sometimes it can feel awkward, as Jane Fonda knows.

But since we’re the dads now, I think it’s important for us to think about the future—to give our children the sort of relationship that’ll make them want to call. It’s not always easy. We’re not always great at it, as the movies nominated this year suggest. But it’s possible. And even if your relationship with your kids isn’t on the best of trajectories now, it’s not too late.

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Do Unto Others’ Children As You Would Have Them Do Unto Yours http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/do-unto-others-children-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-yours/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/do-unto-others-children-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-yours/#respond Thu, 19 Feb 2015 18:31:17 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2839 My wife and I did something daring recently. Not because we’re “daredevils” or because we like to “live life on the edge,” but because we knew—in spite of the “risks”—that it was what we were supposed to do.

We became licensed as foster parents.

Maybe it’s not really such “daring” thing to do. Many other parents have done it before us and are doing it now. But to hear the concerns often voiced over our decision to become foster parents one would think we had just agreed to sell our family—and our children, in particular—up the river.

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My wife and I did something daring recently. Not because we’re “daredevils” or because we like to “live life on the edge,” but because we knew—in spite of the “risks”—that it was what we were supposed to do.

We became licensed as foster parents.

Maybe it’s not really such “daring” thing to do. Many other parents have done it before us and are doing it now. But to hear the concerns often voiced over our decision to become foster parents one would think we had just agreed to sell our family—and our children, in particular—up the river.

Foster children have, it seems, acquired a stereotype over the years. An unflattering one that intimidates many away from becoming foster parents.

It’s not all their fault, though, as an often messy system doesn’t always do them a lot of favors. It’s a hassle to even become a foster parent and then, the story goes, even more difficult to actually stay a foster parent.

There is truth there. For a variety of reasons, it is not an easy process. There are a lot of legal requirements, and the legal risk of taking a child into your home falls squarely on your shoulders as the foster parent. You have nothing to lose if you choose not to do foster care. There is a lot to lose if you choose to do foster care and something goes wrong on your watch, accidental or otherwise. Tack on the stories you hear about foster children “breaking bad” and the prospect can often appear to be a lose-lose situation.

No Longer Content to Keep Our Hearts “Safe”

For many reasons, including some of the ones  just mentioned, my wife and I had never given foster care more than a passing glance. We’ve always had a heart for orphans and known we wanted to adopt. We just thought it would look… well, different.

Lonely child sitting by himselfThere was too much mess in the foster care system and besides, we thought to ourselves, the kids in the foster care system here in the U.S. still have life way better than kids in orphanages in third-world countries. We would wait, we thought, and save our money in order to be able to adopt a child from another country.

Which, to be clear, is an incredibly (and equally) important calling.

But then, gradually, my heart began to change. I can’t pinpoint when it started, or why. All I know is that suddenly it kept popping up, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Randomly, I began learning more about it by proxy. People around me were talking about it and, after taking a new job, I was hearing my boss share about his family’s journey in foster care as they were living it. It was inescapable and finally I knew I had to at least mention it to my wife.

“Honey,” I told her one night after work, “I know this is crazy, and I don’t know what to do with it yet. But can you be thinking about the idea of foster care with me? I don’t even know if we’re supposed to do it. I just know I can’t stop thinking about it.” (I’m super sweet and quietly eloquent in my memories.)

A week later, we were scheduled to take a tour at a local foster care agency. “Apparently I was accidentally really persuasive,” I thought, “I just wanted her to think about it. Now she’s all in and gears are turning. I suppose we’ll see where this takes us.”

Seven months and scads of soul-searching later, we’re newly minted and licensed foster parents waiting on our first placement. Anxious to meet and welcome our first child into our home.

Yes, our child.

Moving from “Others” to “Ours”

The biggest part of our heart change was not simply becoming open to a different form of adoption. It was, instead, a different heart for children in general.

It began with the realization of the painful realities faced by children in the U.S. foster care system. Learning about their pain helped take stories from hear-say to reality. It continued by wondering, “What if that were one of my own children? What if no one cared for them because they didn’t want to bother with the system? Or take a chance dealing with the brokenness?” It turned to a passion and a drive when we began to realize that these were not “just” someone else’s children. These were—and are—also our children.

They are all (every single one of them) our (every single one of us) children.

Concept, paper figures of family in hands

You see, God doesn’t discriminate with His love. He desires each of us to be His child and to receive Him as our Father. And, when He calls us to be like Him and to have His heart, the same approach to love is asked of us. As difficult as it can be to wrap our heads around, we are called to love all children equally regardless of their biological relationship to us. The same adoptive love is offered to each of us. Who are we, then, to offer any differently to those around us?

It was a similar heart change that compelled Pastor Lee Jong-rak to open his heart and his home to the broken and unwanted children of Seoul, South Korea.

My wife and I had the opportunity to watch a documentary (called “The Drop Box”) based on his home and community a few months ago, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We were at a lull in the process of getting licensed and, as “luck” would have it, we had just weathered three straight weeks of illness in our home.

We were feeling discouraged, and our resolve was feeling weakened. “Were we just crazy?” we wondered to each other. “Is this really something God is drawing us to?”

Seeing and hearing the heart of Pastor Lee settled our hearts. It was like God was touching our hearts through his testimony. So we pushed through.

“God, I Will Die For These Children”

We pushed through because we realized, as many have before us, that setbacks and discouragements are par for the course when any of us try to accomplish anything worthwhile. It comes with the territory. They don’t define us though. It’s how we deal with them that defines us. It’s the decisions we make when facing them that determine our course.

It is up to us to say, like God has said and like Pastor Lee is saying,

I will die for these children.

I don’t know what that looks like for you. I only know what it looks like for me, and even that I am learning piece by piece as God leads us.

What I do know, though, and what I do ask, is that it’s worth taking the time to consider His call. Take a chance. Take a risk. Start small.

Even if it’s as small a thing as buying a movie ticket.

Then respond to the call by obeying step-by-step in whatever direction He leads. Not because I’m telling you it’s the right thing to do. Do it because the children need us.

Our children need us.

*****

“The Drop Box” is a documentary film being released by Pine Creek Entertainment in association with Focus on the Family and Kindred Image. It will be in theaters March 3-5, 2015 and tickets can be purchased through Fathom Events.

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Human Life: How Important Is It? http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/human-life-how-important-is-it/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/human-life-how-important-is-it/#respond Wed, 18 Feb 2015 11:00:46 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2664 OK…I know I am going to open a can of worms with this one, especially with all of the debates and bills that were up before the Senate and Congress several weeks ago. But as I have been thinking and praying this week, I realized that we just recently celebrated Sanctity of Human Life week and it is the opportunity to celebrate the value of a human being.

As I reflected on it this week, I pondered what would have been different if my parents had chosen abortion, or if I had chosen abortion with my kids.

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OK…I know I am going to open a can of worms with this one, especially with all of the debates and bills that were up before the Senate and Congress several weeks ago. But as I have been thinking and praying this week, I realized that we just recently celebrated Sanctity of Human Life week and it is the opportunity to celebrate the value of a human being.

As I reflected on it this week, I pondered what would have been different if my parents had chosen abortion, or if I had chosen abortion with my kids. What if I had fallen prey to the societal norms of going for an abortion. Putting aside even the moral and biblical implications of abortion, what would I have missed in my life if I didn’t believe in the sanctity of human life? There is something about having kids that completes life. Yes…it can be troublesome at times, and as a parent you could be on your knees in prayer so much that you feel like sometimes you just want to give up.

However, there is an immense joy that comes from raising kids. I think back and realize that if I had followed the societal norms, that I would have missed the joy that it brings my eldest daughter in raising and taking care of animals or her kind heart. Or I would have missed the joy I get in seeing my son excel in his musical talent or the fact that he is an absolute protector of his sisters and mother. Or I would have missed how my youngest greets me at the door everyday with a hug or the time she was at the dentist and wanted me to just keep giving her kisses because she didn’t want her teeth being looked at.

sohlfeetI am grateful that my wife and I firmly believed that this was not something we wanted. But beyond this, what about those that feel like they do not have any choice? What is it that makes people feel like they have no help or are just too afraid of what could happen? I ask myself today, what would happen if my daughter got pregnant? What would I want for her. The pain, the loneliness, the fear of being alone in this or not having the help they need, the judgement of other Christians, and the list could go on.

When abortion was legalized, medical technology was not as advanced as it is today and people didn’t know, beyond the biblical context, what was involved in the creation of a child. Today we can see life in the womb and see the reactions of babies as they grow. We know differently today through the advances in technology, so why do we still see so many lives ended? There are so many resources out there now and so many people who are willing to help.

What about the people who are deemed not fit for society? I know this is hard but because of the recent science breakthroughs, we now have the capability to define what our children will look like and what genes we want them to have or no to have. this reminds me of my science fiction class that I took many years ago and the movie I had to write about was exactly this, where through genetic manipulation, the human race was bred into castes and predestined what they would do (Divergent, Gattaca, the Dune Series, Aldous Huxley’s; Brave New World) and what role they would fill and everyone went through genetic manipulation to be a certain way.

We are doing this today in our world, and this was seen as sci-fi, not too long ago. What are we doing when we try to eradicate certain traits in humans? What cost does this have? Even though we live in a fallen world and things happen because of the fall, this doesn’t mean that the children that are brought in don’t have a purpose in this life. To God, every single life is precious, no matter what their state of mind or genetic traits.

Trusting God

Your are not alone in this journey. Someone is always by your side and will provide help…if you only ask…

We as dads or as soon-to-be fathers have tremendous power to influence the lives around us if we choose to. And we have the ability to do it in a positive manner. Too many times we shirk our responsibility of taking care of our families. We are called to stand up and be the support that our families need. Even if you are new to this or are planning it at some point in time, there are so many resources available to help you on the journey. The biggest thing we need to do as men is step up and take care of the person who has this life growing in her and taking care of both the mother and kid after the birth.

Please know that we as fathers can impact those around us in a positive way. There are so many resources that are available now such as ultrasounds for women who are considering abortion, or support for mothers or mothers-to-be. If you know anyone who needs help, there is just so much that we can do as fathers to help others realize the value of life and that there are options other than abortion.

Please, if you know of anyone struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, provide them the support they need and give them a lifeline. They are not alone in this…there is help!

Focus on the Family’s Licensed Counselors can help! Or visit us here for more great resources!

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I Miss the NICU… http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/i-miss-the-nicu/ http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/i-miss-the-nicu/#respond Tue, 17 Feb 2015 11:00:53 +0000 http://dadmatters.focusonthefamily.com/?p=2375 “Dad, can you tell Zach to stop bothering me?!?”

“Dad, can you make me some lunch???”

“Dad, why can’t I have some ice cream???”

“Dad, why….???”

“Dad, what…???”

“Dad, when…???”

I miss the NICU.

With a family of six, there is always something happening and a Daddy’s job is never done. Making dinner, putting out fires, stopping fights, comforting tears, praying at bedtime, changing diapers….you know the drill. In contrast, the NICU was so much quieter and less chaotic (most of the time).

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“Dad, can you tell Zach to stop bothering me?!?”

“Dad, can you make me some lunch???”

“Dad, why can’t I have some ice cream???”

“Dad, why….???”

“Dad, what…???”

“Dad, when…???”

I miss the NICU.

IMG_5114 - Version 2With a family of six, there is always something happening and a Daddy’s job is never done. Making dinner, putting out fires, stopping fights, comforting tears, praying at bedtime, changing diapers….you know the drill. In contrast, the NICU was so much quieter and less chaotic (most of the time). My son had his normal routine, his normal nurses and he was isolated in his little NICU pod. If there were feedings to do, or diapers to change, or fires to put out, the nurses and doctors took care of them. Sure, the anxiety and worry never left the pod either, but it was less crazy and chaotic than home. But you know what? That’s not why I miss the NICU though. If I am honest, I love being a daddy at home. Sure, there are days that I need a break and cannot wait for my next business trip, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Seriously.

You know why I miss the NICU today, even one year later? Intimacy. That’s right, intimacy. In the NICU, amidst the anxieties and such, I experienced intimacy with my son like I have not had with any of my other children. With Abbie, Zach and JT, they all were born by c-section, spent 1-2 weeks in the hospital and then they came home and entered our normal home routine. Especially in the case of my third child, Jackson, he was thrown into the normal daily chaotic stream of the Kuiper household.

“No stopping for you kiddo! I can change your diaper, but then I have to go play with your brother, or help your sister with her homework.”

But with my son Timmy, everything changed when he was born eight weeks early and spent the next three months in the NICU. He was not thrown into the chaos at home, but was isolated from it. While our family worked through dinners, and homework and laundry at home, Timmy fought for his life and for growth in the hospital. And while our lives were thrown into disarray as we juggled the four different lives of school, work, hospital and home, Timmy soldiered on. Every day, Treshia would visit him for half a day, then I would come and spend the other part of the day with him. It was crazy and extremely difficult, but I miss part of it.

I miss the intimacy at the hospital. When I would arrive at the NICU, I would check in, wash my hands, walk to my son’s little pod-room and the world would fall away. I would sit and hold my tiny baby boy for hours at a time without interruption. There was no chance of interruption from his sister and brothers and there were no fires that I was responsible to put out. All I had to do was “worry” about loving on my son and bonding with him. 4-5 hours of pure intimacy with my boy. And that’s what I miss about the NICU.

I wonder if the Lord feels this same way about the time I spend with Him each morning? In the midst of my crazy-busy life, it is SO easy to let my daily quiet time to get caught up and lost, like my son Jackson coming home from the hospital. Soon, I am “too busy” or “too tired” to take that isolated time and it is forgotten. Meanwhile, God longs for those intimate times when He can get me away from the pandemonium, hold me, and pour into His child. So maybe the NICU is what I need everyday?

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