Monday, December 28, 2015

The Fraternity Of Fatherhood

When I was a boy growing up in Baltimore City, I often wondered what it would be like to be a father. I always felt somehow, that I would be a good father, but I wasn't sure how I would get there. For most of my childhood, I grew up in a single-family home with my mother. Our life during my childhood was good, but we often struggled as my mom worked really hard to make ends meet. I watched my mother work full-time while putting herself through college and taking care of me. As she continued to excel in her career, our quality of life became better. I truly admired her for that, but I was still missing something.

My father was around while I was growing up, but not on a daily basis. In fact, there were some long spans of time when I didn't see my dad. When I had the opportunity to spend time with him, he taught me things, but they were usually most useful to me on the streets. I mean, he taught me how to be tough and defend myself. Those kinds of things were very helpful to me, but I also needed to be around some other positive males that could collectively teach me what being a man, and ultimately a great father, was really all about. I needed and wanted to learn how to do that.

As I grew into adulthood, I learned that it takes more than just reaching a certain age, or having the ability to reproduce that makes someone a good father. When I became a father, I realized that I was automatically inducted into an elite fraternity of brothers that easily surpasses any other fraternity that anyone could be a part of in terms of the level of importance. I came to understand that God charged me with the obligation of being a teacher to my children.

Over the years, I have made plenty mistakes while dealing with my children. Everything has not always gone the way I wanted, as nothing rarely ever does. I have learned that it takes a combination of several attributes that has helped me to become a better father. There are several characteristics that every father must incorporate within himself that can help him to be the best possible father that he can be. I have compiled a list of some of those characteristics.

1. Every father should be a role model for his children. So many young people tend to look up to celebrities to pattern themselves after. Some of those celebrities accept that role and handle it pretty well. On the other hand, I can't count how many times athletes have rejected the responsibility of being a role model to kids. They don't want that responsibility. There are others who seem to want the role, but are not fit to lead a five-year old to a kindergarten classroom. Above any other group, it is the father's job to live the kind of life that any child would desire to emulate.

2. Every father should be a teacher. A father should instruct his children on all matters of life. That is not to say that a father should know everything. No one knows everything. The point is that the father should be involved in every aspect of his children's lives. He should be there to provide advice and guidance to assist his children as they develop and progress through life. Fathers should certainly be able to share the lessons that he has learned during his lifetime with his children that may have profound effects on them as well. In my opinion, besides a school teacher, no other person should pour into a child more than their father.

3. Every father should be a disciplinarian as all children need discipline in their life. Fathers should be the catalysts of discipline for their children so that the judicial system does not have to become that catalyst. Being a disciplinarian is about teaching children to obey laws and to follow rules that are enforced by consequences. Developing a reverence for leadership should start with the father. If done correctly, children will most often grow into law-abiding citizens with a healthy amount of respect for authority in all areas of their lives.

4. Fathers are supposed to be the primary provider for their children. Financial situations are different for everyone, but the effort to provide should not solely be financial in nature, although it is very important. It is still just one aspect of providing. Other aspects of providing for children may include, but are not limited to friendship, love, security, emotional support, guidance, and life skills. This list of things could go on forever, but the point is that being an active father can have a positive and powerful influence on the development of our children.

5. Fathers can be empathizers for their children. We are a fountain of knowledge and information for our children. The experiences that we have gone through can help us to pass along wisdom that will be invaluable to them. We are the ones that can relate to our children the most. While there may be some variances to the situations that young people face today, we can still have some level of understanding and even compassion for what they go through. Sometimes our children may not even need us to fix all their problems. Just being there to listen to them could do wonders for their esteem and give them a sense of support.

Being a father is not easy for many reasons. There are so many things to deal with when it comes to raising children. It's even more difficult when the father and mother are not in the same household. However, being a father is a great privilege that should not be taken lightly. Any man who is lucky enough to have children, is automatically inducted into the fraternity of fatherhood and should purpose in himself to live by the code of the fraternity. It is our responsibility to raise our children. If we relegate that responsibility to others, we are delinquent in our obligation to God, negligent to our communities, and ultimately accountable for the outcome of any of our children who become wayward.

Fathers, let's work really hard together to make a positive change in the lives of our children. We have to step up our game. There are so many of our children who are going down the wrong path, but we can turn that around by increasing the level of activity that we have in the lives of these children. Whether a man is or is not a biological father, he can be a member of the fraternity of fatherhood by being a mentor to a young person in need. Understanding that fatherhood is difficult, we can also seek advice from each other when we encounter unfamiliar territory. We don't have to try to do everything on our own. We are a band of brothers. We are the fraternity of fatherhood!

L. Wayne Smalls, Author of Called To Be A Soldier and President of L. Wayne Smalls & Associates, LLC. is a retired Army Officer who is now a motivational speaker and writer. See more at

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

A Father's Day Story

It's Father's Day today here in Australia and, as such, I feel obliged to come clean. To admit that the more I traveled, the more excuses I often found myself making for not wanting children.

But, the truth is, when all was said and done, I could've saved myself the effort. The truth is everything more or less boiled down to a single memory of an event from over thirty five years earlier.

It was an 'event' that started with little more than a pleading glance and culminated in a late afternoon, front yard, sporting triathlon. As such, over the years I've often wondered-when it seems my memory has frequently failed me in other, substantially more significant matters-- how or why my long term memory managed to latch on to such a fleeting moment?

The glance would be an exchange of non-verbal communication between my mother and father after I'd ambushed dad to shoot some baskets in the front yard only moments after his getting home from a long day of high school teaching. Dad looked to mom there in the kitchen with eyes that silently begged for her to speak up.

To play the role of dutiful wife and explain to her eldest son that his father was tired. That he had to rest up before heading out, as he often did, for the evening to referee a couple basketball games. Or any of a 101 legitimate excuses to remove himself from this unexpected date with fatherly obligation.

As I remember it, mom just shrugged her shoulders and smiled. Then went right back to whatever it was she'd been doing when we both came in. Her verdict rendered, all that was left was for dad to get changed and us to head outside. Which we did.

For thirty minutes we took turns shooting baskets before I was ready for a change and ran into the garage for a football after which father and son took turns running pass routes for another thirty minutes that probably seemed like hours for dad.

And, still, I wasn't finished.

Because it was only then that each of us finally donned baseball gloves where I went about striking out countless invisible batters as dad squatted on aching legs getting his hand stung and, eventually, his shins repeatedly dinged by the occasional ball 'in the dirt'. That was usually the cue that WE'D had enough.

For years the images from that afternoon's three sport extravaganza and 'the look' that proceeded it stayed with me. I could hide behind the allure of all the smiles, memories and good times the road had ever offered up but, the truth was, that memory from so many years earlier simply scared me. It was, I knew, what it meant to be a parent and, as such, the bar had been set at a height I wasn't prepared to reach for.

Then, things just happen.

Today, just a little more than two years into things, while organized sport is not yet in the picture, there are still books to read, movies to play, blocks to stack, trips over to the beach and too many parks to visit on any given afternoon. And always, it seems, on the heels of not nearly enough sleep.

It's at these times that the exchange between my parents comes back to me--the sigh, the rolling of the eyes, the shrug and the smile-and that fear gets buried just ever so much deeper.

It's then that, like my father did for me, I discover the energy all good parents somehow manage to tap into. The energy to keep reaching for the bar.

Thirty plus years ago, a young 13 year old got his first clue surrounding the work of parenting. Today, a child of his own only confirms it.

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