One evening Melanie and I came home to find our 15-year-old son Chance lying across our bed with his nose in a science book. He was waiting for us because he’d come upon a roadblock in his chemistry homework.
I remember saying, “Chemistry … Do you need some help?”
He said, “I do.”
So, I turned and called out, “Melanie!”
Now, before I go on, you probably know that we place a big emphasis on fathers getting involved in their children’s education. Our WATCH D.O.G.S. program—where dads spend a day in their kid’s school—is a great way to do that. But we want dads involved at home, too.
In this case, my bride Melanie happens to be an elementary school teacher, and that night she was able to plug in right away and get our son moving in the right direction with his chemistry homework. She’s gifted that way, and I am not.
I stood there thinking, Boy, if I wasn’t married to this woman, where would I be? (I’m slow, but I’m not real slow.)
As dads, we don’t have to go at it alone. It pays to surround ourselves with other people who also care about our kids and who are gifted in ways we are not. In most situations, their mom is the ideal person for that role. The positive effect of that teamwork can be like using two hands for a task that would be frustrating and inefficient if you were using just one.
That’s the example provided by Cedric Finley, a man who is making a difference among young, often challenged dads through his work at Connections to Success here in Kansas City. He’s one of the men we proudly claim as a certified trainer for our Quenching the Father-Thirst program.
Recently Cedric stopped by our offices, and we had the privilege of hearing from him for a few minutes about some of his experiences as he works with fathers. He said that one of the most powerful sessions in the Quenching curriculum is focused on the partnership between moms and dads, and he mentioned an exercise using LEGOs® that helps to make the point. See the video:
This is an ingredient to excellence in fathering that sometimes gets pushed aside. And I can understand it. Divorced dads and men who are in a struggling marriage can be very dedicated to their children and involved in their lives—sometimes more than dads in strong marriages.
And I know that sometimes, despite a man’s best efforts, the children’s mom isn’t willing to cooperate with him in this way. That’s tragic for his kids, as Cedric points out in the video, and it wouldn’t seem fair to refer to that kind of committed dad as working with one hand behind his back. He’s doing great at making the most of a tough situation.
Still, I also can’t deny the great advantage it is to dads when we can work as a team with our children’s mother—married or not. Melanie and I have done that, and I know my children are better off for it.
Whatever your relationship with your children’s mother might be like, there are all kinds of other people who have their own way of getting through to your child—helping him, encouraging him, challenging him to go to the next level. It could be a teacher, coach or dance instructor; a youth leader at church; maybe one of your adult friends; a neighbor who has real-life experience in a field in which your child has an interest; maybe a professional tutor.
We dads are key players. We need to be monitoring what’s going on in our children’s lives and make sure those other influences really are positive—consistent with what we believe is best for them. We’re wise to utilize other people and take full advantage of their gifts, but together with our children’s mom, we’re the gatekeepers.
It’s all part of being an engaged, Championship Father who’s seeking the best for his children.
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
- Thank your children’s mom for the role she plays in your children’s lives. Recognize specific things she does for them that you aren’t gifted to do.
- Keep an open dialogue with your child’s mom about parenting and household responsibilities … and give each other a lot of grace. Find ways to make her role a little easier.
- Be that additional caring adult for kids you know. Show genuine interest in them; ask them questions; and don’t be afraid to offer some fatherly wisdom every now and then.
- What dads do you know who need some assistance you can give? Maybe a friend who needs to know he’s not alone in the fathering journey; a younger dad facing a challenge that you’ve been through as a dad; or an employee who needs a more flexible work schedule so he can be more involved in his children’s lives.
- Share your experiences with other dads. How has your partnership with your children’s mom been a benefit to your fathering? (Or an additional challenge?) Please join the discussion either below or on our Facebook page.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.