FathersArticles

Articles for Fathers

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    40,000 to an Audience of One

    Anger, hurt and fear are some of the emotions Ben Petrick felt when it was confirmed in 2000 that at age 22 he had early-onset Parkinson’s disease. He went from being a very gifted catcher with an incredible future with the Colorado Rockies to not knowing what tomorrow would bring.  

    “My entire identity was in baseball,” said Petrick. “I spent most of my adult life with 25 guys in a clubhouse or on the field. I had only wished for two things in life, to play pro baseball and to be a father. Now, one of those had been stripped from me and I had no clue how I would do the other with my physical limitations. I was very down. The disease progressed over five years to the point that there were many times I was not able to help care for our daughter.”

    In an effort to improve his quality of life, Petrick underwent risky surgery. Initially, the surgery seemed to be successful, but a short time later he developed an infection which landed him back in the hospital and unable to move. At this point, he told his father he thought that his family might be better off if they didn’t have to worry about him.

    “My dad looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you ever say that. You have a daughter at home who is counting on you. Quit thinking about yourself and think about your daughter.’ Not a surprising response from the man who had pushed me my entire life to be a better person,” he recalled.

    A few months later, Petrick underwent a successful second surgery. With medication, his physical ability was back to almost 100 percent. While his wife taught, he was able to help with their two daughters, Makena and Madison. He also gave private lessons and helped coach a local high school baseball team.

    “When the disease robbed me of the thing I loved, I was bitter and had no clue who I was anymore,” Petrick said. “Looking back, my baseball career seems like a million years ago. I am happy that I had the opportunity to play. I didn’t finish my career the way I wanted, but I am okay with that. My focus has turned to caring for my wife and girls. My oldest daughter could care less that I am not playing ball anymore. She just wants me to get on the floor and play princess. I figured out that my little girls gave me something that 40,000 fans in the stands couldn’t give me, a love that made me want to live.”

    It was only through adversity that Petrick figured out his real purpose in life.

    “When you marry and have children, you give your wife and kids a ‘Forever card,’” he said. “It signifies that I’ll be there for them yesterday, today and always. I had definitely been thrown a curveball, but in the darkest time, my purpose became clear: My job was to focus on the needs of those I love.”

    “I used to think that being a champion depended on what I did when nobody else was watching,” Petrick said. “Now I know it is about what I do before the eyes of two precious little girls.”

    To learn more about Petrick, you can check out his full story on ESPN 360 or read a collection of short stories from his life in the book, 40,000 to One.

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    Where Have All the Fathers Gone?

    Several years ago a company donated Mother’s Day cards for prisoners to send to their mothers, and they actually ran out of cards. The company also donated cards for Father’s Day, but guess what? This time, inmates only used a handful of cards. This shocked the company.

    A Pew research piece may offer some insight into why this happened. After analyzing the 2011 American Community Survey, Pew asserted that a record 40 percent of all households with children under 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.

    On the surface this sounds like a victory for women, but the report's details tell a very different story. It shows that two very different groups make up these "breadwinner moms." Actually, 5.1 million are married mothers who earn more than their husbands, and 8.6 million are single mothers.

    “You would never guess from the triumphant headlines in the media that almost two-thirds of the family breadwinners are single mothers,” says Kay Hymowitz, William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Manning Up and Marriage and Caste in America. “These mothers are not ‘top earners,’ they are the only earners. Only 37 percent of the ‘breadwinning women’ are married mothers who are making more than their husbands, and in many instances, this is because the husband lost his job.”

    A whopping 63 percent (8.6 million) of these moms are single mothers, 29 percent of whom are not working at all. More than half of the children in homes with single moms are growing up poor. According to the report, a growing number of these women never married. Other studies have shown that never-married mothers tend to get less financial assistance from their children’s fathers than previously-married mothers.

    The Atlantic responded to the Pew research by saying, ‘Employment and gender roles in the United States continue to shift away from the Leave it to Beaver model. Murphy Brown is winning,’” Hymowitz says. “It speaks volumes that the article’s vision of a single mother is a make-believe character who is a television news star.”

    Research still consistently shows that children do better in every way when their two parents are present in the home. So what exactly are we celebrating? It isn’t about who makes more – it’s about helping families thrive.

    On Father's Day, perhaps prisoners took so few cards for a reason. Maybe it's because so many fathers have walked away from caring for and engaging with their children, although others want to be there. Oftentimes, a father's seemingly irreconcilable differences with the other parent keeps them from engaging with their kids.

    Whatever the case, guess who loses? The children.

    An analysis of 100 studies on parent-child relationships shows that having a loving and nurturing father is very important. It's as crucial for a child’s happiness, well-being, social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother.

    Dad, your kids need you.

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    Steps to Demonstrate a Positive Fatherhood Model

    We can all demonstrate a healthy and responsible fatherhood model for our community. Pass this information along to friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.

    With friends and in your own family...

    • Participate in marriage and family enrichment programs and encourage friends to do it, too.
    • Honor the covenant of marriage and be an accountability partner for fellow married friends.
    • Help mothers to be supportive of fathers’ involvement with their children, and ask your wife how you can be more involved with your own children.

    If you're an employer...

    • Create personnel policies and work environments that respect and encourage the commitment of fathers, and that enable parents to be more involved with their children.
    • Research the effects of relocating families and find ways to make the transition as smooth as possible for employees who must move.

    If you're a civic leader, elected official or community organizer...

    • Promote community organizations that model fatherhood and male responsibility.
    • Strive to develop neighborhoods that are stable and supportive of family life.

    If you're a religious leader or organizer...

    • Challenge fathers to assume moral and spiritual responsibilities.
    • Offer a broad program of teaching, supporting, counseling and training fathers in their vital role.
    • Encourage and recognize involved fathers, and provide opportunities for men to learn from each other.

    If you're a mental healthcare worker, healthcare or a family life educator...

    • Begin with a view in favor of fatherhood within the context of a marriage relationship.
    • Guide fathers to both accept and appreciate their unique roles within the family.
    • Provide continuing education on fatherhood and its responsibilities.

    If you're a family law attorney or judge...

    • Promote accountability of all fathers for each of their children.
    • Reassess current trends in family law and be an advocate for responsible fathering.

    If you're an educator or childcare provider...

    • Encourage fathers’ involvement in the classroom and invite fathers or father figures to participate in school activities.
    • Educate boys and young men concerning their potential influence as fathers.
    • Train staff about the father’s crucial role in a child’s developmental growth.

    If you work in media or journalism...

    • Promote articles, research and organizations that address and offer solutions to fathering issues.
    • Discourage advertisements or programming that reflects irresponsible fathering practices.


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    Fathers: What Research Says

    Dad, being involved matters. Here are just a few reasons why.

    Teenage girls who are close to their fathers are far less likely to become sexually active.

    Teenage girls are twice as likely to stay in school if their fathers are involved in their lives.

    “Fathers dramatically underestimate the importance of themselves in their daughters’ lives. They withdraw much too quickly, doubt their significance and influence, and grossly misunderstand how very much their daughters need and want to have a good relationship with them.” - Dr. Meg Meeker, author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

    "Fathers are far more than just 'second adults' in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring. Fathers have a direct impact on the wellbeing of their children." - noted sociologist Dr. David Popenoe

    Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school or in the neighborhood. --Yeung, W. J., Duncan, G. J., & Hill, M. S. (2000). Putting Fathers Back in the Picture: Parental Activities and Children's Adult Outcomes.

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    Ways for Dad to Connect with Kids

    Wondering how you can connect with your kiddos? Here's a list to get you started!

    • Plan a regular time for Daddy/Child date to do something fun and adventurous.
    • Write a short message to them on a stick-it note and hide it in their lunch.
    • Let your child help you wash the car or fix something.
    • Play a game with them - one that they want to play.
    • If you like to cook, let them help you.
    • Take them to the park.
    • Teach your child how to do something like build a kite, a soapbox derby car, a paper airplane, etc.
    • Tell them what life was like when you were their age.
    • Listen to them - learn about their favorite things, who their friends are, their favorite game, etc.

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    Pro-Football Player to Rookie Husband and Dad

    When Buddy Curry was a professional football player, he thought life was all about him.

    “I made up my mind to have as much fun as possible,” said Curry, former Falcon inside linebacker and 1980 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Toward the end of my 8-year career, all the things I had been doing didn’t seem fun. I wanted a relationship and to settle down.”

    When Curry met the woman he would marry, he described himself as young and selfish.

    “When we got married I had no clue how to be married,” Curry said. “As an athlete, I had been coddled. Most of the time I got what I wanted and like other athletes I thought the rules applied to everybody but me.”

    Within three years the Currys’ marriage was in crisis.

    “Every time I saw my wife do something wrong I called her out,” Curry recalled. “I was critical and I hurt her very deeply. Although people loved me because I was a pretty good guy, the state of my marriage made me step back and consider how I would learn to be a good husband and father. I knew I was not strong enough to make the necessary transformation by myself.”

    Curry sought out older and wiser men to mentor him - men who would hold him accountable as well as encourage him as a husband and father. Instead of being critical toward his wife, he began serving her.

    “Even though she very clearly wanted out of the marriage, I made a decision to learn new ways of relating to her,” Curry said. “My goal was to bless her and allow time for healing in our relationship. Through a lot of tough adversity, I believe God changed me.”

    A pivotal moment in Curry’s life came with the birth of their first son. When he laid eyes on his child, he began thinking, "Do I want my son to be like me?" While he thought he had a lot of things going right in his life, he really didn’t think he wanted his son to be like him.

    “I had been making a lot of changes in my life for the better,” Curry said. “When my son was born, I realized there were other areas that needed some attention. Realizing that my children are going to follow me was eye-opening.”

    The Currys now have four children.

    “Being a father has taught me about my own weaknesses,” Curry said. “I recognize that there is a generational transfer taking place and that I am sending my children into the future. I'd like to help my kids not make the same mistakes I made. I want them to understand the importance of self-discipline, what commitment to something means – even when the going gets tough. I want to teach them how to be a good team player.”

    One of the most important lessons Curry learned is that you can have the best of intentions for your marriage and your family, but unless you're willing to invest the time to make those things happen, it’s just wishful thinking. No amount of success in the world can make up for failure at home.

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    20 Reasons Your Child Needs You

    A dad's presence is important. Here are 20 reasons why.

    1.  Lets your child know that you love him/her.

    2.  Provides your child with greater financial resources.

    3.  Gives your child a positive role model.

    4.  Provides your child with emotional support.

    5.  Enhances your child's self-esteem.

    6.  Provides your child with guidance and discipline.

    7.  Enhances your child's intellectual development.

    8.  Gives your child someone to rough and tumble play with.

    9.  Provides your child with someone to talk to when he/she has questions.

    10. Increases your child's chances for academic success.

    11. Provides your child with an alternative perspective on life.

    12. Lowers your child's chances for early sexual activity.

    13. Lowers your child's chances for school failure.

    14. Lowers your child's chances for youth suicide.

    15. Lowers your child's chances for juvenile delinquency.

    16. Lowers your child's chances for adult criminality.

    17. Provides your child with a sense of physical and emotional security.

    18. Facilitates your child's moral development.

    19. Promotes a healthy gender identity in your child.

    20. Helps your child learn important skills.

    From Reasons Why Your Child Needs You to be an Active Father by Stephen D. Green, Ph.D., Child Development Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife

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    Letters from Dad

    Greg Vaughn lost his father to Alzheimer’s years ago.

    “I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Vaughn. “I know my dad loved me because he made sure our family was taken care of. But he never could say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Son, I am proud of you.’ That void left a hole in my soul.”

    As Vaughn was going through his father’s things, he kept looking for something left from his dad to him. The only thing he found was a rusty old fishing tackle box.

    “I was mad at my dad for dying,” Vaughn says. “I was mad at myself for not trying harder to connect with him and started to throw that old fishing box in the trash. Then I decided to see what was inside. There, I found the remains of my father – fishing lures.

    "As I felt myself getting angrier, a question popped into my head, ‘Hey big shot, you are out here mad at the world. If you were to die here in the garage, what would your wife and children hold in their hands tomorrow that would let them know they were the treasures of your life?’”

    The answer caught Vaughn by surprise. He had always told his children and wife how much he loved them. Additionally, they made it a point to go on family vacations, which brought great memories. However, when it came to something tangible they could hold in their hands and treasure forever from him, he couldn’t think of anything he had given them. That's when he had the idea for Letters from Dad.

    “I called 12 of my closest friends and asked them if any of them had a letter of love and blessing from their father – not counting cards,” Vaughn says. “Not a single one of them said yes. Then I asked, ‘What would you give to have one?’ The answer was always, ‘More than you could imagine.’ Then I asked each of them if they had ever written a letter like that to their children. None of them had. I looked at each of them and said, ‘Don’t you think we should?’”

    That was the beginning of a very special journey for these men. They decided they wanted to leave a legacy of faith, hope and love through the lost art of letter writing.

    “Men hate to write letters,” Vaughn states. “But we decided to write four letters, the first being a letter of blessing to our wives. We had some divorced men in the group. One guy chose to write a letter to his ex-wife of 10 years thanking her for making him a father. It was a healing experience for both of them.”

    The second letter the group decided to write was a blessing to their children. Since Vaughn has seven children, that was a real stretch for him.

    Vaughn's daughter, Brooke, shared that until her dad gave her a letter of blessing, her most-prized possession was a coat hanger from age 10 where her father wrote, "Hey Beck – I love you – Dad." On her 22nd birthday, she got the letter with 15 reasons why she was a blessing as a daughter. Now she says, “I have more than a coat hanger to remember my dad.”

    “The third letter we chose to write was a blessing to our parents,” Vaughn remembers. “Some of us had parents who had died so we wrote letters of tribute. The fourth and final letter was by far the hardest to write. It was for our families to read after we died. Most of us leave wills and trusts and rusty old stuff. What do we leave for our families to treasure forever?”

    After they finished writing their letters, the guys decided to continue meeting monthly just to stay in touch and walk the fathering journey together.

    Letters from Dad has increased in popularity as fathers seek to leave a legacy to their wives and children. If you hate to write or find yourself at a loss for words, the book has lots of samples. Plus, the author is happy for you to use some of the words yourself.

    Whether your children are young or old, live near or far, are estranged from you or considering never leaving the fold, you can still leave a legacy. So, consider writing a letter… or two.

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    Fathering is Child's Play

    A young girl was touring the social worker through the home she shared with her father. When she came to her bedroom, she proudly showed the woman everything in her room. With big eyes and a huge smile, the little girl asked, “Would you like to see bombs away?”

    Hesitantly, the social worker said yes. “Come on Dad, let’s show her,” said the little girl.

    Dad came over to the bed, grabbed his daughter’s arms and legs and started swinging her. Finally, he let go as she yelled, “Bombs away!” and landed on her bed. Loud, gleeful laughter followed.

    Looking horrified, the social worker said, “Stop! No! You should not be doing that.” Both father and daughter looked at her with troubled and quizzical faces and said, “We shouldn’t be doing bombs away?”

    “This is probably one of the best examples of the difference in how men and women view play with children,” said Dr. Ron Klinger, founder of the Center for Successful Fathering and author of The Common Sense No-Frills, Plain-English Guide to Being a Successful Dad.

    “Researchers tell us that children of all ages from infants to high school prefer play with dad over mom because it is unpredictable, physical, rough, dad cheats, and it’s fun. It is a test – it stretches you. You find yourself doing things you would never do. Most importantly, it is a playful form or preparation for the challenges our children will face in the real world.”

    Klinger contends that what the father was doing with his daughter was totally appropriate. While mothers are the initial primary caregivers and continue to be the nurturers and protectors, it is the father’s job to engage his children in rough and tumble play and to encourage them to take risks.

    However, the challenge for many is that nearly 80 percent of dads today did not grow up with an actively involved father in their lives. When moms say, “Don’t play so rough,” most guys don’t know to say, “But this is what I am supposed to be doing.”

    “The bonding with a child and their father is based on this rough and tumble play,” Klinger said. “This playful interaction turns out to be very powerful in teaching independence, self-reliance and courage. It also encourages children to become more tolerant of frustration. The father is introducing the child to a world that is defined by adventure and adversity, not comfort.”

    There are other benefits of rough and tumble play for children, too. They include:

    • Building a bond of affection and trust with their father;

    • Exposure to personal challenges such as riding a bike;

    • Learning to be a successful risk-taker;

    • Building self-confidence;

    • Girls growing up to be unintimidated by competitive men; and

    • Becoming resilient.

    “When a mother approaches her child, the infant’s heart rate begins to slow down,” Klinger said. “When a father approaches his child, their heart rate begins to race in anticipation of excitement and action. Babies need this to stimulate brain activity. 

    “I can remember when my own son would climb our spiral staircase and leap out to me below. The space separating us was only a couple of feet, but he was jumping from seven feet high. He was investing a huge amount of trust in me. Admittedly, this is the kind of thing that drives mom nuts, yet it's exactly what dads and children should be doing. Play is the antidote for anxiety.”

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    Don't Waste Father's Day

    Once a man took the day off to take his son fishing. His son was thrilled that his father would take a day away from important work to spend time with him, and he considered this day as one of the best days of his life. After the father passed away, his son found a diary among his dad's possessions and began reading it. When he came to the day they spent together fishing, the entry read, “Took off work to take son fishing. Day wasted.”

    Essays written for an FTF essay contest about fathers often described a warm and loving relationship between father and child, but some children were courageous enough to write about their strained relationship with their father. They described difficult circumstances and even questioned their father’s love. However, each of them seemed to hold out hope that their relationship with their father would someday be better.

    Many people, young and old, find themselves in a father-child relationship that is difficult at best. Words and deeds from the past continue to drive a deep wedge in the relationship. Deep down they would like things to be better, but they don’t know how to change the situation for the better. In too many instances, one party is waiting for the other to apologize.

    If you find yourself in a similar circumstance, here are five steps you can take to restore your relationship.

    • Be willing to make the first move.

    • Forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean the behavior was justified. It means you are willing to cut someone loose from a debt and move on with your life.

    • Keep your expectations realistic. Relationships do not mend overnight, so it will take time and commitment on your part. You can’t predict how someone else will respond, but you can choose how to deal with whatever it might be.

    • Accept the person for who they are. Everyone has faults. It's easy to tell a person how they need to change. It is much harder to accept them where they are with all of their strengths and weaknesses.

    • Celebrate the small steps toward restoration. Even though the relationship may not be all you want it to be, understand that even the smallest move toward reconciliation is reason to celebrate.

    Distressed relationships do not happen overnight. Through a series of events, people become wounded and keep a tally sheet; then bitterness grows into anger and relationships weaken. It only takes one person to take the first step toward mending a broken relationship. Even if the other person doesn’t respond, you can allow healing to happen in your own life. If nothing else, you will know that you have made an effort to change the situation for the better.

    Don’t let this Father’s Day be “a day wasted.” If your relationship with your father is a great one, be thankful and show it. If your relationship with your father or child is less than what you would like it to be, take heart and know that you can be the one to take the first step to repair that broken relationship.

    As you begin this journey it will be helpful to remember the three P's: Be practical, patient and persevere. You never know what might happen. A bad relationship can become better and a good relationship can become great, so never give up. It may take longer than you would like, but when you least expect it, your relationship could take a turn for the better.

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    7 Ways Dads Can Connect With Their Kids

    In the movie Overboard, a man tricks a woman with amnesia into thinking she is a wife and the mother of four. Annie (the mother) gets fed up with the father for not spending time with his children. His response to her? He says he is a pal to his kids, and that he "brings home the paycheck, which is what the man of the house is supposed to do."

    Annie’s response? “Your children have pals. What they need is a father.”

    For many years, experts told fathers that bringing home a paycheck and leaving the parenting to Mom was the most important example they could set for their family. 

    Now, research shows that having a loving and nurturing father is as valuable as having a loving and nurturing mother for a child’s happiness, well-being and social and academic success. It isn’t just about bringing home the bacon.

    Looking back, Scotty Probasco, Jr. recognizes that his dad did a whole lot more than just bring home a paycheck. As a result, his influence is still present in his life today. He set an example that helped his children understand what it means to experience life to the fullest.

    “My dad and I were as different as night and day,” Probasco says. "He served in both World Wars and was a very stern man, yet he was a nurturing presence in my life. He showed me what it meant to be a loving husband and father by working hard, yet making sure that he spent time with our family. My dad believed that work was honorable and fun. He taught me that I ought to try to do things that would make the world a little bit better. Throughout my life, I have tried to live out the lessons my father taught me.”

    Mr. Probasco, Sr. set an example for his son that not only taught him about taking care of his family, it taught him about the greater good: Understanding that it is not all about you. He knew that some of the greatest blessings people receive are from giving to others.

    There is no doubt that involved dads do make a difference in the lives of their children. However, some fathers struggle with how to engage their children so they can provide a nurturing example.

    If you really want to connect with your children, try these tips from the experts.

    • Respect your child’s mother. If you are married, keep your marriage relationship strong. If you are not married to your child's mother, it is still important to respect and support her. Parents who respect each other are better able to provide a secure environment for their children.

    • Spend time with your children. Treasuring children often means sacrificing other things, but spending time with your kids is essential. You lose missed opportunities forever.

    • Talk to your children. Too frequently, dads only speak with their kids when they have done something wrong. Take time to listen to their ideas and problems with they are young. If you do that, they will still want to talk with you when they get older.

    • Discipline with love. Children need guidance and discipline, not as punishment, but to set reasonable limits. When you discipline in a calm and fair manner, you show love for your child.

    • Be a role model. A girl who spends time with a loving father grows up knowing she deserves for boys to treat her with respect, and she knows what to look for in a husband. Fathers can teach sons what is important in life by demonstrating honesty and responsibility.

    • Be a teacher. Teaching your kids about right and wrong encourages them to do their best, and you will likely see them make good choices. Use everyday examples to help your children learn the basic lessons of life.

    • Show affection. Children need the security that comes from knowing their family wants, accepts and loves them. Show appropriate affection every day -it's the best way to let your children know that you love them.

    And finally, don’t underestimate your significant role in your child’s life.

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    Preparing for Fatherhood

    Don McKenna attended a First Things First fatherhood class when he and his wife, Missy, were expecting.

    “I saw a billboard about it and thought it looked interesting,” says McKenna. “I convinced a friend who was also expecting his first child to go with me. It totally was not what I was expecting. Hands down, it was the best thing I could have done in preparation for becoming a father.”

    McKenna assumed the class would be about how to change a diaper and feed his baby a bottle. Instead, he encountered a group of guys who were just as fearful as he was about becoming a father.

    “The class was a relief for me,” McKenna says. “First off, a guy taught the class. On top of that, we got to talk about our fears and concerns. Had we not done that, I think I would have been intimidated. Being more comfortable about caring for Brooks – not feeling like I was going to break him if I held him – gave me the best opportunity to bond with him from the moment he was born.”

    McKenna says the class helped him understand the different parenting styles most moms and dads have. He was able to talk with his wife about his style being different, but not wrong.

    “I wanted to do some things with our son that made my wife nervous, like the time I wanted to take him as a 2-year-old for a ride on the tractor,” McKenna says. “She was worried he would get hurt. Instead of telling her how stupid it was for her to be concerned, I took small steps to show her that I was just as concerned as she was for his safety. I put a helmet on him and we rode around very slowly. When she saw him giggling and having a good time, she relaxed a bit. I think I am definitely more patient with my wife and my child as a result of the class.”

    The experience was so worthwhile, McKenna recruited six guys for the class. He also went with them.

    “Anytime I find out a couple friend is expecting, one of the first things I tell the guy is you really need to take this class,” McKenna says. “It will give you great perspective on fathering and the importance of being involved in the life of your child.”

    Although the class helped prepare McKenna for his new parenting role, he got an extra benefit. It also helped him in his marriage.

    “It is important to me and Missy to raise Brooks in an environment that will help him thrive,” McKenna shares. “One of the things I learned is our marriage can’t take a back seat while we are raising our son. We have to be intentional about taking care of our relationship because that is what gives Brooks the stability, confidence and security he needs to grow and develop. Being a parent has been a humbling and amazing experience,” McKenna says.

    Looking back on the last few years, McKenna wouldn’t trade his time with his son and how they have grown as a family.

    If you want to learn more about preparing for fatherhood, check out our classes here.

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