The Pain Continues
This week, we felt the pain of yet another mass shooting – during a July 4th Parade in a suburb of Chicago. As obvious as it is that something needs to be done, this event will fuel the continuing debate over gun control. Pile that on to the school tragedy in Texas. Add that to the court decision and the following protests about abortion. Add that to the divisiveness about the events of January 6. Multiply it all by inflation, gas prices and the culture wars; and the result is a lot of stress…. personally, at work, at home and for our children.
I hate to say this, but as the mid-term elections approach – giving cause for the public debate on all these issues to increase – the stress level among us will undoubtedly continue to rise. Some of the conversations, debates and arguments will likely be subdued as we spend the summer out of our normal routines – fishing, camping, backyard cookouts, trips to grandma’s house, at the beach or some other vacation spot where we can “get away”.
Disagreements will Resurface
Unfortunately, as the end of August approaches and we all interact back at school, in car pool line, at PTA meetings, on social media and the like; the conversations and stress levels will re-appear. While we may worry about that as adults, the stress will impact our children, whether we like it or not. Given the emotion of these issues, there may be passionate discussions between friends, mommies, daddies, teachers and other adults. Longtime friends may disagree. Adults may unwittingly avoid others who hold different views, or they may carelessly make uncomplimentary remarks about those who are out of sight. The children will feel it all.
At Be There Dad, we mostly have stayed away from the substance of these issues and have not taken a “political” position. While we have urged adults to come together and “get something done”; our goal has been to enable and encourage dads [and moms] to help their children through the situations, to better understand and relieve their stress. As they return to school, we hope kids will be able to focus on their own issues – navigating the hallways, understanding the expectations of their new teacher, figuring out the next level of math homework and making friends.
Make a Plan
So, the challenge is how to help our children. How do we lead them through these troubling times? I am writing at this point in July to encourage you to think about getting started. To think about what they may hear at school or on the bus. To think about the questions they will ask you. To think about your responses. To help them interact with a child from a family that has a different point of view than yours. I want to encourage you to plan ahead. In the slower pace of the summer, perhaps you will have time to talk about some of these issues. Always, my favorite times include playing catch, walking the dog, planting flowers, strolling on the beach – quiet times that are great for one-on-one conversations. Dinner times and trips in the SUV can be good for full family chats. Taking these conversations in bite-size pieces now can be much easier than waiting to cover it all when the subject comes up just before bedtime on a school night. If you are having a challenge starting a conversation or wondering what to say, you can reach out to your principal, pastor or doctor. I know they would be willing to help. As dads, we know that moms are great at sharing information and approaching conversations. So, ask a mom.
This summer is an opportune time to add to the lessons, experiences and values in our kids’ back packs. Among those lessons may be: “In the end, we will not be measured by how we agreed, but rather how we disagreed”. On the playground, after a soccer game or choosing a bedtime story, there will be disagreements that can become teaching moments. Nobody wins all the time. But, nobody wins until we all do.
My wife’s grandfather was one of my mentors. He and his wife had a wonderful marriage for many decades as they stayed together well into their eighties. He told me one of the secrets to their relationship was that when they watched television each evening, they always held hands. He explained, “That keeps us from hitting each other”. While said in jest, the lesson was a powerful one. Before our youth soccer games we always formed a circle, held hands and prayed. Then, after a hard-fought contest, we lined up and shook hands. I pray we haven’t lost the importance of those acts as our society continues to numb emotionally. Above all else, we must teach our kids to be passionate about their beliefs while maintaining their valued relationships.
Male Empowerment Network – Encourage and Enable
Beginning August 13 [with a countywide kickoff event] Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools will launch the Male Empowerment Network. From that day forward, Be There Dad will be encouraging dads to establish dads groups in all the schools in the system. Having more dads join in supporting us will be invaluable in reaching out to more children. My hope is that these groups will enable and encourage dads to have the conversations that will relieve the stress among the children. As dads from everywhere come together, my hope is that by “holding hands” they will set an example of relationships that can endure disagreements and last a lifetime.
You can become a part of the “Be There Nation” as it expands. If you are inclined to start a group at your children’s school, take the next couple of weeks to think about getting started. If you want some support, contact Dion at [email protected] or me at [email protected] directly. We’ll gladly share the benefit of our experience.