How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk

Faith in real life

Time: The Critical Investment Every Father Needs to Make: #4-Toddlers: 4.1: Don’t Try to Play Make Up

September 23rd, 2011

with my dad in my hometown on my 55th birthday!

Your son is now at an age when he is mobile and he is curious. This is also the age when you can get him away to explore on your own. “Mom trust” kicks in a bit more, she gives you a “boys” pass, and it is time to let the fun begin! You have prepared for this day since before he was born and now…

Hold on! Time for a little self-inventory:

  1. Are you going to try to give your son the focus you did not receive from your own dad?
  2. Are you going to try to create a mini-me whose interests directly mimic your own?
  3. Do you have dreams of this little bundle of joy being in the NBA, on the PGA, or going to Stanford for a PhD?
  4. Do you keep upgrading your video and photo capabilities with new hardware and software, renewing like yesterday’s magazine subscriptions?




1. Are you going to try to give your son the focus you did not receive from your own dad?

Memory research is showing us that our memories are selective at best. In fact, the latest studies are showing us that we remember more clearly the things we think about the least. The more we play those “tapes” from our past, the more reality and perception clash. You are not your father and your son is not you, neither now, nor when you were a little boy. So relax, take a deep breath and repeat after me:

“My son is a unique child of God. There has never been anyone quite like him, and there will never be anyone quite like him, ever.”

and, repeat after me:

“I am a unique father for my son. There has never been a father quite like me for him and there will never be a father quite like me for him, ever.”

Now, doesn’t that make you feel better? Isn’t that good to know? You can imitate the best of what you can remember from your own father/son relationship, imitate solid fathers you have known or know now, and learn from fatherhood resources (like this blog!), which will help along the way.

Time: The Critical Investment Every Father Needs to Make- #3 Infancy

September 21st, 2011

a little too much time investment!

The relationship between a dad and his son is the original, “old school” male bonding experience. This is a very simple truth that is often overlooked. Having an active father in a baby’s life provides a strong environment for healthy growth in all arenas. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, however you look at it, when dads are there, it is like fertilizer for a healthy life. There is no in vitro substitute for the influence a father brings.

This is not just about a dad and his son; it is about mom, too! It may “take a village to raise a child,” but the village begins with having your husband by your side, and covering your back. When I hear someone say, “Children don’t need a father in their lives,” I know this statement is not coming from a dad or from a mom who has raised kids with a dad.

If this simply means “It is possible to raise children without a father,” then, obviously this is true. The same goes for a mom. From a possibility perspective, “Children don’t need a mother in their lives,” is equally true. We just never hear this.

Practically, sharing in the tasks of raising an infant brings husbands and wives closer together. It isn’t healthy to project all our needs for encouragement, joy and affirmation onto one person. Human relationships flourish as we join together with others for a common purpose. We can share work, share interests and hobbies, raise pets, and such, yet raising a child becomes the most primal, instinctual place for growth. Our capacity as men and women expands as we raise children together.

Now, dads, this doesn’t mean you have to get all weird on me. I don’t want to see any breast feeding apparatus like Robert De Niro, as Jack Byrnes, in Meet the Fockers(2004)! Yet, sharing in those basic infant care tasks has a ton of psychological and emotional influence, for you and your son. Here are some examples:

Holding your son closely and watching him drink from his bottle is about as close as you will ever get to seeing pure peace.

Sharing in soothing your son during nighttime fussing is not just for the sake of relieving your wife’s sleep deprivation; your son is learning that you are there to bring security into his life, as well.

Changing diapers may have been a bit too much for some of our fathers to handle, but we step up. Because it is the politically correct thing to do? No, because we learn so much in this simple action. We learn that if we can take crap from our sons at an early age, we can take crap from them later! One of those lessons in “unconditional love,” let’s just say. O, and remember to have another diaper handy to throw over him just in case…

Taking a nap with your son lying on your chest is a great excuse to get some rest, and your son can get used to the rhythm of your heart, as he has his mom’s for so much time in the womb. An added bonus is, while you are snoring because you are sleeping on your back, she won’t poke you. Instead, she’s thinking, “Isn’t that precious…” Saw away, boys!

Now is the time to sing, pray, and give blessing to your son each night. Faith is not a “woman’s thing.” A habit formed from the beginning like this will have huge dividends as he grows older. Both for him and for you (I will spend a whole chapter on the topic of spiritually nurturing your son).

Yes, spending lots of time with your infant son is as much about you bonding with him as it is he bonding with you. I can’t help but think of those old film clips I saw when studying Psychology, of ethologist (study of animal behavior), Konrad Lorenz, walking with geese following him. He is showing an example of “Imprinting” (“in which a young animal acquires several of its behavioral characteristics from its parent.”)

Your son is not a goose, he isn’t your clone, but as a dad, you have to realize how the time investment you make from day one will significantly increase the effectiveness of your influence in the coming years. Your journey has just begun. Honk! Honk!

Time: The Critical Investment Every Father Needs to Make #2: The Myth of Quality Time

September 19th, 2011

Speaking of the decline in time spent by fathers with their sons in my last post, let’s look at what takes place with mothers and daughters in America, only beginning much later. Daughters, who spent their lives “apprenticing” with their moms at home, were now seeing more and more of their moms entering the workplace. This shift begins during the depression, grows during WWII, with women flocking into the factories (“Rosie the Riverter”), and then continues in the post-WWII years.

For many moms this was an economic decision. In particular, lower income families didn’t have the option of mom “staying at home.” Yet with the post-war economic boom for higher economic families, staying at home becomes a choice, as well.

For many, a mom working becomes, not so much a sign of economic necessity, but a cry for freedom and liberation from the grinds of being a “housewife.” It was about being free to be your own person, and this message was usually given by those who self-identified as “Feminists.” Working outside of the home becomes a badge of honor; a statement of liberation.

So, let me see? When fathers started spending less time with their children, especially their sons, we didn’t even blink. But, take mom out of the home…Watch out!


I remember the backlash.

“A woman’s place is in the home…”

“Letting preschool/daycare raise your kids…”

“Latchkey kids…”

Yes, there is virtual silence in popular culture with the decline of father/son time, but when mom starts “doing her own thing,” she hears about it! So, what is a mother to do? The feminists tried to come to the rescue, but their message wasn’t always helpful when it comes to time. Not helpful for sons or daughters.

You see, right about this same time, a new term was coined, “Quality time.” The earliest we see this in print is in an article from the Maryland newspaper, The Capital, January, 1973.

The major goal of each of these role changes is to give a woman time to herself, Ms. Burton explained. “A woman’s right and responsibility is to be self fulfilling,” she said. She gives “quality time” rather than “quantity time” to each task, whether it be writing, cleaning the house or tending the children.

“Quality time” doesn’t take into consideration how learning takes place. The assumption is that intense focused time with your child is going to be as influential as “Quantity time,” perhaps thought of as “large amounts of time simply being present with your child in an unstructured, unfocused way.”

Even thinking this way you realize how this advice is easily misguided. First of all, the more time spent with someone the more opportunities there is to learn from imitation. Remember, what I said earlier? Imitation is just as important a learning tool as information. A son has always learned more than a trade or skills in living life with his father. Spending time with his father is a primary “classroom” for what it means to be a man.

Second, who is to say that by spending lots of time with your son is always unstructured and unfocused, and even if it is, who is to say that this is, necessarily, a bad thing? Unstructured, unfocused time can be the source of some real connection, can’t it? Just “hanging out with your dad” doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Actually, even for a “quality time” advocate, if you intentionally seek to be more attentive to your son during “quantity time,” you have just given them more thorough “quality time”, anyway! Then, it is time to feel guilty, once again!

There is at least one thing we do learn from the concept of “quality time” that is helpful for fathers, however. Intentionally scheduling time to be with your son. Throughout their childhood, dads can learn to schedule activities, both structured and unstructured to invest time in their sons. Next we look at what this might mean at different stages in the life of dads and sons.

Time: The Critical Investment Every Father Needs to Make #1: Know Your Past

September 16th, 2011
“Man, that hurts! But it’s so good…”

If you consider the food patterns of American culture, pizza is a “hot” commodity. According to a recent Gallup poll, pizza is preferred over all other food for lunch and dinner, in children ages 3-11. I know that was the case for our family growing up.

Pizza was not something we would eat frequently. Maybe that’s why I can still taste the pizza from Dino’s or Derango’s as I am writing these words. A distinct fennel flavor is slowing creeping into my memory bank. Yet, where there is pleasure, there is always the chance for pain to show up. With pizza this was certainly the case. Allow me to explain.

We were in the funeral business. In the funeral business you work days and nights. You have funerals, the logistics of getting ready for funerals (embalming, funeral preparations, pick-ups, dropping off obituaries at the local news room, etc.) and making arrangements with families during the day. At night you might meet with families and make arrangements, as well, if they can’t come in during the day. Also at night, you would have visitations (wakes/ showings).

Dad would frequently work both day and night. If he was working nights, this meant if he got to chance to come home at all, it would be for a quick bite to eat that you could call a “family meal.” A more accurate description would be, “family feeding.” Like throwing fish food into a tank of gold fish, when the food hit the table the frenzy would begin.

The Hanson’s were fast eaters. “Speed-eaters.” “Hash and dash.” Usually there were four boys and dad sitting around the table, and mom in the kitchen. She brings out whatever casserole or meat and potatoes combo we would share that evening, a quick prayer, and then, “Boom!” Eat away.

It is during these quick meals we were most likely to get pizza. As a treat, and as a break for our mom (I’m naturally assuming that is why my dad did it), dad would bring pizza home, hot and ready to be eaten. The four guppies would already be gathered around the table, plates ready, dad would set the pizza’s down and then, just like other meals, it was start eating as fast as you can.

Only this time, with pizza, there is a strategy. There are only a limited amount of pieces to go around. We never had leftovers.  So, when dad would bring home pizza, we really had to be on our game. And yes, with the pleasure, comes pain.

You know what it is like to eat piping hot pizza? Where it seems like the whole roof of your mouth is burned and shredded? Well, there is only a limited food supply, so you eat through the pain! No matter, how much you blow on the cheese and sausage, there is going to be a reckoning.



Every last piece eaten, and dad is out the door. Can’t stop. Can’t talk. Gotta get back work. A burnt mouth becomes a throbbing metaphor of this part my family life. Just know, you are not going to see much of dad.

As my dad worked for his dad, it isn’t a shock that he was gone a lot. Long hours and keeping a tough schedule is just what sons do when they work for their fathers, right? Gotta earn those stripes working the family business. Yet, long hours in general just seemed to be the way things were for our generation of kids. As many of us who were raised in the “Baby Boomer” generation can attest, we didn’t spend lots of time with our dads.

Historically, you can see why sons spending time with their fathers declined. In almost all cultures, from the beginning of humanity until the beginning of the 20th century, most sons would follow their fathers in their livelihood. Interesting that surnames even indicated what your future is going to hold.

“Bill Carpenter.” “John Smith.” “Tom Undertaker?” Well, there are always exceptions!

So, this was the way of the world. Whether it was agriculture or a trade, most sons would apprentice with their fathers. This wasn’t only about life; it was about being a man. Imitation is as important a learning tool as information. Not just learning how to do work, but also learning how to do life.

This practice of sons spending years “apprenticing” with their fathers still continues in many cultures, yet in the world of the “Industrial Age” and following, the time spent by sons with their dads declines.

Interesting that we don’t hear much about this shift in the way life was lived when it comes to fathers and sons. Fathers are the primary model for life ( for good or bad) since the beginning of humanity, and then suddenly (at least in historical time), poof!

Where’s dad? He’s at work!

Did you spend much time with your dad growing up? If you did, what do you remember? If you didn’t what do you remember?

(Please note: I just learned of a remedy for a burnt roof of the mouth. Use sugar. Just pour a bit on the painful area and dissolve it in. It works!)

How To Be A Christian Without Being A Jerk

Faith in real life