A Tragic Indifference to Violence

A Tragic Indifference to Violence

We are becoming desensitized to violence as a nation.

I was watching the news last night and it was chilling when the newsman said, “Well here we go again, another shooting at a mall in …”

I cringe every time I hear about a shooting or an overwrought public display of violence. It scares me to think about my kids or my wife being caught in such a terrible situation. But what really stung me about this latest report of random public violence was the resignation in the voice of the man bringing the news. He didn’t sound shocked or horrified. He didn’t even sound exacerbated. Instead, he sounded like he had to reread a story he was all too familiar with and one that was no longer a horrible surprise. That scares me.

Violence is nothing new…

…and man’s willingness to use violence as an expression has been around since the beginning. But we live in a new time of instant access to information and so many means of rapid communication that every one of these stories is played out again and again on televisions, computers, tablets, and phones. We no longer live in our neighborhoods and our towns. Instead we now live in a global community that seems much smaller because we see and hear so much. Atrocities and meanness have always been there but they have never been so accessible.

Couple the hard news of ongoing violence and the marginalization of individual suffering with the ever expanding boundaries of “entertainment” and we have generations growing up that are no longer appalled by what they see and hear. Television shows and movies celebrate, in graphic detail, killing and violence and meanness. Music glorifies the aggressiveness of domination and downgrades the temperament of the meek. The world can be a mean place, always has been, but it is being redefined as a place of acceptable excess because so much meanness is so easily accessible, it is often sensationalized, and is then celebrated.

The real warning sign was in the voice and on the face of that newsman last night. Gone was the shock and the sadness. In its place was a resignation and a realization that this is the world we live in and these stories are becoming commonplace.

So what does this have to do with kids and classrooms and teachers and parents?

Everything.

As I said earlier, violence is nothing new and media’s sensationalism of violence has been around since the early days of print press. But the general lack of empathy and the general lack of distaste and even disgust for the overt sensationalism of violence is new. The gory and graphic details of violence that are now pervasive in entertainment and even the news is new. And the more our kids see the less shocked they will be.

Cognitive dissonance is a theory that says when incongruent events exist it creates additional stress and the person experiencing the stress will compensate by becoming less affected by the incongruence. I heard dissonance in the newsman’s voice because he had to report on horrific violence but he wasn’t really surprised. He wasn’t shocked. He wasn’t even really appalled, and I think that was what was appalling. This is not an attack on that newsman but it is instead a statement of concern that when we are no longer disgusted by disgusting behavior then we have begun redefining acceptability. It may sound silly to say that such public displays of violence can be redefined as acceptable but think of the school shootings and the publicly violent acts that have been carried out and the interviews with the offenders and the notes they have left behind said they wanted to experience in real life what they had experienced in a video game or seen in a movie. Sociopathic and even just plain stupid behavior has always been there but the access to the fringes of human behavior has never been so easily attained.

tv kid

As a society we have to begin drawing distinctions between right and wrong and we need to realize that removing excessive violence and sexuality and filth from our common discourse is not censorship, it is a cultural responsibility. Take charge and know what your kids and your students are being exposed to.

Go to websites like www.pluggedin.com and read and know the language and violence and sexual content of your kids’ television shows and movies. Read the lyrics to the music before you say yes to the download. Be proactive and when something is a bad influencer say so and then take away access to it. And finally, talk to your kids and to your students. Help them understand and discern those things which bring goodness and growth to their lives versus the things that marginalize and are negative.

When a horrific event, such as another shooting at a mall, occurs take the time to talk about the value of life and the need to value this precious gift. Bad things will continue to occur. I just hope when they do we have enough humanity left in us as a society that we are shocked and appalled because the day we become indifferent is the day we will have accepted it.

Related Posts: Learning IS a Behavior | Our Kids at the Blackboard of Life

The Game of the Week | Sportsmanship

The Game of the Week | Sportsmanship

This past week the sports world was in full tilt. We had Super Bowl Sunday plus a full slate of college and professional basketball games followed immediately by college football’s National Signing Day. For a sports fan, it is a great time of the year. But let me tell you about the best game I saw all weekend.

My youngest daughter, 9 year old Abbie, plays Upwards basketball. Upwards is a terrific place to learn the skills of basketball. All of the kids wear wristbands signifying their level of skill and they have to guard or be guarded by a player of a similar skill set. The kids are taught to love the game and try to win but it isn’t all about 8 and 9 year olds winning the game. It is about fair play and being a good teammate and learning to love the competition of athletics.

As I begin this story let me preface it with this:

I don’t believe that every kid should get every trophy. When we water down competition we water down incentives. One of the great lessons that sports teaches our kids is that there will be times in life when we lose. Bouncing back from a loss is a much more important lesson than actually winning. There should be an MVP and there should be an All Star and there should be a winning and losing team.

Losing is real and our kids need to learn how to deal with a loss and try to get better.

OK. I will climb off my soap box now and back to the story…

I am the coach of my daughter’s Upwards team – the Upwards Bears. We have a cool little yell where we slap hands and count to 3 and then everyone yells “Go Bears” and growls. It is actually quite fun to watch little angel faced boys and girls growling before the game.

My Abbie is a natural athlete and the leader of our team. She is tall and athletic and skills come very easy to her. She was the leading scorer on her soccer team and is the leading scorer and rebounder on her basketball team. She also one of the leaders in blocked shots, rebounds, and steals. It just comes pretty easy to her and when you couple that with the fact that she loves to practice and she tries to emulate her older sister who is a varsity player, she is just a good player.

This past Saturday we were playing a team that was clearly outmatched.

Even though you try to match skill sets, the kids on the Bears were just more comfortable playing together and were much more confident. We jumped out to a pretty big lead early in the game and it was obvious that the other kids were getting frustrated. Our kids just weren’t missing and the other team couldn’t hit a shot.

At halftime I told our kids that they needed to pass the ball 3 times before they took a shot. I reminded them that we had practiced passing because a good pass is worth a lot more than a bad shot. This was a way to let them keep playing without just running up and down the floor and running the score up too high. The Bears took to the court and their passes were crisp and they made sure there were at least 3 passes before the shot. But the shots kept going in.

Now as a coach I am in a quandary.

I only had 6 players that day because some were out sick so I couldn’t sub in the “B” team. I also couldn’t tell our kids to not try because that flies in the face of what they are supposed to be out there doing. Instead I called them over and told them I wanted them to pass the ball at least 5 times before shooting, to take good shots and make them, to play aggressive but clean defense, and to try. But I also wanted them to cheer on the other team and encourage them. Make them work for the ball but if they stole it tell them good job. If they made a shot give them a high five.

I told them it was time to practice being a great sport and to encourage these kids…

and to recognize and appreciate that the other team had not quit.

We went out for the last quarter with a big lead.

What I watched over the next 6 minutes was the best sporting event of the weekend. I watched 8 and 9 year old kids playing and trying hard but they were also working their best at being great sports. I watched a little girl from the other team who had been frustrated beam with pride when she finally made a shot and my kids ran over to her and high fived her. I watched my kids yelling “You can do it” to the other team when their players were not wanting to take a chance at missing another shot. I even watched my little girl, my ultra-competitive little girl, clap for the boy who was guarding her when he stole the ball from her and called timeout. It was a good play and she told him so. Then I watched the best play. Right after the timeout my daughter stole the ball back from the little boy and scored and he immediately told her good job. That’s sportsmanship. They both hustled they both tried and they both did their best. And they did it with grace.

Don’t get me wrong. Neither team gave the other any free passes. There was no let down or feeling sorry for anyone. Instead, we reminded each other that this was a competitive game and we were there to compete but we were also there to be good sports.

I love college football. I am not a huge fan of professional football because it is a little to mercenary for me. I love the pageantry and the pride that goes with playing for your school. As I watched these little kids play a game that no one outside of the First Baptist Church gymnasium would ever know about high five each other and encourage each other and still play with heart and pride I thought, this is how it is supposed to be.

Yes we won. I couldn’t even tell you the final score but it wasn’t close. But the biggest winners in that game were the kids who made a new friend and saw the value in lifting each other up while still giving each other their greatest compliment which was trying their best. Trash-talking and being brash and arrogant has taken a center stage in a lot of sporting venues.

I wonder how many more people would watch the game and take pride in their teams if it were played at a very high level by people who let their effort and their skills talk instead of their mouth. I know for the Upwards Bears they left the court proud and even in defeat, so did the other team.

Go Bears.

A REAL Valentine’s Day

A REAL Valentine’s Day

Over the past week every time I turned on the radio or television I heard about Valentine’s Day. I kept hearing that if you really loved your wife then she needed flowers and chocolates and maybe even diamonds. Then I heard that if you really loved your kids they needed new toys and clothes and maybe even a new phone. If an alien landed on this planet last week and all he knew of our civilization was what he heard in advertisements he would think that this is a very expensive and shallow place to live. He would think that relationships are built on stuff – really expensive stuff.

Friday was Valentine’s Day and like a good husband I bought my wife chocolate covered strawberries – her favorite. But unlike any other Valentine’s Day, my wife and I weren’t going to go to dinner or to a movie or out for a romantic evening. Instead, my wife was taking my daughter to basketball practice and then to dinner with my daughter’s friends while I took my son and 7 of his buddies along with my youngest daughter to the go-cart track for the beginning of my son’s birthday slumber party. I know at some point late in the evening my wife and I were in the same room for an hour or two but there were at least 10 kids at all times in the room with us – most often between us.

Now you might hear all of this and think that we are being neglectful of each other or you might think that we needed to make time to get away. Maybe you are right. But here is another way of thinking about it:

My oldest daughter is in her junior year of high school and in the back of our minds is this huge ticking clock counting down the minutes until she moves away to go to college. This isn’t a countdown to a glorious event for us. My heart already aches when I think about not sitting with Meg at dinner or following her around the state to basketball games or taking her and her friends to church devos or the movies.

My son just turned 14 and he wanted to race go-carts with his buddies. Daddy was the chauffer this year, not one of the buddies. He is about to enter high school and has started spiking his hair with mousse and working out and wearing enough cologne to gag a musk ox. I am worried that if I turn around he will be old enough to drive and will be on his own.

My little one is 9. She isn’t that little any more. Now I will admit that I took great joy in having a conversation about the Minions from “Despicable Me’ with her this morning. We had a thorough and earnest debate over which Minion we would welcome into our home to live with us if they knocked on our door. I love those conversations and those moments of innocence. I love the connection with the thoughts of a child and the innocence of pure unfiltered love.

My wife and I finally laid down about 2:30 in the morning of Valentines. Needless to say there was not hint of a romantic thought coming from either of us. Instead Sylvia sleepily told me about Meg’s practice and how she took a group of girls to dinner and they laughed and she listened to them talk about boys and their dreams of the future. She told me about how they laughed and giggled and she said she even joined in and felt like a kid again.

I told Sylvia about playing “Guitar Hero” at the go-cart track with my little Abbie and how I couldn’t keep the beat to “Rock and Roll All Night” despite the fact I grew up listening to it. I told her about Hunter racing the go-carts and Abbie climbing the rock wall and how happy they were. We then talked about the fact that 7, 14 year old boys were asleep in our front room and how the day would begin very early the next morning.

I kissed her goodnight and thought about the day. I realized how precious few Valentine’s Day moments there are left with My Meg and Hunter and Abbie. I looked at my sleeping wife. Then I realized – this is what a day of love is supposed to be about. This is a good day.

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Morning comes way too early.

I just closed my eyes and now it is time to start all over again. The morning shower is about the only time I am going to have today with a little silence. I have found myself standing under the water a little longer each day as the school year is passing. That moment of peace is my chance to brace for the day. The problem is that in my moment of peace I can’t take my mind off of my kids who are struggling. I can’t stop thinking about the things I should have done to make learning a little easier. Wait, I have to clear my mind. I just need 5 minutes for me. The rest of the day can be for the kids.

I get to my classroom early in hopes that being extra organized may make the day a little easier and make my teaching time more effective. Wouldn’t you know it, there is a Mom waiting by my door wanting me to explain why her little angel was in trouble yesterday when all he was doing was “trying to express himself”. I spend 5 minutes acknowledging that self expression is important and I tried my best to get her to understand that there is a time for self-expression and there is a time to sit and listen. I’m not sure if I got through to her or not. I did let her know that the rules are the rules and learning to keep the rules is part of learning. It never ceases to amaze me that parents somehow see the rules as oppressive rather than educational. Oh well I…..oh no, the bell just rang. So much for being extra organized today.

There was a movie in the 70s called “The Swarm”. That is what the hallway and my room turns into. There are bodies everywhere and they are all talking and buzzing around at a speed I can’t quite keep up with. The day has begun. “Everyone sit down and get your books out”, the tug of war between my will and 20 kids desire to talk and have fun and seemingly do anything but learn has begun.

Teacher and student at board

As the morning progresses I work my way through a group reading, taking special care to listen closely to little Mykele because he has really struggled with reading chapter books. He makes it most of the way through his paragraph but tears start to form as he struggles with the last sentence. I find myself in full protective mode and jumping to his aid and nursing him through the last sentence. I am not sure whose relief was greater when his turn was over, his or mine.

From there we were onto math and my stomach was tied in knots as I called on little Karen to go to the board and complete the problem. I wanted to cheer for her and I so wanted to give her hints to complete it. Come on Karen, you can do it! Please let her do it!! She did it! I want to high five her so bad but class control dictates a smile and a pat on the head instead. I feel like I just conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro.

This is the moment I live for – the moment when the light comes on for a child and suddenly they understand and suddenly they have learned.

I just changed this child’s life and if I were any more proud of her I would break down in tears. What a moment. Now it is back to the board and Billy is struggling.

It is so hard getting the kids to calm down after lunch.

It takes me a solid 10 minutes getting them to sit down and get back into the class mindset. Charlie and Zach just won’t hush. They couldn’t keep their hands to themselves and lunch and I ended up eating half my lunch and throwing the rest in the trash thanks to the boys deciding that French-fries can double as missiles in their game of table commando. Why am I not skinnier??

Afternoons are so much harder than mornings.

I am tired. I feel like I have been wrestling a 34 armed wriggling, giggling, smelly animal. The kids are getting tired and they are ready to run. Sitting down at a desk and reading goes against every instinct and urge they have. The afternoons are just harder. It feels like I am pushing a wet noodle up a hill trying to get the kids to focus. I love science but this afternoon even I can’t find my enthusiasm for rock formations. I am trying because I know if I show the kids that I am not enthused about learning this then there is no way they will be. It is so hard maintain abject enthusiasm all day. The afternoons are so much harder.

I give up. They won’t sit down and they won’t be quiet. There are going to be some unhappy moms and kids tonight because behavior slips are going out. Charlie and Zach and Lakarsha are shoe-ins for getting a slip. The whole class is watching them instead of me and I feel like standing on the desk and screaming “Just pay attention and we can be done and go home!!” But I don’t. Nobody wants to pay attention and I am tired. I can’t find my enthusiasm for rocks either. The afternoons are just harder.

One and a half hours to go.

My lesson planner shows that I am behind schedule. I am behind because I keep getting interrupted by kids not listening and not paying attention and wanting to go to the bathroom. It feels like I am investing my time in quick sand.

I take a rare break and sit at my desk and try to collect my thoughts. I have now been on my feet for nearly 6 hours. I have answered questions and reminded kids to keep their hands to themselves and told kids to be quiet so often that I feel I need a flashing “Be Quiet” neon sign in the back of the room.

I then remember something I heard in staff development session. A speaker once charged us with thinking about the amount of time we spend telling kids to sit down and be quiet and pay attention. His question was: “What if we reinvested that redirection time and turned it into proactive lessons on how to sit down and be quiet and paying attention?” When I first heard him say this my only thought was “Yeah, good luck with that when you have 20 kids constantly needing something and wanting to be doing anything but the lesson you are teaching”. But maybe that was the point.

School is about academics but the payoff for academics is down the road. There really isn’t an immediate gratification for learning about math and science and reading and writing. Sure you get those moments of pure gold when little ones like Karen suddenly get it. But those are the moments of the day. The hours of the day are spent redirecting the kids’ thoughts back to learning.

OK… I’m going to spend 15 minutes working with my kids

on calming down and being quiet.

Kids group on floor

I’m not going to wait until I hit my boiling point, I am just going to take the time and work on it. I have a friend that teaches in a school that is working on social and emotional development and she shared a lesson with me one time that focused on getting kids to calm down after transitions by using signals. I soon find myself teaching the kids our own special class signals for quieting down and sitting down. The kids really get into it because I tell them that these are going to be our special and secret signals. We have a song for clean up time. We have a bell on my desk that is rung when it is time to sit down. We have double clap when it is time to be quiet. The kids voted on these signals and we practiced them several times. We even practiced being out of our seats and getting back into our seats when they heard the bell. They really got into it because it was like having their own secret handshake. And when one of the kids didn’t snap into place the other kids reminded them to do so before I could. They had taken ownership in these ideas and they wanted to see them work.

Little Karen had her “ah-ha” moment this morning and I had mine this afternoon.

The 15 minutes I invested felt like I had just hit the jackpot on the slot machine. The kids learned a lesson but the pay-off was as good for me as it was for them. I even appointed room captains to be in charge of the bell and the clap and the song. They each appointed a co-captain for each table. They thought it was so cool. Now sitting down and being quiet and paying attention are not on any of our tests but I can’t get them ready for the test if they aren’t sitting down and being quiet and paying attention.

The final bell rings and the swarms descends back into the hallway.

I take a deep breath and look at the mountain of papers on my desk. I only have 20 kid’s papers in math and science to grade, get 20 packets ready for tomorrow, write my Friday letter for the parents, make sure everyone’s permission slip for next week’s field trip is in place, attend my afternoon staff meeting, and then go home and be a parent and a spouse.

The whirlwind begins to slow down when my head hits the pillow.

I can’t hardly keep my eyes open and I think that there must surely be an easier way to make a living. Then my thoughts drift back to little Karen and I remember the exact moment when the light went on for her and she figured out how to do the problem. I remember the joy that came across her face and the pride that swelled in me.

That is my moment. That is the reason I will do it all over again tomorrow.

My eyes are heavy but I know why I am a teacher.

The social and emotional development program referenced above is Leaps. Leaps has over 240 social, emotional and behavioral lesson plans along with classroom, small group, and individual assessments. It’s not reading writing and arithmetic but it is amazing how much easier those are to teach when the class is learning to behave! You can get some free Leaps lesson plans on www.goleaps.com. There are also all kinds of videos and papers about how to make your class more manageable.

Refocusing on Humanity

Refocusing on Humanity

I woke this morning to news that Russia and the new Ukraine government are in a political standoff with military options mobilizing. There was also news of another major storm that has temperatures as far south as Austin in the 30s heading east and picking up steam and looking like it will slam the east coast again. Then there was the appalling news of a school in Nigeria where terrorist had killed a schoolyard full of children and burned their bodies in some twisted attention grab in the name of a twisted view of their religion. The news went on and on with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. I watched and read and listened to a litany of events that should make a grown man seek refuge. But one horrible story gave way to another, and the incredible news of the Nigerian tragedy faded from the television screen and a smiling anchorman talking about a rampant pack of Chihuahuas in Arizona segued into a story of absolute silliness. Those dead children were worth a 20 second mention – about the same as a pack of ankle biting dogs.

When I was young the world was larger. Not many people flew and the internet wasn’t even a dream yet. There were 3 major television channels and the anchorman for the national news at 5:00 was a trusted and respectable man. Today, news is on 24 hours a day on approximately 300 channels a day. Of course about 23 hours a day of that stuff on all 300 channels doesn’t really pass for news but is instead a flurry of opinions and fireballs thrown to provoke controversy and stir political passions for ratings. But it is there, nonstop. And it is full throttle and fully encased in violent picture, horrid stories, and pain on a global level. Have things gotten worse than they were 20 years ago? No, there are no new sins. There are just more people talking so they are finding more awful things to talk about.

humanity - quote 1

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a diatribe on the news. We need to know what is happening in this ever shrinking world. And I do not loathe the speed and access with which we get news from around the world. I do however worry about the access our kids have to so much awful news that is presented in sensationalized formats. Kids today are bombarded with images and stories and words that would have never been allowed on a television screen just 20 years ago. Now those images are not only on TVs, they are also on phones and tablets, and computers.They are everywhere and there are so many of them that they have begun one-upping each other on the graphic scale for attention and “clicks”.

Here’s the danger of our current state of information access and presentation: When our kids see things that are disconcerting and should be alarming over and over then they will become less disconcerted and less alarmed each time they see it. When our kids hear of the deplorable acts of extremists in Nigeria over and over they soon start tuning out the news and are less shocked by the event. And here’s an even bigger complication – when our kids play video games and watch movies and television shows that show these types of horrible things then they are even less sensitive to it when it occurs in real life.

I do not fear that kids today are less human than those of 20 years ago but I do worry that their definition of humanity has changed. When easily accessed entertainment mediums constantly bombard our kids with violence and gratuitous sex and salacious language then the norm of acceptability is constantly redefined and what is shocking becomes further and further removed. How do I know it affects our kids? Because when I heard the news I was momentarily appalled but I wasn’t shocked, and until I sat down to start writing I wasn’t outraged either. Now I am angry with myself for accepting the news of schoolyard kids being murdered, for political and religious extremism and not having the human decency to pause and think and pray on what has happened.

humanity - quote 2

Our kids today are growing up with constant access to images and words and actions that are not humane and cannot and should not be in the lexicon of our humanity. We can’t stop that. But we can be what we are supposed to be. As adults, as teachers, and as parents we must be fierce guardians of our kids’ innocence and their sense of right and wrong. We cannot shelter them from the atrocities of this world but we can help them understand right from wrong and we can help them understand the fading but absolutely necessary skill of empathy. We cannot prevent people from sensationalizing bad things but we can stop those things from coming into our homes and our classrooms and our personal discourse. We cannot stop the fact that the world can be scary and mean but we can shelter our kids and help them grow their humanity rather than allowing an exploitative world to take it from them one image and word and action at a time.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once spoke of the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism” and the “fierce urgency of now”. He was of course talking about overcoming the atrocities of bigotry and achieving equal civil rights for all man. Today we need that same “fierce urgency of now” in our public and a personal reclaiming and guarding of our children’s rights to innocence. We cannot be a part of the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism” by being so personally desensitized to sensationalism that we become a condoner of vile games and shows and music that target our children’s fragile formative years. We cannot abdicate our role as guardian of our children’s minds and souls to a box of wires that gives them entertainment but also redefines their worldview of humanity.

It is time to be shocked again when shocking things happen.

It is time to be saddened again when people are hurt.

It is time to be outraged again when children are targeted.

It is time to be human again.

I Am a Daddy

I Am a Daddy

This morning was bittersweet. My 8th grade son boarded a plane early this morning with most of his fellow 8th graders. They were on their spring break trip to Washington DC. We had to be at the airport at 4:30 this morning which meant getting up at 3:15 and leaving the house by 3:45. Today also happened to be the “Spring Forward” time change for Daylight Saving Time so in actuality it was like getting up at 2:15. We were both a little groggy!

hunter 1

As we drove to the airport and I prepared to put my son on a plane, his first trip without either me or his mom, I had a flood of memories about my 14 years with Hunter. Hunter has always been all boy and has always been loads of fun. There have been lots of broken things and the smells are sometimes indescribable but he is the type of kid that makes you smile.

As I drove him to the airport I would look at him sleeping and see the little baby that was seconds old when he first peed on the doctor. I saw the toddler who tried to make a run for it on his little motorized tractor only to be caught as he headed down the driveway. I saw the preschooler who would climb to the top of the pecan tree and try to catch squirrels that ran by. I saw his first day of school when he stood up about an hour into the day and said, “That’s enough. I am going home”. I saw the 7 year old who once rode his bouncy “hippity-hop” from the top of the stairs, buck naked, screaming “catch me if you think you can!” I saw his first basketball game when he tackled three other boys and yelled “fumble” as he dove on the ball. I saw his first day of middle school when I got a call from the principal because he had somehow managed to shut himself in his locker. When I asked him how and why he did this he said in a matter of fact tone, “I’ve never had a locker so I had to try”. It seemed to make sense to me at the time.

I then saw my boy begin turning from a child to a teen. I watched him put down his toy cars and pick up his headphones. I watched him go from gagging at the sight of a girl to fixing his hair just right. I watched him suddenly care about his clothes and wanting deodorant and body soap that smelled “manly”. The little boy that would run through the house to hug me became the strapping young man that often has a deeper voice than me in the mornings.

hunter 2

This morning, I watched my young man go off on his own. As I stood in the airport watching him go through security with his class I began thinking about all of the incredible moments I have had as a father. I was there when my two girls and Hunter were born. I have seen my kids get sick and bounce back to health. I was there to catch them when they fell after their first steps. I was there to hear their first words. I was there to see the look of joy and freedom that came when they peddled their bicycles for the first time without training wheels. I was there when they sang with their kiddy choir at church. I was there when they got their first Valentines gift and when they had their first crush. I have always been there with my kids. When I thought about this I began to see that this is the greatest blessing life has to offer: Being there with your kids.

But being a Daddy is so much more than just being there. Being a Daddy means that when you are there you are all in. It means they are more worthy of your time and your attention and that playing a silly game is more important than watching a television show. It means that playing catch is more important than catching the game. It means that going on a Daddy/Daughter date is more important than getting to go out to eat with friends. Being a Daddy is a much more demanding position than just being a father.

Any goofball can father a child – and many have! But being a Daddy is so much more than just contributing your DNA. Being a Daddy means that you spend time in thought each day thinking about the things you need to do to help your kids prepare for life. Being a Daddy means that there is worry for their future and there is heartburn over the shape of the world your kids will be inheriting. Being a Daddy means that their life in your home is not incidental or accidental. Being a Daddy means you are there not only physically but emotionally. Being a Daddy requires the same planning and forethought and decisiveness as being a doctor or lawyer or teacher.

hunter 3

I watched my little boy, I mean my young man, walk to the security line. It was bittersweet because I knew he was going to have a great time but I was really going to miss him. I also knew that I would spend a lot of time worrying until I saw him again. But I stood there and watched him walk away. And then something happened that will go into my memories forever. In front of his friends, my 14 year old son did an about face and walked over to his Daddy and hugged me. I kissed him on his cheek and he said, “I love you Daddy”.

I am a Daddy and it is the greatest job, responsibility, privilege, and gift I have ever received. Now, by God’s grace, I will teach my son that being a Daddy is the greatest job, responsibility, privilege and gift that he will ever know. And I will teach him that being a good Daddy begins with being a good man. It begins with planning and certainty. It begins by being there.

I am a Daddy.