Craigslist Rent-A-Dad

June 11th, 2017 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Check out the fascinating advertisement that popped up on Craigslist recently from a group of guys searching for a “BBQ Dad” to handle the grill at their outdoor party. My sixteen year old son shared it with me and thought it was hilarious. While it’s written in a sarcastic and even mocking tone, it speaks volumes about the yearnings of young men in our society and their desire to be mentored by older men.

To interested individuals,
We will be throwing a backyard BBQ on June 17th to celebrate beer and each other. We range in age from 21-26, and while most of us know how to operate a grill, none of us are prepared to fill the role of “BBQ Dad”. That being said, we are in need of a generic father figure from 4-8PM (though you may stay the full duration of the party). Duties include:

-Grilling hamburgers and hot dogs (whilst drinking beer)

-Refer to all attendees as “Big Guy”, “Chief”, “Sport”, “Champ” (whilst drinking beer)

-Talk about dad things, like lawnmowers, building your own deck, Jimmy Buffett, etc. Funny anecdotes are highly encouraged. All whilst drinking beer.

We can’t pay you in money, but we can give you all the food and cold beer your heart desires. Grill for a few hours, then sit back and crack open a few cold one with the boys.

This is a real ad. Do not hesitate to call if you are interested. Preference will be given to applicants named Bill, Randy or Dave.

This ad is obviously written to be tongue and cheek with some not so subtle millennial mockery going on as they are poking fun at Baby Boomer Dads whose traditional lifestyle they are most likely trying to avoid at all costs. They sound like a group of pampered new college grads who have limited life skills and are looking for somebody to serve them (for free). But if we delve a little deeper and look beyond the sardonic tone of the ad – there’s something else going on here.

These young men are clearly crying out for an older man to come alongside them, to mentor them and show them the way. It’s easy to read between the lines and see they feel ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities of manhood and are seeking some guidance from a wise sage. In their own words they reveal that “none of us are prepared” to handle the responsibility of grilling. What they’re really saying is that none of us are ready to make the transition into manhood and we need some help. In today’s world, it’s not uncommon for young men to get stuck in life while moving toward adulthood. The number of 20-something year old males living in their parents basement, playing video games all day and unable to move forward in life is a pretty alarming trend in our society.

This ad has nothing to do with needing a grillmeister for their Beerfest. C’mon, they’re just cooking up some hamburgers and hot dogs – what’s the big deal. I can see them possibly needing some grill guidance if they were throwing on some steaks or something a little more ambitious, but burgers and dogs? No, they are begging for an older man to come to their party and show them what a man is supposed to say and do in this world – because they’re feeling lost and rudderless. What they’re saying is “man, living in the real world is pretty dang hard and there’s got to be more to this man thing than drinking a few beers with the boys. We don’t know how to express our needs fully so please look beyond our childish ad and come point us in the right direction”.

It’s interesting that they want the “BBQ Dad” to be there from 4-8 PM. If it was just the grilling they were after it could all be accomplished in 30 minutes. Why do they want the grill man to hang around for an extra 200 minutes after the grilling is completed? Because what they’re really after is the companionship and mentoring of an older man. They want him to hang around “and crack open a couple of cold ones” because they need some true masculine energy and wisdom. We can see right through their smoke screen of requesting a “generic dad” who will spawn cheesy nicknames and talk about mundane topics. They are craving some sage advice from somebody who’s already made the journey they are uncertain they can make. They need somebody to show them the way. And it’s not a coincidence that their party is taking place on Father’s Day Weekend.

The simple but hard truth is that males in our society are underfathered. Today’s father is probably a pretty good role model. He may take his son to a ballgame once in a while and drive him to his sports or activities, but that’s only a fraction of what boys really need from their dads. Rarely do we ever use our words to teach them, instruct them and proactively guide them toward manhood. As dads, we might do a lot of the “right” things but still not equip our boys appropriately for the journey to manhood.

It’s hard to believe but you can be a “superdad” or the most engaged dad in the world, but if your young man doesn’t have a clear-cut construct of manhood by the time he enters high school, he will be ill-equipped for the manhood journey that lies ahead. There’s an incredible window of opportunity to teach our sons about manhood during the middle school years that most dads miss altogether. Surprisingly, a steel curtain drops down when they hit high school and their concept of manhood and masculinity is pretty much locked in until their 30s, 40s, 50s or even for a lifetime. That’s why it’s so crucial to engage middle school boys in conversations, give them the roadmap to manhood and take them on a ManQuest journey before they get distracted by a driver’s license, girls, partying and puberty.

Every middle school boy is asking three fundamental questions about manhood:
How do I become a man?
What are the actions of a man?
Do I have what it takes to become a man?

If these questions don’t get answered during those crucial middle school years, they will linger in the recesses of his psyche for years to come. And if he’s never equipped with the manhood tools he needs, in future years, he will sit around at backyard BBQs, drinking beer with his friends, trying to do “manstuff” with a gnawing suspicion that a key part of his masculinity is somehow missing.

It’s up to us as fathers, grandpas, uncles, coaches, teachers, mentors to raise up the next generation of young men in our community. It’s our responsibility to make sure that the young men in our lives won’t ever need to hire a “stand-in” dad to help him figure out something he should have already been told long ago.

Top Father’s Day Present of 2014

June 13th, 2014 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Top 25 ManQuest Father Tips

 There’s an “Ultimate List of 45 Man Tips” floating around on the internet that I found quite interesting and amusing.  Most of the words of fatherly advice were practical pieces of information to help a son succeed in life, such as “buy a plunger before you need a plunger” and “give a firm handshake” and “compliment her shoes”.  

 While I always appreciate the effort to pass along some manly wisdom to the next generation, the list that was posted barely scratched below the surface of the masculine experience.   The list caused me to pause and wonder if a bunch of quips and trite anecdotes was really the best wisdom we have for our maturing sons.

 There’s one thing’s for certain.  Our young men are craving fatherly wisdom and they are looking for adult men to show them the way and provide something that’s real and meaningful to build their manhood upon.  So I sat down and drew up a list of the Top 25 ManQuest Father Tips that every young man needs to hear.

 This Father’s Day I encourage you to sit down with a young man – son, stepson, mentee, player, grandson, nephew, etc. – and use the Top 25 to engage him in a conversation about what it means to be a man.  Remember, it’s your day to do whatever you want with!  There’s no doubt it will be the greatest Fathers’ Day present you will ever give!  Here’s the 25 I will be sharing with my boys on Sunday:

 Be a “yes” man – put yourself out there and try new things.

  1. Don’t sit around and wait for somebody else to do what you know needs to be done – show up, stand up, speak up for what you believe.
  2. Having the difficult conversation isn’t fun.  It may blow up in your face.  But in the end, it’s better to just say what you need to say.
  3. A man will bleed for those he loves.  Be ready to act when the time comes.
  4. Never feel powerful when another person is powerless.
  5. Be vulnerable.  Share from your heart more than your head.
  6. Give yourself to something bigger than the accumulation of power, prestige, possessions, and experiences.  Don’t let a bigger paycheck be the driving force for your career decisions.
  7. Avoid the slippery slope when it comes to integrity.  One small compromise will surely lead to another and another.
  8. The people who bug you the most are usually those who are most like you…cut them some slack. 
  9. Practice assigning unsurpassable value to those people who are the least like you or need it the most.
  10. Resist the urge to fix other people’s problem…learn to listen and ask questions.
  11. Don’t aspire to be a part of the “in crowd”.  Oftentimes, the most wonderful people are not there.
  12. Do hard things and over time they won’t feel so hard.
  13. Pretend about nothing and you’ll never get lost.
  14. When you feel “stuck” in life…don’t wallow.  Seek counsel, choose a direction and get moving.
  15. You will fail.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Hit the reset button and get back in the game.
  16. Holding off on sex before marriage may seem old fashioned, but it creates a foundation of mutual trust that’s well worth the wait.
  17. Don’t get married until you find somebody you would gladly lay your life down for.
  18. Open your heart to God first thing every morning (prayer, meditation, reflection, scripture).
  19. If your religious experience is not moving you toward a position of love and compassion, then try a different path.
  20. Always have at least one male friend who you can be 100% honest with & always seek out a life mentor who will challenge you in new ways.
  21. Everything you put into your brain filters into your heart.  Protect your heart by saying no to the things that will slowly destroy you like pornography, drugs, explicit music, violent videos, gambling & a life of cheap thrills.
  22. Try your hardest to show up for the big events and occasions for those you love (moving day, funeral, birth, graduation, illness, etc.).
  23. Always deliver bad news to somebody face to face.
  24. Keep in mind that someone else doesn’t have to lose in order for you to win.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Mike McCormick

 

Saying Goodbye to Bedtime Kisses

June 9th, 2014 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

A familiar scene plays itself out in households across the world every evening around bedtime. As teenage boys are getting ready to sack out for the night they do their best to sneak by mom to avoid giving her a kiss goodnight.  What was once a warm and tender show of affection between mother and son has now become an awkward dance.  An emotional tug-of-war of sorts.  No offense mom but even if your teenage son is still kissing you goodnight, chances are he’s wishing he could just dart off to his room and skip the pre-bed ritual altogether. As a result, there are scores of hurt and angry moms, spanning the globe, wondering the very same thing. What happened to my little boy?

While women tend to have a pretty good sense of the basic needs of adult males, moms tend to misread the tea leaves with regard to their teenage boys. Why do moms so often miss the cues, clues and vibes their sons are giving to them? Because we naturally want to hold tightly to relationships where we’ve developed a profound emotional investment. And there’s no greater emotional bond than between mother and child.

No doubt it’s hard for any mom to admit her little boy is becoming a man and to release him to the manhood journey he was meant to embark upon. While moms intuitively know it’s natural for a young man to pull away from the warmth, comfort and safety of maternal love, it has to feel like pure rejection and absolute abandonment

It’s no coincidence that this relational shift happens around 13 years of age, right? Once a young man starts into puberty a lot of things begin changing thanks to a constant surge of testosterone throughout his body. As a result, he starts seeing women in a whole new way. New and intense feelings are awakened. Body hair starts sprouting in new places. His voice starts changing. Male body parts start expanding and contracting at a moment’s notice. There’s no doubt teenage boys experience some pretty massive physiological and emotional changes.

Now imagine if you’re a young man and your libido starts kicking into overdrive for the first time. You start checking out the girls at school in a whole new way and suggestive TV shows and commercials have a whole new allure.   Teenage boys are notoriously dense, but all of a sudden he starts making the connection that mom is in the same gender category as the young ladies he’s wildly attractive to. Now that’s a major “yuck” and a tough one to process for any young man.

As he becomes increasingly aware of and strangely attracted to female body parts it doesn’t take long for a young man to recognize that his mother not only has those same parts but she may have even used one of them to give birth to him! Worse yet, at some point he may have even suckled some of these body parts for nourishment as an infant! Now that’s the definition of “awkward” in teenage boy land.

I’m not saying that teenage boys have the hots for mom and there’s some Freudian-Oedipal thing going on. Rather, during puberty they are simply sorting out the feelings they have for women in general. And with mom being, well, a woman, there’s some level of confusion taking place.

So what’s a mother to do? It’s a tricky situation for sure. The most common strategy a mom will employ is to work harder to regain the emotional connection that seems to be slipping away. Women are relational masterminds but even the most skilled mother will likely get shot down trying to cozy back up to a bristling teenage boy. Moms, if your teenage son is acting extra rude toward you, he’s probably asking for a change in your relationship and doesn’t exactly know how to say it.  

Here’s the deal. Every teenage boy needs a father, uncle, brother, grandpa, coach or male mentor to step into his life in a significant and profound way to give him what he is craving…positive masculine energy.  No offense to the moms but your teenage son is asking for the road map to manhood. And the best thing a mom can do is to encourage, facilitate and release her teenage son to the mentoring of a trustworthy adult man. Mom will always play a key role in her son’s life. But it’s important for her to recognize and accept that their relationship was meant to change….meant to evolve into something new, different and special.

As a society we need to start helping moms process and work through this transition with grace and dignity. Women need to know that a relational shift with their teenage son is a natural and expected developmental stage and not a maternal failing. I am amazed that there’s so little understanding and discussion about this phenomenon that touches the lives of just about every person on the planet.

Moms across the globe are perplexed and struggling and we need to support them through this transition. In order to shed some necessary light on this issue we should create a clinical diagnosis to describe it better.  How about Testro Pubescent Disassociation Syndrome or something really catchy like “testrogen tension”? Regardless, we need to do a better job of preparing moms so they are not shocked and surprised when their teenage son changes before their eyes.

So what’s a mom to do? First of all, it’s important to remember that your attention and affection is still crucial to the healthy development of your young man. He needs to know you still love and respect him. The worst thing to do is to shut off your emotional overtures altogether or to make a big deal about his maternal dissonance. It’s important for you to show him you respect his wishes so be ready to retreat a little. But here’s the trick…you can’t back off altogether. Look for opportunities to let him know you care about him in less overt and more creative ways. Oh yeah, still try to hug him or snuggle with him or kiss him from time to time but be emotionally prepared for him to pull back. Remember, he still wants and needs your attention and affection but in smaller doses and in different ways.

After years of sacrificial love and devotion there’s nothing more painful than getting the cold shoulder from your teenage son. But keep in mind that how you handle this delicate shift will go a long way in determining the quality of your adult relationship with your son.   It’s tough to see the bigger picture when you are in the middle of it. But remember, while you may be losing your little boy, in the long-run you will someday be gaining a man.

 

Cold Doesn’t Bother Me Anyway

April 10th, 2014 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Since when did it become fashionable for teenage boys to stop wearing a coat in extremely cold weather? I know it’s been the winter of “Frozen” and “the cold doesn’t bother me anyway” but I’ve noticed more young men discarding their coats when they should be piling on more layers. Guys have been doing crazy things to validate their masculinity since the beginning of time, but freezing your butt off and acting like it’s no big deal feels like a whole new level of ridiculousness.

This morning I took my 13-year old son to his lacrosse game and the field was covered with a blanket of white frost. It was around 32 degrees and he was going out to play with only a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. I instructed him to get his coat on and he replied that he doesn’t want to be “soft” or “weak”. This is teenage boy code for “if you make me do this I will become the laughingstock of my team and you will singlehandedly ruin my life forever”. I quickly informed him that there was zero correlation between being warm and his masculinity so we settled on him putting on some under armor.

A couple of weeks ago I witnessed a 12-year old coatless kid leave my basketball practice into 20 degree weather after a couple of hours of heavy sweating. After a few steps into the frigid temps, he turned back to his friends with a big smile on his face and said proudly “look at me…I’m a man.” His friends gave him a few “attaboys” to confirm his proclamation. It seems like the definition of manhood has sunk to an all-time low these days.

This was confirmed when I recently did a writers workshop with a group of middle school students. As an exercise, I asked them to take a minute and write down their definition of a man. The kids did a pretty good job and there were a couple of real gems but for the most part their description of manhood was fairly uniform and pretty stereotypical: tough, successful, protector, provider, etc. I didn’t hear a lot of what I would consider to be the higher human qualities to strive for, such as loving, wise, generous, leader, courageous, godly, faithful and selfless.

There’s no doubt the manhood bar has been set pretty low and there’s a lot of confusion out there about what it means to be a man. Our teenagers desperately need to hear a clear and compelling manhood definition that creates a foundation for their future. Young men need to learn a code of conduct and the actions of a man so they enter high school with a compass to guide them through the maze of adolescence.

A couple of years ago I wrote a book called “Man Quest: Leading Teenage Boys into Manhood” for just this reason. So any dad can sit down with his teenage school son and give him a roadmap to manhood. A young man should never have to wonder if he has what it takes to become a man. And if he chooses not to wear his coat in the frigid temperatures it will be because he already feels warm and insulated.

Movies with Masculine Messages

November 27th, 2013 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Movies with Masculine Messages

Movies are a tremendous vehicle for teaching teenage boys about authentic manhood. 

Because of how we’re wired up, males don’t typically have a strong connection to our inner emotional lives. So movies often create a natural relational bridge for guys.  Men often draw great inspiration from classic movies and we enjoy talking about our favorite movie lines.

When I wrote the book “Man Quest: Leading Teenage Boys into Manhood”, I intentionally designed a movie time for adult men and teenage boys to enjoy together.   During those challenging teenage years it’s sometimes hard to find connection points between father and son.  Movies are a fun and compelling catalyst for deeper discussions.

Contrary to popular belief, the journey to manhood is not a solo trip.  It’s meant to be passed down from a father or male mentor.  Manhood must be actively taught to fully take root and blossom in the heart of a young man.  And movies are an outstanding teaching tool.

While there are hundreds of movies I could have selected to include in the Man Quest book, I purposefully selected movies with a little more grit to them.  As young men are moving into manhood, they need to start seeing some of the harshness of the world.  They need to start preparing their hearts and minds for life’s more pressing challenges. Movies with masculine messages help to get the testosterone pumping and the dialogue flowing.  They often provide an ideal opening for deeper conversations between mentor and mentee.

Man Quest suggests six movies that help drive home the essential lessons regarding the important “actions of a man” (or guideposts as I refer to them in the book).  Here’s my expanded list of the top movies to watch with your teenage son to spark conversations about manhood.  They are sorted by the six Man Quest guideposts.   The most appropriate age for my recommended movies is 13 and up.   Check out my web-site at www.manquestmovement.com to learn more about the Man Quest guideposts.   I’d love to hear about some of your favorite movies with a masculine message. Enjoy!

Accept Responsibilty

The Ultimate Gift*

Cinderella Man

Yes, Man

Pursuit of Happyness

A Few Good Men

 

Lead Courageously

Braveheart*

Master and Commander

Glory

I Am Legend

Hotel Rwanda

 

Pretend About Nothing

Dead Poets Society*

The Truman Show

Big Fish

Legends of the Fall

Pleasantville

 

Journey with God

The Matrix*

Les Miserables

Life of Pi

Bruce/Evan Almighty

End of the Spear

 

Protect Your Heart

Forrest Gump*

Good Will Hunting

Big

Shawshank Redemption

Slumdog Millionaire

 

Engage in Deep and Meaningful Relationships

Shallow Hal*

Roxanne

Rain Man

Henry Poole was Here

The Bucket List

 

*Man Quest Movies

 

Motorcycle Mayhem

November 27th, 2013 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

 

Motorcycle Mayhem

A few years back my grade school age boys were throwing the football around on our quiet, cul-de-sac on a warm September day.   I was working in the house and heard a loud roar of a motorcycle going by.  I knew it was probably the guy who lived at the end of the street who was taking one of his new toys out for a spin, so I kept on with my work.

After the motorcycle faded in the distance, my boys ran into the house to tell me that the “guy at the end of the street” almost ran them over with his Harley.  My eldest son, who has always been a very reliable story teller, said that the guy rode dangeoursly close to them and just said “get out of the way kid”. 

I had an instant and immediate swirl of thoughts and emotions.  My first reaction of “how dare he endager the lives of my boys” moved quickly to “who does this guy think he is”.  My boys could see the concern on my face.  And I could see they were waiting for me to do something big and my initial reaction was to defend them.  But then fear set it. 

I didn’t really know the 50-something guy who lived at the end of the street.  We would exchange obligatory and neighborly waves as he would drive by our house. We would emgage in some small talk during trick or treating every October, but we never had a realtionship and I doubt he even knew my name. 

The “guy at the end of the street” is a well known power broker in the community.  He’s a turnaround artist who buys and sells underperforming companies.  I’ve read about him over the years in the local business journals.  He’s obviously very rich and successful and enjoys all the accoutrements of his triumphs.  The guy exudes a “Type A” bravado and a “bigger-than-life” persona that quite frankly can be intimidating.

Now from everything I could surmise about my neighbor, the potential for intimidating young kids was not out of the realm of possibility.  Heck, I have to believe intimidation is probably what he does best and has made him a boatload of cash over the years at his trade.

I knew what I needed to do – I needed to take my boys to the end of the street, knock on his door and straighten out the situation.  I tried to strengthen my own resolve by reminding myself that “I’m the CEO of a big and successful company and I’m kind of a big deal myself”.  Unfortunately, positive pep talks rarely work – and the fear gripped me even harder.  What would I say? How could I say it without being accusatory?  How would he react?

At this point the fear became even greater and I’m sure my boys could see my initial intensity drain from my eyes.  I could see they were waiting for their dad to defend their safety and their honor.  It’s what every kid expects and deserves from his dad.  My dad stuck up for me a number of times while I was growing up and it always made me feel like a million bucks.  But all I could do was focus on myself and wallow in my fear.  I quickly went over the details of the incident with them again and did my darndest to convince them that he wasn’t as close as they had imagined and that he was probably just saying “hi kids”. 

In other words….I did nothing.   In doing nothing I taught my boys some pretty miserable lessons about what a man says and what a man does in this world.  In one fleeting moment I taught them not to trust your own instincts, avoid conflicts at all costs and create delusional stories in your head to justify your pathetic actions.  It was the lowpoint of my manhood. 

I immediately knew I totally wimped out but still couldn’t muster enough courage to face my fear.  The regret from this small but powerful incident still plagues me today.  But I’m glad it happened because it smacked me right in the face.  It forced me to confront the deep-seeded suspicion I knew about myself.  Something I could never say out loud and truly admit – I don’t believe I have the stuff it takes to be a real man.

 Sure I’ve done all the things your supposed to do to as a man in our society.  I’m happily married with three great kids and a successful career.  I give back to my community and church.  I’m a former college athlete and now coach my kids’ basketball teams.  But in the deepest part of my psyche, I knew something important was missing.  Somewhere along the way, I must have missed out on some of the important genetic material that makes up a man.  For whatever reason, at my middle age, I had to face the brutal fact that in my own estimation I had never earned my “Man Card”.  I had to once and for all admit that I was utterly clueless about what true masculinity looks like and how to apply it in my own life.

 This transforming incident sent me on a personal journey to develop a masculine blue print for the second half of my life.  It was a driving force in my writing the book “Man Quest: Leading Teenage Boys into Manhood”.   My hope is that dads and mentors will pick up Man Quest and actively teach the ways of manhood to their young men…so they’ll never have to wonder if they have what it takes.

Where is Peter Lanza?

December 21st, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

It’s been a week since the horrific tragedy in Connecticut and people are still trying to make sense out of what happened at Sandy Hook.   I’m sure the families of the victims are still in utter and complete shock as they bury their children.  In the coming weeks, as they move through the stages of grief, they will naturally focus more on why this happened.  They will want answers to their questions.  While there’s no making sense out of such a horrendous act, there’s somebody out there who has some important light to shed and could help with the healing.

I can’t imagine the pain and suffering Peter Lanza is experiencing right now.  As the father of the shooter he is left to carry the burden for what his son did.   Regardless of the extent of his relationship with his wife and son, he is in mourning.   At the same time, his life is now open to public scrutiny from everyone – forever.  Even though he provided his ex-wife with a beautiful home and a more than sufficient annual income, some have speculated that he abandoned his wife and son for the arms of another woman.  Others have said that he’s a workaholic who became consumed with his career over raising his emotionally needy son.  Some have advocated for just giving him grace and support as he grieves his loss.  Regardless of what you believe, one thing is for sure – in the eyes of many, Peter Lanza will be the villain and scapegoat for what his son did.

According to all accounts, Peter Lanza has gone underground to escape the media frenzy surrounding his family.  It’s clear he has consulted with a PR firm and attorney to determine a strategy for dealing with this unthinkable situation.   As history is a good predictor of the future, Peter Lanza will undoubtedly be sued by some of the families for his part in “raising a monster”.  And I’m sure he knows that.   He released a craftily worded statement shortly after the murders and we haven’t heard from him since.  The statement said the following:

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured.  Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy.  No words can truly express how heartbroken we are.  We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can.  We too are asking why.  We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so.  Like so many, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired”.

What was missing from his release was one very simple but extremely important word – sorry.    Without an apology, all the other words seem to ring hollow.   I’m sure his advisors told him not to admit to anything that might incriminate him in the future.  I think this is a huge mistake.  A simple acknowledgement of the horrific actions of a family member would bring some sense of comfort to the families who just lost a precious child.  While an apology doesn’t bring their child back or lessen their grief, it would provide some level of comfort to know a father was sorry for the actions of his son.   It’s one simple word.  Why was it left out of his statement?

People typically sue when they feel like there is silence and nobody is acknowledging the wrongdoing.  Sure, in our litigious society people will sue for just about anything.  But most of the time people just want somebody to be remorseful for the transgression committed against them.  I’m no legal expert but acknowledging his son’s crime and apologizing on behalf of the family would not be an admission of his own guilt.

Nobody can put themselves in Peter Lanza’s shoes.  I can’t possibly know the anguish he is feeling right now.   I don’t think anybody can completely blame him for going underground.  But I would advise him to rethink his strategy of bringing in outside “professionals” to water down his message to America.  Instead, I would advise him to find a way to open heartedly extend his sympathy and sorrow individually to each family.  It would be huge if he could reach out to each family of each fallen victim personally and share his condolences.  While I can only speculate that I might ever have the strength or stamina to do so, I would try my darndest to walk directly into the pain and suffering of each family and engage in the difficult conversation.  If I didn’t have the ability to reach out personally, then maybe I would write them each a note.  I don’t know exactly what I’d do, but there’s one thing I do know, silence only makes matters worse.  I have to believe that entering into the pain and suffering alongside the victims families would somehow help the healing process for all.

Like Peter, in difficult situations my first reaction is to run the other way and disappear as quickly as I can.  What I’ve learned through my many failures is that this instinct keeps me mostly weak and ineffective.  I now know that a man is made to move swiftly into the abyss and to do whatever he can to bring goodness and light out of seemingly impossible situations.  I’m very good at thinking through every possible reason why not to step into the pain of life.  But when I do lead with great courage – I never feel more like a man.  And I know my strength and vulnerability, when standing side by side, can bring healing and hope to the most desperate of circumstances.

Now I don’t have millions of dollars to shelter from potential lawsuits so it’s a lot easier for me to give advice.  But if I’m Peter Lanza, I have to imagine that protecting his net worth is not worth the piece of mind he could obtain by dealing head on with this situation.  I don’t think there’s any price tag on bringing some sense of healing to the families of the victims – as well as his own wounded heart.

An Open Window & A Steel Curtain

December 21st, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

My all-time favorite television sitcom is a show called “The Wonder Years”.  It’s the saga of a teenage boy growing up in the late 1960s.  Kevin Arnold, the show’s protagonist, chronicles the inner thoughts and feelings of a middle school boy finding his way in a turbulent world.   Back in college, “The Wonder Years” absolutely captivated me and I’ve only recently figured out why.

 The truth is, there’s a teenage boy living somewhere inside all men.  No matter what age, in some way, we still see the world through the eyes of a 13-year old boy.  Yes, we walk around in big boy bodies doing our big boy things every day.  But if we are completely honest, we still desire for the world to be comfortable for us and for things to work out the way we want them to, which is the mindset of a typical middle schooler.  Like the adult narrator from “The Wonder Years”, I have a tendency to revert back to my teenage psyche to cope with life’s most pressing challenges.  Why do I do this?  It’s where I feel most comfortable.

Middle school was the last time in my life that my heart was so open to the possibility of what life could truly become.  At age 13, I was on the cusp of manhood, but I knew I was still a boy.  It was the last time in life that there wasn’t very much being required of me and it felt like freedom.  I recall feeling a huge anticipation of what was to become.  I felt like I was on the verge of something great but I was also scared and confused at the same time wondering if I had “what it takes” to be a man.  I remember wishing I could have stayed where I was – soaking it all in for a while longer.  The teenage years are in fact the “The Wonder Years” and I think that most men glamorize that time and subliminally want to stay there. It’s no coincidence that this is the perfect time to teach the ways of manhood.

There’s an incredible window of opportunity we have to equip our young men with all the tools they need for manhood.  Between the ages of 12-14, a young man’s mind and heart are wide open to learning from an adult male.  But most will require a push.  As they are on the precipice of responsibility, they will naturally want to pause there.  They will instinctively want to stay where things are safe, comfortable and easy.  Without the active guidance from an adult man, that is exactly where they will stay.  A lot of men, never really move off of that emotional mark and will spend their adult lives trying to recapture that false comfort.  Most of us will get stuck in a virtual teenage emotional time capsule – seeing the world through the eyes of a 13-year old boy.

This is why the active initiation of teenage boys is so imperative in our society.   As it turns out, the window of opportunity to impart the true essence of manhood to a teenage boy is over very quickly.  When a young man reaches high school, a steel curtain seems to drop down and put a seal on his concept of masculinity.   What he’s learned up to that point is pretty much the playbook he will use for the rest of his life. A man’s core masculine psyche is normally defined by the age of 15.  If you miss it, then his concept of masculinity is pretty much locked in and it’s very difficult to retrace those steps.  If you don’t believe me, then think about your middle school buddies.  Have they matured much over the years?  While their physical features have changed quite a bit, I would imagine they’re outlook on life is pretty much the same as it was in 8th grade.

This is currently taking place in my own family.  Last year my 14-year old son went on a trip to Haiti with his youth group and had a very powerful experience.  This year my wife is going to India on a mission trip and he wants nothing to do with it.  He literally said he’s going through his “self-absorbed” phase and if he ever does another mission trip it will be with his friends (not his mommy). It’s no surprise that my twelve-year old son is now begging her to take him.

This window of opportunity is over in the blink of an eye so we must act quickly. Most dads will miss it thinking that my “boy is too young” or “not ready” to engage in the intentional dialogue that a “Man Quest” requires.  Then before you know it, he’s developing facial hair, getting his first job, a girlfriend, a driver’s license, and the steel curtain drops down in dramatic fashion.  The window is difficult to recognize and it closes so abruptly that all dads, grandfathers, brothers, uncles and mentors must act quickly.  There’s no doubt that the longer you wait to relay a real and true definition of manhood – the harder it gets.

As it turns out, as a man, I am still wrestling with my inner teenage boy.  He’s still alive and well, but I am constantly re-training him on what it takes to be a man.  As it turns out, it’s never too late to teach him. When he wants to take the easy route and keep life nice and simple, then I challenge him to step up.  I don’t want to kill the Kevin Arnold who lives inside of me.  He reminds me not to take myself so seriously and to live life to the full – which every man needs.  He gives me optimism and a thirst for something greater – which I desperately hope for.  And from time to time when I am tempted to revert back to my selfish adolescent mindset, I remind the little boy to “man-up” and embrace the actions of a man.

Man Quest Guideposts (Actions of a Man)

1. Accept Responsibility

2. Lead Courageously

3. Pretend About Nothing

4. Journey With God

5. Protect Your Heart

6. Engage In Deep & Meaningful Relationships

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recent murder/suicide by an NFL player has shocked the country and put a national spotlight on the issue of male violence in our society.   The statistics on American men and violence are getting scarier every day.  One out of every 75 U.S. males is currently incarcerated and every eight seconds a violent act is perpetrated against a woman in our country.  These frightening stats prove something that we can no longer ignore – American men are in crisis.

 

The problem is that most men, no matter what age, seem to see the world through the eyes of a teenage boy.  There are lots of little boys, walking around in big boy bodies, doing a lot of damage in our society because nobody ever told them what it truly means to be a man.  You can name any social issue in our society today and I can argue that the lies of false masculinity are at the root cause.

 

Very few guys are ever given a clear and compelling definition of manhood so we opt for the cultural definition of money, sex and power.  These cultural lessons are learned at an early age and reinforced by every beer commercial on television.  We’ve been bombarded with a 24/7 onslaught of lies, distortions and fabrications about what it means to be a man.  Nobody ever told us what a man should say or do in this world so the culture has filled in all the gaps.  And without anything real and true to believe in – we’ve bought into the lie.   There are lots of angry guys out there with a warped definition of masculinity that keeps them locked in a virtual teenage time capsule.

An Ode to Rich Rod

October 29th, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Although I played basketball in college, people are often surprised to find out that my first love is college football.  I’ve been a Michigan fan since I was a young boy and remember sitting around the radio listening to Bob Ufer call the games – with a football in my hand.  When I finally went to my first game in middle school, I was already a diehard fan of the maize and blue and 100,000 screaming fans helped to seal the deal.

Michigan football provided me with some of my favorite childhood memories.  When I went away to college in Ohio and was feeling homesick, I would watch the game and it would lift my spirits.  When I lived in California, I would wake up at 9am, eat a bowl of cheerios, watch the Wolverines and think of home.  When I lived in Baltimore, I would travel down to the ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor and plunge into one of the large recliners in front of the biggest TV screen in America.  Michigan football was more than just a sport to me, it was my passion – my obsession.

When things didn’t go well in my life, I turned to Michigan football to soothe my pain.  It has most certainly been my favorite escape.  Like any good drug, I’d get a temporary rush from a Michigan football victory and then a few hours later I would want another fix to keep the thrill going.  There’s a fine line between a seemingly harmless hobby and an all out sports addiction.  Can anybody relate?

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of my physical time and emotional energy watching, talking and reading about the Wolverines.  I’m one of those guys who loves the recruiting battles and scouring the internet to find out whether the maize and blue have a shot at landing the five-star recruit from Los Angeles.  I’d literally count down the days until I could find out where an 18-year old kid was planning on going to college.  I’d pour over the depth charts and injury reports so I could be up-to-date on the latest news.

When I moved back to Michigan ten years ago, the first thing I did was to order some season football tickets.  I remember dragging my five-year old son to the games and bribing him with snacks (he’d get one treat a quarter if there was no whining).  I told myself that we were spending quality bonding time together, but I think I was mostly giving him a sweet tooth. 

It was great to be back in the Big House again every other Saturday.  Even as an adult my emotions would hinge on whether the Wolverines were victorious over their weekly opponent.  A loss would take a good four days to get over.  A loss to Ohio State or Michigan State could take a month or so

Things changed for me when the University hired a new coach a few years back – Rich Rodriguez.  From Day 1, I didn’t like the guy.  He left West Virginia with an entire state ticked off at him.  His recruiting tactics seemed shady and his ethics appeared misguided.  And everything that came out of his mouth seemed off base or just plain arrogant.  To make matters worse, the guy couldn’t seem to get anything right on the field as he compiled a slew of lopsided losses.  It was downright painful.  But still I persisted

My drives to and from Ann Arbor became more discouraging.  After awhile, I wasn’t even happy when Michigan occasionally won a game!  All of a sudden one of the biggest joys in my life felt like just a big old waste of time and energy.

What happened to me?  I was no longer finding my sense of “life” and purpose from Michigan football.  I stopped pouring over the internet for recruiting tidbits and reading about the big games.  I stopped scheduling my Saturday activities around the Michigan games.  I even gave up my season tickets and started watching all the games on television!  Heck, nowadays, I just DVR the games and watch them in less time.  And I’ve become much happier.

Looking back, I’ve come to realize that my Michigan football addiction was tied directly to my longing for home and family.  For 20 years, I lived away from my home state and Michigan football was always my connection point.  No matter where I was living, I could always cheer for the Wolverines and it would anchor me.  When I moved back to Michigan, it took me awhile to realize I was home and I no longer needed a placeholder.

As a result of my epiphany, my Saturdays look very different these days – trips to the library or zoo with my three-year old, cheering on my boys at their sporting events, family brunch, a date with my wife, and oh yeah – an occasional trip to Ann Arbor for a game.  I’ve come to realize that my emotional tank is usually running pretty close to empty and I need to conserve what little I’ve got for the things that are most important.  I still enjoy watching football but I don’t invest so much of myself in the process.

 In life, pain seems to be the greatest driver of transformation.  As humans we tend to go along with the status quo and we rarely make big changes unless something rocks are world. I’d like to tip my hat to Rich Rodriguez for three horrific seasons of Michigan football.  He helped restore my sensibilities and re-direct me back to what life is truly all about.

The New God of Our Age

August 31st, 2012 by | Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The dawning of a new school year has officially closed the book on the summer of 2012.  The summer was filled with lots of fun and memorable times but I find myself longing for a couple of more bonus weeks to enjoy many of the traditional summer activities I never got to this year.  Can anyone else relate?

If I could take a re-do on my summer then there would be way more relaxing by the pool, backyard BBQs, family bike rides, concerts in the park, camp fires, amusement park excursions, fishing off the dock, Tiger games, walks for ice cream, boat rides, etc.  This year, we didn’t do much of the normal family stuff that makes a summer in Michigan feel so special.

How did the summer tick away so fast?  It seems like the kids just got out of school the other day and now they’re back again.  As I reflected back on the summer, I quickly realized that it all came down to planning and priorities. 

Back in the spring, Kristie and I sat down with the calendar and all of the proposed activities to map out the summer.  The first thing we did was to pencil in all of the boys travel sports schedules…big mistake.  After three weekends of basketball and another three weekends of lacrosse, our first non-sports related weekend happened in August!  From there we squeezed in a family vacation, youth group camps, time with grandparents, drivers training & team practices.  But at the end of the day, sports gobbled up 80% of our summer weekends and we were exhausted! 

While I absolutely, positively love sports, I don’t want them to be the epicenter of my family life.  There’s no doubt that much of who I am today is because of what I’ve learned on the playing field, but I place a far greater value on faith, family, and service.  We are usually very intentional about keeping our priorities balanced but somehow the sports schedule took over this year.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle.  American families spend more time on the athletic field than any other recreational activity in our country.  It’s amazing how much of our family life (and money) is devoted to our kids sports.  There’s no doubt the cultural tide has turned and youth sports has become the new God of our age.  Heck, during our six summer weekends of sports we didn’t make it to church one time.  How did my priorities get so out of whack?

Now, if I’m completely honest, I know there’s an unhealthy part of me that drives some part of my ego through my kids’ sports accomplishments.  I know my kids’ sports statistics should have zero impact on my mood, self-esteem or parenting.  It’s hard to admit this, but to some degree, their performance does impact me.  If my boys get more points or hits or tackles or goals, I generally stand a little taller that day (and I’m sure they can feel my approval).  Yuck!

This is not the kind of man or father I want to be.  I know there’s a broken part inside of me that’s slowly healing.  At the end of the day, I need to value my children for their own unique talents, gifts and individual spirits.  And I need to have my own passions, hope and dreams that are separate from theirs.

Turning the Light On

Immediately after I wrote the personal reflection above, I headed out to my 9th grade son’s tennis match.  By nothing short of a divine appointment, I sat next to a mom from the opposing team.  Every time her son hit a bad shot she sighed, gasped or banged the bleachers.  She literally made comments like “what the hell was that” and “get your head in the game”.  You could feel the tension – from both mother and son.  He kept looking over at her and scowling.   

When the first set was finished, the son came over to her and said “mom, I think you need to leave”.  The mom asked why and he said “because you’re scaring the hell out of me”.    She didn’t acknowledge his comments and went on about how bad he was playing.  He walked away in disgust.

The mom turned to me for some reassurance and asked “it’s good for them to feel a little pressure, right?”  She asked the wrong person.  I responded by saying “quite frankly, no, I don’t think so”.  I gave my observation that her son seemed completely freaked out by her negativity and was playing poorly as a result.  Needless to say, she was shocked at my blunt response.  I asked her to take a look at his slouched body language, contorted facial expressions and quick glances toward her at every missed point.  To her credit, she took a step back, watched with a different set of eyes and then completely agreed with me! 

I asked if her husband puts a lot of pressure on her son and she said “Ohmygosh, he’s ten times worse than me, he played college tennis, and built a court for him in the backyard”.  I encouraged her to work on becoming an emotional support to her son because all young men need to have somebody in their corner.  To her credit, she immediately changed her disposition and started encouraging him along.  You could see the spring in his step almost immediately and his play improved dramatically.

After the match was finished, I suggested my Man Quest book as a good resource for engaging with teenage boys and I wished her well.  She thanked me for “turning on the light” for her.  I chuckled because I know that I have to make sure to heed my own advice.

 Parental Reflection Questions:

1)      How much does youth sports/activities control our family calendar? Is that ok?

2)      When watching youth sports/activities am I enjoying myself or completely stressed out? What’s the source of the stress?

3)      How do I respond to my child when they don’t perform well?  Do I communicate my critique in an appropriate way?

4)      What does it feel like for my child to have me on the sidelines during a competition or performance? Encouraging? Stressful? Embarrassing?

5)      How much of my parental love, attention and affection is tied into my kids success (athletic, academic, activities, etc.)?