Father and Son

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What grabs you about Father's Day?  What is so special about being a dad?  There are many great dads and plenty of mediocre or absent dads. More likely, most of us fathers have been great at important times and not so great or even poor dads at other times.  Do you aspire to the title of Dad?

I realized that not everyone is cut out for fatherhood; I get and understand this fact of life.  Life is complex and often does not set everyone up well for his or her life duties.  This particular blog post will not address these harsh realities, other than to say goodness can still come from tough situations, people do change with time, and most importantly boys from these tough situations often can and do become great dads themselves. Instead, I am going to focus on what inspires me about this particular picture of a father and his adult-age son.    

Our world needs great men and great dads, because only men can mentor a boy into a man.  I am grabbed by the powerful image of a father in his later part of life standing side-by-side with his adult-age son. I’m inspired by this depiction of the progression of life.  The other stages of fatherhood have been already navigated: super hero, disciplinarian, teacher, coach, and counselor.  Now new roles are assumed: advisor, mentor, and hopefully even friend.

This past weekend, the Flanagan men came through Ironworks, Men’s Grooming & Supply Co. and I happened to be there and got talking with them. I learned a lot.  Michael, the dad, is a retired 30-year Army officer, who recently moved to Richmond to be close to his son, and Thomas, his son, recently bought and now co-owns and runs Restoration Builders of Virginia.  Through our brief interaction and this quick photo, I was once again inspired about this idea of building great men, as well as what it takes to make a friendship work.  Here you have a son, forging his own way and his dad watching; most likely his dad can’t fully relate to the risks & complexities of being a small business owner. Yet, here he is, standing by and finding ways to contribute in his new role as advisor and mentor.   

Why am I inspired?  Well, I share with you a picture of 2 men who have already invested a lot in each other, yet are continuing to invest in their relationship to take it to new levels. I see a lot in this photo. I see respect and enjoyment in this picture, I see a proud father watching his son run a small company. I see a son, who respects his dad and invites him into his life. I see a dad who is still engaged, cares, and gives input where needed. I see a son who is bold and who is making his mark on the world, his way. All these ‘pictures’ are good and excellent, and I want the same for my boys, because I know this is how it should be. I have a college age daughter and two teenage boys of my own. I’m grateful for this, and I enjoy the challenge of making my boys into men, and helping a daughter become a confident women.

Building Great Men

What does it take to build a great man?

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My family loves baseball and this picture of the baseball buddies from the 1993 movie “The Sandlot” represents in my mind a major component to making great men.  This story of a group of adolescent boys during the summer of 1962 takes place in Glendale, Salt Lake City, Utah where they spend hours together in a vacant, dusty lot playing baseball.  Friendships, fights, and laughter marked their shared experience one hot summer in small town America.  Their story depicts the slow, steady process of making a man.  The boys learn friendship firsthand and how to work out differences, how to accept and make new friends, and how to deal with change and adversity. This is a sandlot filled with lessons packed in this funny and inspiring movie.

Many years ago, I gave up on my perfect yard.  Instead, I let it become a place for my boys to be themselves.  At first it was easy to let the yard go.  The degradation was gradual since the lawn was in very good condition.  But after a year or two with no weed killer, no reseeding, and no watering, my strategy was apparent to everyone. We had dirt, dust, and sometimes mud in all the wear spots you would image.  I could almost laugh about how bad the yard got, except that my wife and I knew our goal was not to grow grass as much as it was to grow men.  In addition to the backyard grass, I had 2 fence sections that were progressively being damaged.   So my neighbors and I erected  a few large sheets of plywood to serve as backstops for the baseballs.  They weren’t pretty but they did help keep the balls from going into the neighbor’s yard, as well as slowing the damage to the fence.  Yet, after years of climbing over the fence and all the strikes with baseballs and scored soccer goals, you can image what the fence looked like. 

I am thankful for the privilege of being in a position of helping to build men.  I am also thankful for good neighbors who had a good perspective on life and shared a similar view on raising boys.  Just this past weekend, my neighbor and I, with the help of our 2 teenage men, began the process of repairing one of the fence sections.  Through the process we had a few good laughs and got to share another common experience we all will hopefully remember.  Later that same night, I said to my oldest son, I want you to remember the joy you had in our backyard when you are my age and have a family of your own.  Then, when your kids are grown, I want you to reflect on what it means to be a good neighbor to a young family that moves in next door to your house; both of these reflections will serve you well.