Category Archives: Dad

Give Him A Little Grace

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We buried my dad last weekend, after a brutal 16-month battle with a rare lung disease. The grinding pace of the fight was excruciating and filled with ups and downs. With each new treatment option, we held our breath and hoped for the best. He even went as far as to pursue a lung transplant.

In the end, my dad was lying there, hooked to a breathing tube and pumped full of morphine, surrounded by the immediate family.  He died of suffocation—as his knotted lungs were unable to push enough oxygen into his system to keep him alive.

From the outside looking in, our family’s relationships looked good as we were growing up—even above normal. We spent time together, he provided every basic need, he loved my mom, and we took long family trips over summers. But over the years, I felt a distance growing between us. Although he listened to me, he seemed to be unable to hear me when I tried to share my heart with him.

He never really had a dad in his life; his natural father was an alcoholic and died when my dad was only 8. When his mom remarried several years later, the relationship with his stepdad was cordial, but not warm or fatherly.

By the time I turned 14 years old, the tension in our home was palpable. As I was maturing into my independence, my body was experiencing more aggressive impulses in response to an underlying, unspoken distancing between us. And that’s when I left home.

First, I spent time on my uncle’s dairy farm. The next stop was a missions project in Europe. I even tried boarding school for a semester. I had “layovers” at home periodically—sometimes for months at a time. However, staying with my dad, I always felt like I was just passing through. At best, I was living as a stranger with a distant relative. This went on for more than 30 years.

Then, in December of last year, I sat with him as the doctor gave him the news: you have 6 to 12 months to live. And that’s when everything changed. If we were going to figure out how to really talk on a heart-to-heart basis; if we were going to get this right, it had to be now. Grow up, or go home.

I wish I could tell you that everything came together, and we magically saw eye to eye. That we instantly came to terms with the distance between us and years of regrets, for both of us, just melted away. We had no such luck.

Instead, I chose to give him a little grace.  DON’T MISS THIS. I didn’t decide to act like the last 30 years were perfect. I didn’t wish away my disappointments. And I didn’t even discuss this with him; we still never really had that kind of relationship.

But what I did ACKNOWLEDGE in my own heart was that he was human, susceptible to mistakes—just like me. I did let him off the hook for the things he missed that I wanted and even needed. In short, I did recognize that he gave me his best.

My dad continued to deteriorate. We learned that what he was experiencing was a mounting sensation of suffocation as his body gave the signals that he was not getting enough oxygen. And simple things became harder for him like driving, walking and even using the bathroom by himself.

In the end, recognizing that he only had a short time left to live turned out to be a gift for me. Although there was no way to go back and rewrite every wrong, I learned to treat my dad for who he was—a generous, creative, and flawed human being.

Towards the end, when it was hard for him to talk, we did a lot of communicating by text. He was struggling with his keyboard skills, as well as everything else by that point.

After he had passed, I went back and took screenshots of some of the more meaningful messages. Here’s a rough translation of one I had received about four weeks before he was gone.

There’s a need to see our Dads through the eyes of mercy, remembering that they are in totally new territory and are scrambling with some major On the Job Training (OTJ) issues. Love Dad.

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Tim Truesdale is a son, brother, and father of 4 who is still figuring it out. Want to join him on the journey? Check out his blog entries or subscribe for periodic content like this here. Be sure to check out practical ways to be an honorable father by downloading the UNCOMMEN app at uncommen.org.

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Check out the Honor Your Father campaign for more inspirational stories and ideas on how to honor your dad at honoryourfathertoday.com.

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The Swish Talk

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March Dadness Championship Round: The Swish Talk

This is the year that everyone, including the analysts predicted chalk across the board in the NCAA Tournament. There wouldn’t be any upsets. Boy, were they wrong. We had a #15 knock off a #2 for only the 8th time ever! Plus, a handful of double-digit-seeds danced their Cinderella slippers into the Round of 32.

But that was as far as they got. The Sweet-16 held the names of schools with worthy rankings, except for perennial powers Syracuse and Gonzaga who danced through as a 10 and 11-seed, respectively Since they play each other, the Elite-8 is guaranteed at least one “Cinderella” double-digit seed.

What does that matter? The Sweet-16 and Elite-8 are ancient history. It does matter. That’s the best part of the Tourney. It’s the MADNESS of the unpredictable 15-seed, a buzzer-beater from half court, or a 12-0 run in the final 45 seconds of play to seal the game. March “Madness” got its name for a reason.

It’s no different here – anything goes. You cruised through the first 3 rounds of March Dadness with decisive wins of “Dreams“, “The Difficulty of Fatherhood“, and “Inside-Jokes“. Those games were scripted. You could study the film and look for tendencies, weaknesses in the defense, stuff like that.

Your momentum carried you past the Midwest’s 1-seed in your Final Four match-up. Amazing! Dad, you rock! But uh-oh! You only get one day of rest and prep before the Championship Game on Monday night and you just found out that you’re playing the pesky 8-seed from the West. They pulled a Butler from the 2010-2011 season and shocked the world. You were prepared for the other team, not this “unexpected” one.

Now, I’ve got you where I want you. This week’s conversation is the “unexpected” question. I call it… “The Swish Talk“. You know, it’s the old… “Hey Dad, can you tell me about Swish? Use your imagination. You don’t know what or when this question is going to come. Once there is enough Dadnamics in the water, it will surface like a shark.

Championship Round – “Dad, can we talk about… Swish?”

Take your son (or daughter) to the nearest basketball hoop with a decent net. Stand between the foul line and the basket and explain these rules.

“We will each shoot 10 shots from right here to start. If you swish (or make the basket without touching anything but net), YOU get 3 points. If you miss the basket, YOU lose 9 points. Lastly, if you make the basket, but the ball touches rim or backboard… YOU lose 9 points.”

He or she will say, “What?! That’s crazy talk!’

“That’s right son (or daughter). It is crazy. YOU better be perfect in your shots. Now, let’s go! 10 shots each!”

Who won? My guess is that you both lost with negative points, unless Steph Curry or Ray Allen is reading this article.

Keep playing. Change it up from different spots. Modify the rules. While you do, I’m going to explain the philosophy behind this game in terms of conversations. A “Swish” is like making a GOOD decision. You move ahead 3 points of trust with your Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Teacher, Friend, or Coach with each “Swish“. You strive for the swish. But what about a BAD decision? Those are the air balls and misses for sure. But the rim and backboard shots that went in, count too. All non-swishes send you 3-times further backward in trust than you gained from a swish. It’s unfair. It’s discouraging. It’s life.

Try to teach your son (or daughter) that TRUST is very hard to earn and very easy to lose.

And that goes for us too, Dads. We have to make “Swishes” with our wives, kids, co-workers, and friends so that when our child shows up at the Championship Game like Butler with his Swish Question… We are prepared with a clear conscious and a positive score ourselves with the people around us.

If you are interesting in learning more about Dadnamics, which includes interactive and creative ideas to connect with your kids… go to www.dadnamics.com. I hope to meet you because we’re all on the same team, Dads. 

Written by Ken Carfagno, Founder of Dadnamics

www.dadnamics.com

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Inside Jokes & Dolphin Slippers

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March Dadness, Round #3: Dolphin Slippers

“So, Kenny, what would you think about having a brother or sister?” My mom asked with my step-dad Paul sitting next to her. I was an only child to this point.

“Umm. I don’t know… I guess it would be nice.”

“Good, cause I’m pregnant.”

Even at 12, I knew that I had no say in the matter. What would my mom have done if I said, “no”?

By the age of 19, I was the oldest of 6! And I loved every second. The relationships I still have with my siblings are VERY unique and gave me many insights into fatherhood.

I want to share this week’s conversation starter in a different way.

Round #3 – “Dad, what do I look for in a husband?”

Let’s do the pre-game warm-up for this week’s BIG GAME against the 2-seed. Both teams are evenly matched, but if we don’t prepare well. It’s over.

I gave this to my sister 15 years ago. She was ecstatic. We went to the local mall and had a blast.

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You know those mall kiosks where they sell trinkets? Well, we stopped at one and immediately started flipping through one of the Far Side calendars. We laughed out loud. But suddenly, I flipped to a page where a man walked into the shoe store with these giant dolphins as slippers. The man was upset and the caption read. “I can’t get these to stop squeaking.”

It was a corny joke, but for some reason, Amanda and I started laughing louder. We kept looking at the picture, at each other, and hysteria began. It was quite the scene in the mall kiosk.

We finally left to get a snack. But the joke of the “Dolphin Slippers” was quickly becoming legendary.

We strolled into the food court, clutching our sides as they hurt from the laughter. Cinnabon was our stop as we bought a few tasty pastries with extra frosting, of course. I was cutting mine with a fork, carefully and purposely enjoying each bite. Not Amanda. I looked over and my sister looked like a chipmunk. No joke. Half of her Cinnabon was stuffed in her mouth and bulging out her cheeks. I lost it. She lost it. The 1-2 punch of the Dolphin Slippers and Cinna-Chipmunk gave way to silent laughter… the last phase before wetting thyself.

We didn’t do that. Luckily, she forced the pastry down and we finished our shopping spree. Neither of us remembers what else we did at the mall or what I bought for her that day. But the memory of the Dolphin Slippers and Cinna-Chipmunk became an “inside-joke” and constant source of bonding between us. I actually bought her Dolphin Slippers for her 13th birthday.

They actually squeaked.

On her 14th birthday, I took her out again….with a motive. Chivalry. I wanted her to know what it felt like to be treated like a lady. I was newlywed and was concerned that my sister might fall for a lie as she entered high school. I called it her 14-year-old Big Brother Date and told her that we would try to have fun. For some reason, she thought we would laugh a lot.

Halt! Yes, this has everything to do with March Dadness and the match-up with the #2-seed. If you have a daughter, the dating years may be the hardest challenge you’ll ever face. To advance to Round #4, let me finish the pre-game with the conclusion to this story.

Amanda is 26-years-old now. We’re still super close. I called her a few weeks ago and interviewed her for this article. We couldn’t remember the details of where we went or what we did on her 12th or 14th birthday. We just talked. Besides the obvious, you know… the Dolphin Slippers and the Cinna-Chipmunk… Amanda told me some truly remarkable things.

“Kenny, you came to the front door, knocked, and asked for me. You held my arm to the car as we walked down the steps to the driveway.” Amanda said. Then her voice trembled a bit. “You opened the door for me, helped me in. You told me I was beautiful and how excited you were to spend time with me.”

Wow! I didn’t see that coming, Dads! I had taught her things that day, but all she remembered was HOW I TREATED HER. And I should have known this because every time she found a potential “winner”, she called me to say…

“Kenny, he opened the car door for me!”

This simple 14-year-old date became a litmus test for future boyfriends. But you have to understand, I earned her trust in the years prior through connection, especially the birthday trip just 2 years prior.

Dads, it’s game time. The 2-seed is ready. You’re ready. The whistle is about to blow. The ball will be tossed high at center court for the big 2-3 showdown. If your daughter is young, start the connection process NOW! If she is 8-10, connect more and tell her, with excitement, that her BIG DADDY-DAUGHTER DATE is coming.

And if she’s over 10, go for it! Take her on this date. SHOW her how a man should be treating her and you will walk right into Round #4 of March Dadness!

I’ll be doing this with my own daughter in a few years. She’s 8 now. I wonder where I can find some Dolphin Slippers.

If you are interesting in learning more about Dadnamics, which includes interactive and creative ideas to connect with your kids… go to www.dadnamics.com. I hope to meet you because we’re all on the same team, Dads. 

Written by Ken Carfagno, Founder of Dadnamics

www.dadnamics.com

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March Dadness, Round #2: Difficulty of Fatherhood

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March Dadness, Round #2: Difficulty of Fatherhood

Picture this. It’s the second grade and math class is in full swing. Each kid scratching their head or tapping their #2 pencil on the desktop as the teacher talks arithmetic. But there’s something amiss. Two kids are in the back of the room, building card castles. Are they in trouble? How could they be? They’re playing while the rest of the class is working.

Hello Dads! I was one of those kids. And no… we weren’t in trouble. We just aced the math work before everyone else, so the teacher excused us to the back of the room to build card castles. It wasn’t a perfect system.Think of it this way. The teacher was giving us opportunity to be “unschooled” as we dueled for the tallest castle (using math, of course).

Speaking of math, how’s your bracketology going? Selection Sunday just passed and the first round begins any… time… [tic, toc, tic…] I took Kansas all-the-way for the 26th straight year. It’s safe to say that I really like the Jayhawks. Anyway, let’s check back with our REAL brackets. Congratulations Dads! You have made it to Round #2 of March Dadness.

Round #2 – “How Difficult IS Fatherhood, Dad?”

You may not have been perfecting the art of card castle construction as a 2nd grader,  but have you ever tried? I’ll pause for dramatic effect… [Jeopardy music plays…]

Okay good. To anyone who said NO, “Ouch, I’m so sorry!” You’re never too old to start. It’s simple. Lean and lay. Got it, if not… Google it!

Follow these simple instructions and begin. Get cards and build! The winner is the master builder with the largest and tallest card castle.

[More Jeopardy music…] I have to check my brackets one last time anyway. Be right back.

You didn’t like those instructions, did you? I did it on purpose because of the PERFECT segway into this week’s convo-starter. Most Dads aren’t given instructions to this “fatherhood” thing. Let’s do the card castles again, but this time with the conversation of fatherhood.

You are the 3-seed in the East Bracket and expected to win this one. Your opponent has been gunning for you and wants to take you down. As your March Dadness coach, I’m going to draw up the plays to secure the “W” and ticket to Round #3.

1st Play: When you lean two cards together, did you notice that they slide? As an experiment, try to build a simple triangle with two cards on: (1) hard-surface floor, (2) carpet, (3) rubber or mat.

Tell your son that the “stickier” the surface, the better the castle. Explain that being a Dad is hard, but the first step is to decide to stick around, no matter what.

2nd Play: Now that you’re sticky, let’s build the right base. You can align your triangle pieces or construct them in a circular pattern before you start laying down the “first floor”. There are other methods too, but which will prove most durable?

Explain to your boy that the foundation is really, really important. What we believe and place our trust in will determine the strength of your fatherly influence… or the strength of our card castle.

3rd Play: I never told you how many cards to use. Ha! You probably got one deck and split them up. But isn’t that limiting? What if you had 10 decks each? Ask your child. “How many cards were we supposed to use?”

He’ll say, “I don’t know.”

Now you can say. “Son, being the best Dad requires lots of cards. The more cards, the bigger you can build. Each ‘card’ could be a book, a podcast, a conference, a church or church group. Cards are resources.”

4th Play: You’re ahead by 15 points and this game is in the bag. Go for the jugular and execute these final two plays. Google “best card castles” and see what you can mimic.

“Being a Dad is difficult and we need to find those doing it well, and copy them. That’s called finding a mentor. My mentor is (_____).” (Name your mentor. If you don’t have one, get one.)

5th Play: Ask your son, “What was the time limit for this activity?”

He’ll say again, “I don’t know.”

Perfect, you’re in the closing minute. You’re soooo close!

“Son, the more time we invest together into our card castle, the stronger it will become. It’s the same with being a Dad. We have to spend time together.”

Now pause while your son beams back at you.

Round #3, here we come!

If you are interesting in learning more about Dadnamics, which includes interactive and creative ideas to connect with your kids… go to www.dadnamics.com. I hope to meet you because we’re all on the same team, Dads. 

Written by Ken Carfagno, Founder of Dadnamics

www.dadnamics.com

 

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Dreams

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Triple Clap.

Did someone say, “Q-Time”!?

Last week, you heard how Uncommen’s own, Dee Lanier, rocks the convo from his car to his home. I’m not going to try to top that. No need. Instead, allow me to re-introduce myself…

I am Ken, founder of Dadnamics. I want every bracket-loving man (and lady) out there to check the calendar. What month is it? Repeat after me.

Q-time!”… Wait, oops. Dee’s game was still in the crevices of my brain. Try again. What month is it!?

“MARCH DADNESS!”

Oh yeah, that’s right. In a few weeks, many of you will be printing out and picking brackets. If you’re like our family, the guys with a clue about b-ball will lose miserably. And the 5-year-old will win it all because they picked Georgia State, a 14-seed to upset #3 Baylor in the second round.

That was 100% intentional that I gave love to Georgia State. The 2016 NCAA Tournament is about to start and there isn’t a better man to be recognized than the head coach of Georgia State, Ron Hunter. Trust me. Google his name with the word “Dad”. The Hunters stole our hearts on the basketball floor last March, but it didn’t… just happen. Ron and R.J.’s relationship is an accumulation of connection over 18 years. Let’s talk about how we can have what the Hunters have.

Last week, Dee set the table for an incredible month of real-talk. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Yo Ken, you’re going in. Play the low post and drive the ball through the nylon.”

So here’s the game plan. Each week, we’re going to delve into a conversation that many Dads wished their own fathers had talked to them about… but didn’t. I’m going to draw it up. All you have to do is EXECUTE the play and we will make it to the second round. Can I count on you?

Triple clap.

“Q-time!”

Sorry again, I’m getting a little carried away with that.

 Round #1 – “Let’s talk about dreams!”

Not the kind where you wake up, sweat on your brow, and a distant memory of a giant sponge creature licking you like a lollipop. Nah, man. Let’s talk about the dreams you have when you’re awake (and if they’re about a giant sponge monster, stop reading NOW… that’s just wrong!)

Let’s try the “The Dream Story” tonight during tuck-ins. It’s a Dadnamics favorite. You will need the following materials: (a) tongue (b) voice (c) kids (d) bed. That’s simple enough. Here’s what I did with my son, Kenny, when he was 5.

While tucking him in at night, I would strategically choose a worthy career. Then I’d start The Dream Story with Kenny at age 5, becoming the best (  blank  ) in the world. One night, it was an engineer. In other nights, it was a doctor, home builder, baseball player, and an explorer. I would just make up a story of how Kenny grew his dream, worked hard, studied, practiced, endured, lost, fell on his face, and eventually accomplished that goal. It was a silly story, but it definitely illustrated that becoming the best involves a lot of pain and struggle, but also sweet victory. My son LOVED these stories.

Do you get the point? Good! Here’s the playbook. You need three nights of practice before the BIG GAME to be able to advance to Round 2 of March Dadness.

Night 1 – Choose a worthy career like I did with Kenny. Craft a 10-minute Dream Story. Make it funny if you can and end it with them accomplishing this dream BIG TIME as the best in the world. Talk about it and see where the conversation goes.

Night 2 – What was YOUR dream as a boy? Walk your child through your story from dream to whatever you became. It’s okay if the picture of today isn’t what you dreamt yesterday. Just tell the story with the important choices you made along the way. Talk again and see what he (or she) thinks.

Night 3 – Ask your son or daughter for one of their dreams. Tell them that they CAN accomplish it and then make up a final Dream Story, ending with your child as the greatest in the world. Again, try to make it funny and then talk one last time.

Ask which night they liked the best and why? Then, let the conversation steer itself.

It will.

If you are interesting in learning more about Dadnamics, which includes interactive and creative ideas to connect with your kids… go to www.dadnamics.com. I hope to meet you because we’re all on the same team, Dads. 

Written by Ken Carfagno, Founder of Dadnamics

www.dadnamics.com

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Make Every Night Game Night

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Here’s how a typical conversation with my kids on the way home from school goes, “so how was your day?” Response from my third grader, “Good.”

Response from my kindergartner, “Fine.”

And if I don’t press, that’s the end of our convo. The next 20 minutes we listen to music, the girls talk to one another, and that’s that. It’s not until we get home that my wife begins asking more questions that I hear stuff like, “our field trip was so fun!” or “Mommy, a boy in my class really hurt my feelings. He kept calling me names.”  

I get it, my girls have a special bond with mom, and she can ask the same question that I do, and often get a much better response. That’s common.  But I want to be UNCOMMEN! So we instituted a new game in our household that gets everyone talking and listening, and the best part is, Daddy made it happen.

We call it, “Q Time,” which stands for “Question Time”.  Sometimes in the car, or often-times at the dinner table, we start it up like this:

One of the kids initiates in their best pep rally voice,”What time is it?!”

Then we triple clap.

The kids cheer, “Q Time!”

Repeat. Typically only once, sometimes obnoxiously loud. Always with enthusiasm!

The rules are simple. Whomever started Q Time picks the first person to share something about their day, good or bad. Then each family member can ask one question to discover more information. As a family we are all engaging each person fully, giving them our undivided attention, and asking them more questions to find out what made that issue so good (or bad) that they had to share during our most awesome Q Time. I’ve been amazed at how attentive a 9 year old, 6 year old, and 5 year old twins can be to one another. It’s also here that Mom and Dad discover if there is something we need to talk to our children privately about. Q Time is fun. It’s almost always fun. But if it’s not for a particular child, that often means there’s something they are really hurt by or embarrassed about, which gives me and my wife the heads up that one of us needs to follow-up. We’ve been playing Q Time for over a year, and have noticed the need to have just a few of those one on one conversations.

For now, the kids are pretty transparent with one another, and I’m just ecstatic that we are setting the expectation that we regularly share about our feelings and what influenced our attitudes and actions throughout the day.  I didn’t really have that as a kid, but I’m determined to make it happen for my family.  More importantly, my kids are determined to be more fully known. As they get older, I’m sure we’ll have to change the rules of the game, as I’m sure pep rallies will be reserved for high school football games. Hopefully we’re laying the groundwork now that can be carried over to another creative share time as they get too cool for mom and dad, sigh.  I also pray that in the future, they pay it forward during their own family time.

Struggling to get your kids to speak up about their day, try making a game out of it. Come up with the rules as a collective, play consistently, modify as needed. Do something like this already,  please share with @UNCOMMENapp #UNCOMMEN. We’d love to hear!

written by UNCOMMEN Executive Director, Dee Lanier

 

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