Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Dad Factor

I love being a dad. It is the greatest thrill in my life.

Our family is about as traditional as it gets. Kathy is the comforter, the one who teaches the love and joy. I teach our kids the confidence to strive toward new thrills and adventures. We discuss dreams, giant ones, and strategize on how to achieve them. I absolutely love my role (I had great examples in my dad and grandfathers).

I know many moms also play this role (and do a great job). But dads bring a critical factor to the family. There is a burning desire for adventure and challenge built into the DNA of every dad. Our vacations are shark diving, repelling, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, and chasing the NBA Finals. Always go for it, never say die. As Helen Keller said, life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.

Our house, yard, and driveway are always full of baseballs, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, and golf balls. Once Kathy was asked what it was like in a home with 5 boys. She answered, "Everywhere I look I'm surround by balls!"

When Tyler was diagnosed with cancer, Kathy and I quickly fell into our respective roles. Kathy worked tirelessly to comfort Tyler, trying to ease his suffering. She handled the many details of his care, praying and trusting in faith God would handle the big picture.

And I went to war, seeking to save his son for this evil beast called cancer. I searched for answers, demanded information from doctors, and sought out a multitude of advisers. I sat up all night, strategizing our game plan and calculating measurable goals and multiple "plan B's". I also had faith, but mine was that God would give us the strength to finish the fight. Our roles were very different, but both very important.

In the hospital I noticed that the moms always out numbered the dads. I understand part of it was work obligations, but I believe there was something more. The hospital welcomed those providing comfort to their children. But it seemed to push aside those seeking to participate more in the decisions, searching for deeper answers and second opinions. We were encouraged to assist the nurses, but discouraged from "wasting" the doctors time. The message was "Comfort your child, but stay out of our way and let us do our job".
I spoke with other dads, and many felt helpless, pushed aside and alienated by a system did not want their participation. But none of that matters. We must bring our strengths to the fight. We must be involved in the strategy. We need to step in and fix things, solve the problem, fight the war. In our fight I hit many obstacles. But I was strengthened as I watched the courageous fight in the dads of Christian Barker, AJ Piniewski, Mason McLeod, Zac Mason, and so many others. Although not always welcomed, the dad factor is critical.

And now we are done...Tyler has beaten cancer. But as I look beyond the hospital, I see that the moms also outnumber dads in fighting for a cure. The moms are often leading the charge, raising the money, running the events, spreading the message. Why is that?

I think it could be that the dads still feel out of place and alienated. We had a recent fund-raiser to benefit the cutest 4 year old you have ever seem. He is fighting a brain tumor with few clear options for treatment. Everyone just wants to hug him and help in some way. But it is primarily the moms that offered the most help, and have continued to call and ask how he is doing. They selflessly gave their support without question. But many of the dads seemed to struggle with things out of their control, having no clear solution or direction.

At the same event we also raised money for new TV's in the cancer rooms at Children's. That is where the dad's jumped in. We explained the need of the kids, weeks in isolation, unable to play their games. The TV's were a tangible and measurable solution to a specific problem. The dads rallied to fix the problem, achieving direct and immediate results. That is what we do best. Facing risk and challenge is not a problem. But we need a game plan. That is the place we feel most comfortable.

The fact is that, in fighting childhood cancer, we need both approaches. We need moms. But we also need more dads, standing up and fighting in the unique ways that dads fight. We need the dad factor.

As dads we need to clearly describe the problem, and articulate a plan on how we fix the problem, a strategy for success. What are the specific results of the money raised? What is the game plan strategy, the business proforma? What are the specific measurable results? That message would be much stronger if we have more dads. As dads we must create a message clear enough to be communicated at a business lunch, or over a beer at a sports bar. It's how we function. We will face any obstacle, fight any battle. But we need to be active participants in getting closer to the goal. It is up to us, and the dad factor is critical.

During the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, Derek Redmond was favored to win the 400 meter sprint. He had trained his entire life for this moment. But several seconds into the race, he collapsed with a torn hamstring. In agony, he picked himself up, pushed away the Olympic officials, and began to hopping to the finish line. Then, in the distance, someone came running out of the stands and out onto the track. It was Derek's dad, the man who spent countless hours with Derek training for this very moment.

His dad did not tell him to stop, did not pick him up or carry him. Instead his dad walked beside him, supported him, and helped him finish the race. And in the end his father let go, allowing Derek to cross the finish line on his own. That is the dad factor. That is what we do best. It's how we are made and why we were created. And we need that factor in the war on childhood cancer.


Anonymous said...

Great Video

Todd Hurley said...

Wonderfully written post. The video at the end is powerful.

The Katich Family said...

great story and perspective. thank you for inspiring us all. (even the moms)