pink doughnut with pink icing on top



Earlier this week, I sat down with Atlas at a local donut shop and had a ‘Dad date’ with him, over a cup of coffee and two donuts. He chowed down on an Elmo donut, and I had my favorite donut; an apple fritter. While we were sitting and talking, I looked over at the wall and saw a large picture of Homer Simpson painted on the wall.

It struck me that this image is the picture that America has tried to paint Dads as for decades; fat, useless slobs with a beer in one hand and the remote control in the other.

That’s not the kind of Dad I want to be for Atlas, and I think it’s a tragedy that the Father figure in the household has been so painfully tarnished over the years.

I can’t think of one mainstream TV show in the last 50 years that paints Dads in a positive, respectful light. Rather, they’re nit-witted idiots who seem to do anything but step up in their role as the leader of their family.

I think it’s equally painful that the modern-day movement to ‘uplift’ women has done so by telling them they don’t need a man to open a door for them, which deprives men of the opportunity to serve women as a true gentleman ought to.

“Sweep me off of my feet – but don’t open the doors for me” most women nowadays demand – at least, in my experience.

While at the pool this afternoon, I noticed something all too common with the Dads there; the ‘Dad bod’ – which has been normalized to look a lot more like Homer Simpson than Rocky Balboa.

Earlier this year, I suffered a series of injuries and they were entirely my fault, because I had let my physical strength get away from me and didn’t take better care of myself. While playing with Atlas one afternoon, I started to dance with him and felt a lightning bolt go down my spine as a spasm dropped me to my hands and knees moments after I set him down on the couch.

All I could tell him was “Look, Dad’s crawling like a bear!” As the spasm ran its course through my muscles.

Two things happened in that moment. First, I felt a sense of shame for my own flesh and blood being there for the moment. Second, I vowed that he’d never see his Dad crumble to the ground again – at least, not if I could help it.

In my 20’s, I could deadlift 500lb., bench press 405lb. and curl 55lb weights. My body was packed full of muscle and I could barely fit into an XL t-shirt. Did it feel good to be that big?

You better believe it.

Towards the end of my 20’s, I replaced workouts with parties and soon lost a good majority of that muscle. Along with it, I lost that sense of drive and dedication that came with the workouts. I lost contact with the ‘dark demon’ inside of me that would come out when I needed to lift extraordinary measures of weight.

I lost a part of myself.

There’s a saying that if you can look up, you can get up. Sometimes it’s when you’re on your hands and knees that you get the firm foundation to rise up and never fall down again until the final bell rings.

A scene from one of the Rocky movies comes to mind…

Balboa is getting manhandled by his opponent, and his face is bloody and torn like a piece of hamburger. The bell rings and he retreats to his corner where he tells them:

“I ain’t goin’ down no more.”

And he doesn’t.

I felt a lot like Rocky when I went down for that spasm, because it felt like all of the consequences of my choices had come in for one final death blow. Through the white hot pain, I heard a little voice scream out:

“I ain’t goin’ down no more.”

And I didn’t. I made a vow to get up and stay up, and recover the strength that I had lost. My determination wasn’t to build muscle and be the biggest guy at the gym, either. It was a determination that I would never allow the size of my son to overpower the strength of his Father.

As a Dad, I want to set an example for Atlas. I want him to look at me and be able to see a Man that he looks up to in all areas as an example to follow, learn from and be his trusted guide in life. He doesn’t need a best buddy, but he also doesn’t need a drill sergeant – he needs an example that embodies that characteristics, traits, disciplines and mannerisms that will help him become the best version of himself.

That’s the job of a parent, after all. Yet, these days, I don’t see a lot of parents who understand that – let alone, embody it.

I believe that children should look up to their parents and see an example they want to be like – not an example they want nothing to do with, as is all too common in todays’ generation of youth.

Raise your kids – or somebody else will.

When I look at the way that the media has portrayed the Father figure, I see a clear strategy to shift Dads away from the role of being an example for their children to look up to and follow. The problem is that most Dads have fallen into this trap and stepped down, allowing other influences to step into their rightful place as the example.

Dads used to pick up a sword and shield in order to defend their lands and protect their families. If they failed their responsibilities off of the battlefield, they would surely fail on it – which would result in the worst of all imaginable things happening to their loved ones; rape, murder, torture or slavery. That reality would be a driving force behind all of their actions as they stepped into battle to meet the enemy.

Now, the closest most men get to battle is through a screen. The hardest challenge they face is deciding what to watch on Netflix. This has weakened the Father figure into the proverbial Homer Simpson. It doesn’t have to be like this.

I believe that every Dad can rise to the challenge of their life every single day. I believe that every Dad can be a hero for their children and set the tone for the next generation, if they are willing to make the sacrifices to do so; putting down the remote control, surrendering the video game controller and keeping their eyes and minds in check.

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