By J. Adam Lowe, Cleveland, TN
From Dads Behaving DADLY: 67 Truths, Tears, and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood Copyright © 2014 Motivational Press. Reprinted with permission. By Hogan Hilling and Al Watts.
I believe at the heart of being neighborly, friendly, and influential is an understanding of how to be empathetic toward others. It is not enough to recognize other’s needs but to also understand the power of their emotions and situation. This is a lesson that organically arrived to my son at five, an age that may be considered too soon.
It is not at all uncommon for my son to come zipping into a room, ready to share some new excitement, some crowning achievement, or even a recently fabricated joke. This time was no different. I could hear the “Blaine train” coming from a room away, his feet thumping the hardwood as a rhythm to the tune of “Daddy! Guess what?!”
“What is it, son?” I asked.
“Why don’t animals take tests?” he posed with the anticipatory look in his eye, ready to burst with the answer regardless of my response.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?” I replied.
Suddenly, the excitement in his face drained away. His eyes had shifted from me to the television. His expression moved from joyful exuberance to troubled.
In the middle of his joke, my son was taken in by a commercial on television displaying the plight of children in foreign countries. He was captured by the image of a malnourished little boy staring blankly at the camera. He was confused, yet moved, by the comments of the narrator as he explained many children had no parents to look after them.
“Blaine, are you okay?” I asked as I touched his arm.
“Why don’t that boy have parents?” he responded with a mix of sadness and anger.
“Well, I’m not sure, but some kids don’t have parents because they may be sick, have passed away or even run away,” I answered.
“Some parents run away?! But why don’t they feed that little boy?” he continued, his expression growing ever angrier.
“Yes, some parents do run away, but you see those other people, those other adults there? They are working hard to help that little boy and love him,” I explained as I pulled him into my lap.
I knew the intricacies of inequity were too heavy for any five-year-old, but I also knew my son. He would not relent until he felt he understood. He had a spirit of determination that demanded answers, and I knew I couldn’t dodge this situation with the ole’ “you’ll understand when you’re older” response.
“Blaine, seeing that little boy makes you sad doesn’t it?” I posed as I began to redirect the conversation.
He nodded in agreement.
“First, I want you to know that you are very lucky because you have a momma and daddy who love you. Not only that,” I continued, “but you have grandparents and aunts and uncles and all kinds of people who will always make sure you are okay.
Also, I am proud of you. You have a big heart, and when people have big hearts, they are concerned for others. I have always prayed you and your brother and sister would have big hearts. It takes a big heart to do big, difficult things. Those people on the TV who are helping those kids have big hearts too.”
“I want to help that boy,” Blaine said, finally turning his attention away from the television as the commercial ended.
“I know you do and we help people like him all the time. Do you remember the boxes we made at Christmas?” I quizzed.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Do you remember when we took a bunch of your toys to another family?” I asked again.
“Yes,” he replied.
“And do you remember all the times Daddy has talked to you about helping those who aren’t as strong or fortunate as you?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
“We do all these things to help others,” I explained. “We help feed people who are hungry, and we help make kids happy with toys because we can help. We use our ability and our big hearts to make a difference. We may not be able to go across the world to help that boy, but we can help kids just like him around here. And we do. You do.”
“I’m glad we help people,” he revealed as I saw the smile return to his face.
“Me too, Buddy. Now, why don’t animals take tests?” I asked with a sincere desire to hear his punch line.
“It’s because there are too many cheetahs!” he answered with all the excitement returning to his face.
I will admit I was intimidated by this situation. With my son so emotionally primed, I knew it wasn’t an opportunity I could let pass.
Despite my own fear and uncertainty, I chose to reinforce something my son had already known. In a subject matter that was too mature for his age, I gave context he could understand. I will never forget the moment, and I am sure there are more in store.
J. Adam Lowe is a dad to three children and works in organizational development and education. He is also a frequent radio commentator. His wife, Rachel, is a school counselor. J. Adam and his family reside in Cleveland, TN.
Hogan Hilling is a nationally recognized and OPRAH approved author of 12 published books. Hilling has appeared on Oprah. He is the creator of the DADLY book series and the “#WeLoveDads” and “#WeLoveMoms” Campaigns, which he will launch in early 2018. He is also the owner of Dad Marketing, a first of its kind consultation firm on how to market to dads. He is also the founder of United We Parent. Hilling is also the author of the DADLY book series and first of its kind books. The first book is about marketing to dads “DADLY Dollar$” and two coffee table books that feature dads and moms. “DADLY Dads: Parents of the 21st Century” and “Amazing Moms: Parents of the 21st Century.” Hilling is the father of three children and lives in southern California.
Originally published in Dads Behaving DADLY: 67 Truths, Tears, and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood Copyright © 2014 Motivational Press. Reprinted with permission.
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