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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rodney Atkins, Fatherhood and Life Learned by Watching...

Rodney Atkins
Knowing that I can be a bit sentimental when it comes to faith and family (yes, I’m in touch), last weekend, a friend emails me a link to an old video of a song by Country Music singer/songwriter, Rodney Atkins, called Watching You (see below), that apparently choked him up (and he thought of me!).

I figure that maybe, whenever a friend feels a bit sensitive about something, they run it by me to see how I respond in hopes of validating their emotions. Sort of like a tear barometer.

Anyway, in the video, Atkins sings about his 4-year-old son, who follows him everywhere and, even without his father realizing, mimics everything he does, including using foul language, praying, and playing guitar.

Having a 3-year-old son myself, who tags along with me almost everywhere, including Mass in the morning, I was very touched by the words, which I completely agree with.

As dense as I can be (and believe me…), if there is anything I have learned over the past ten years of fatherhood, it is that kids learn, not so much by what their parents say, but by what their parents do. If I want my kids to behave a certain way, I need to behave that way, or else it’s just like spitting in the wind (and hoping not to get hit).

I remember when my older daughter was about four years old, her favorite pastime was watching TV. She would get mesmerized, to the point that we would be talking to her, and she wasn’t listening to anything we said. Even now, we still have to constantly battle her about her TV viewing habits, although we now restrict TV for our kids (you live and learn).

However, I realize where my older daughter learned the habit. Up until a few years ago, as soon as I got home from work, the first thing I did was take the remote away from my daughter, usually prompting her to cry, and plopping down in front of the television set, while my wife prepared dinner. I tuned in to whatever was on the boob tube (considering the programming today, it’s an appropriate name) and tuned out my family (not exactly endearing myself as a candidate for husband or father of the year).

At this point, I have to make a confession, my name is Carlos Espinosa and I am addicted to television. There I said it. I love TV. Let the healing begin! Ever since I was a kid, I loved watching Batman, Superman, Bonanza, Gilligan’s Island, I Love Lucy, The Three Stooges, F Troop (I'm dating myself), I Dream of Jeannie (I never got over my crush on Barbara Eden), etc., etc.

In fact, I still struggle with my addiction to television, especially sports, movies and religious programs, although I have been known to watch American Idol and American Pickers, among other shows. I'm a patriot, what can I say? The good news is that I have learned to control, aka conceal, it better. I now record my favorite shows and watch them after putting my kids to bed.

It also doesn’t hurt that after thirteen years of marriage, when I get home now, my wife is usually jumping around in our living room doing some sort of funky lunge maneuver while watching an exercise video and the kids are either playing in their room or my son is playing and the girls are in ballet. It gives me ample time to do more family oriented things, like writing blogs, snacking before dinner, or reading in my private reading office (the bathroom).

So, obviously, how I behave, fail to behave, or have behaved in the past, has and continues to have a huge impact on my children.

To be sure, according to many studies, fathers play a crucial and invaluable role in shaping their children's character, including influencing their judgment, sense of responsibility, respect for authority, mental toughness, and self-control.

I can see it in my own life. One of the greatest life lessons my father taught me, by his example, was commitment to family and dependability.

Like most immigrants that arrived from Cuba in the 60’s and 70’s, he worked hard, at times holding two jobs, to make ends meet. Nevertheless, he always had time for my brother and me. He would play catch with us, throw us batting practice, and hit us ground balls, and, up until high school, with my mom, would attended every game we had while growing up. More importantly, he is a devoted and loving husband.

I’ve often heard said that to be a good father, one must be a good husband first. I truly believe that. Kids watch and learn about love, respect, and relationships by the way mommy and daddy treat each other.

From the other influential father figure in my life, my grandfather, I learned that faith is important. My grandfather was very devout. While, I may not have appreciated or understood it for most of my life, I now realize the profound impact that seeing my grandfather attend weekly Mass without fail, praying the rosary, reading the Bible and serving as church lector, had on me.

As I reflect on my own fatherhood and my influence in my children’s lives, I can’t help but think about the Rodney Atkins’ song, because my children are watching. So, what exactly am I teaching them?  Well, if there is one thing I hope my kids learn from watching me is the importance of getting on their hands and knees to pray and worship the One True God of the universe...

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