Tag Archives: activity

To Tackle Or Not To Tackle

For three years my 11-year-old son has begged me to let him play tackle football.  For three years, I have said “no”.

For some reason, I have determined tackle rugby is much safer and he played his first match this past Saturday.

Photo Credit: KevinScott.Org via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: KevinScott.Org via Compfight cc

To my credit, he loves rugby and cannot wait to go to practice (especially when the fields are a little wet).  He plays hard and his Aussie coaches have been fantastic at teaching the basics of the game and of smart tacking.

So, why tackle rugby and not tackle football?

I have no rational answer to the question.  I just went with my gut instinct.

Having watched his rugby practice and game, the sport moves at a different pace than American football.  The pacing and play appears to protect from the brutal hits I loved to watch in those old NFL Film shows on VHS (which reminds me…I need to see if those are available on DVD or on-demand).

One of those shows was called “NFL Rocks” and I wore both volumes out on my VCR.  One segment from Vol. 2 focused on Junior Seau.  I had no idea what price Seau would eventually pay as a consequence of his years in football.  While more than concussions may have been at play, Seau’s story and those of many more provide a compelling warning.

Time will tell if my son will want to keep playing rugby or will want to play both rugby and tackle football.  Time will also tell if/when my ex and I decide to let him play tackle football.

In the meantime, he will go to get a baseline assessment at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in case he ever does get a concussion from rugby, football, or any of another 1,000,000 ways it could happen.

Have you allowed your kids to participate in risky sports?  How did you make the decision?  How much does their desire to play affect your decision making?  

Discovering Unforgettable Father-Child Experiences

If you look up the word “hunter” in the dictionary, you will see my picture on that page.  That is because “hungry” is on the same page.

You can buy this sign from https://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/home/wooddesigner

You can buy this sign from https://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/home/wooddesigner

I have harvested my share of birds and an elk here and there, but am not a great hunter.  At the end of the day, I love being outdoors.  My son shares the same love for the outdoors and wildlife.

This past week, my son and I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night, all-day Saturday, and a half-day Sunday at a hunter education class sponsored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  I took the same basic class when I turned 10…over 35 years ago.  For anyone who has taken hunter education, no matter which state you live in, rest assured the movies have not been updated.

Photo by author...and proud dad!

Photo by author…and proud dad!

In all, we shared 5 hours in the car driving to and from Ben Avery Shooting Range and nearly 20 hours getting hands-on and classroom instruction.  We shared lots of laughs, had some serious ethical conversations, and I learned more about what he likes and does not like about the outdoors and hunting.  And he learned more from me.

I am not suggesting each of you need to take your kid through hunter education (by the way, lots of moms and daughters took the class), but you should seek out something your kid enjoys and find a way to take a deep dive with the subject.

In particular, find free or low-cost opportunities offered by organizations with the same passion.  Hunter education courses receive funding from several public sources and the instructors volunteer their time…and their passion can be contagious.

Maybe your kid enjoys the outdoors.  Find an opportunity (REI, Bass Pro Shops and many others offer no/low cost classes).

Art?  Check out your local art museum or community college for a workshop or class.

The list of interests and opportunities could take pages to exhaust.

Your job: ask your kid what subject she would like to dig into.  And do it with her.

I promise both of you will grow closer to one another…and you might just learn something.

I am going to brush up on my aim.

Do you know what interests your kid?  Do you have ideas about how to help them learn in a way you can also participate?

How To Incorporate Fitness Into Your Parenting Routine

Arizonans have the great fortune of mostly great weather from September (fine…October) through May.  Summer gets a little on the hot side, but air conditioning takes the edge off.

Photo Credit: MattB.net via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: MattB.net via Compfight cc

On Saturday, my son and I went trail riding with a buddy and his son.  For just over an hour we biked around the North Mountain trail system, had a blast in perfect weather, and began planning the next outing.

I drove away thinking about how much I despise exercise bikes but love getting outside and doing an activity with my son and our friends.  I also recalled how much fun I had a few summers ago at Core CrossFit where I did a two month stint with some great people and really improved my physical and mental health.  I thought about how my son loves to be thrown in the pool and how much exercise I get launching him and his buddies into the deep end.

I also thought about a post by Mark Sisson – one of my favorite fitness and health gurus – wrote about the importance of play.  In fact, it earns a spot on his definitive guide to primal living.

Why do I mention all this?  Because I suspect, like me, you struggle to find time to train, to lift, to play a pick-up game of basketball or anything.

But, if Mark is right, we can figure out ways to play with our kids and train at the same time.  Maybe we just play a little harder…put our bikes a lower gear…make a game out of throwing those 40-80 pound weights into the deep end and consciously creating a full-body workout.

Some thoughts…

  • Build play time into your routine.  Assuming you raise your kids alone, and assuming they are on the younger side, it goes without saying you should not sneak out before they get up to go to the gym.  Maybe you have the flexibility to stop by the gym after work and before you pick your kids up from their daycare/after-school program.  If not, set aside time two or three times per week to play with them – you can play harder than them to both work up a sweat and strengthen your relationship with them.
  • Use kettlebells at home.  I love my kettlebells.  My son used to call them kettleballs and I’m just immature enough to laugh just thinking about it.  They do not take up much room and you can get a great workout.  My chiropractor recommend them to me years ago and I got hooked.  You can find them at just about any sporting goods store, but I recommend you get them from the master – Pavel Tsatsouline (I have no .
    Photo Credit: pullsh_active via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: pullsh_active via Compfight cc

    I had the chance to attend a seminar by Pavel several years ago, and he’s the real deal.  His most recent book, by far my favorite, lays out a simple and straightforward way to train efficiently and effectively.  Note: if you have never used kettlebells, please find someone in your area trained in the proper use and go get a one-on-one lesson or attend a class.  If you do not have access to that or do not want to spend a ton of money, check out Steve Cotter’s excellent DVD – he gives about the best training on proper form you could get from a video.

  • Use bodyweight exercises at home.  You cannot beat the cost of doing bodyweight exercises at home.  And you can do them when you only have a few minutes to allocate toward exercise.  Push ups.  Pull ups.  Lunges.  Squats.  Simple.  While this guide can be a little over-the-top in terms of the back story, Convict Conditioning provides a great road map for an effective, measured approach to bodyweight exercises.

and, finally…

  • MovNat.  In 2010, I attended a MovNat workshop in Phoenix.  I, along with about 20 others, spent the day at a park balancing on benches, shimmying up playground equipment, crawling in the grass, learning how to tumble, and generally having an awesome time.  Our instructor was Clifton Harski who kept us in stitches and taught the fundamentals of movement, balance, and having a great time.  My classmates were gym owners, fitness enthusiasts, and people far more flexible and strong than me.  If you sign up for MovNat’s newsletter, you get a weekly email with a type of movement to incorporate into your training – things like climbing techniques, balancing, jumping, throwing.  You could take one of the weekly suggestions and do them with your kids on your play/fitness days.

I struggle to do all of this.  I often want to just sit down and rest.  But I feel better when I move.  I feel better when I get dirty.  I feel better when I can laugh with my son out on a trail.  I feel better knowing I am modeling healthy activity for him.

What is your favorite “fitness” activity with your kids?  What activity would you like to try?

“Ts” Of Single Fatherhood – Talk

“Hi, son!  How was your day?”


“What happened at school?”


“Anything happen you would like to talk about?”


Sound like a familiar conversation when you pick your kid up?

For our purposes, we will acknowledge conversation between father and child benefits both the father and child.  We will acknowledge the importance of verbal communication for the development of our kids from a social and emotional standpoint.

Photo Credit: Alkavare via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Alkavare via Compfight cc

If you have had experiences like the one I shared above, we need to move beyond the “why” and get to the “how”.

OBSERVE:  When do you like to talk to others and when do you like to be left alone?  Do you want peace and quiet before breakfast?  Until you get to work?  Do you need some time to decompress after a long day and collect your thoughts without engaging in conversation?  Well, our kids have similar preferences.  Learn yours and learn theirs.  Use that information to determine the best time to engage in meaningful conversation.  Many kids do not want to talk about their day at school immediately after leaving, and instead would like to listen to music or shoot some hoops – not a good time to actively engage.  Instead, figure out when they are most open.  For many, it is at bedtime (see my post about bedtime rituals for some thoughts on this).

ASK QUESTIONS:  Would you rather get a lecture or engage in a dialogue?  Often, we equate talking to our kids with telling our kids what we think.  Instead, observe which questions pique their interest and elicit a response more than a simple “yes” or “no”.  Sometime our kids need to hear from us in the lecture format, but talking to them involves a two-way dialogue.  Properly worded questions can sometimes teach more than any droning lecture because they encourage our kids to think about choices and the reasons behind them.

INVITE QUESTIONS:  We used to have a time before bed where I told my son he could ask me any question he wanted with the promise I would give an honest answer.  When he would ask about the divorce, I honestly told him it was not appropriate for me to discuss and went right into my “broken record” explanation.  When he would ask a question about an aspect of science I did not know, I told him I would do some research and get back to him. Sometimes he had no questions and sometimes I knew the answer.  Encouraging our kids to ask questions seems to make them more comfortable with talking – at least it did with my son.

LISTEN:  In those moments you want to really talk to your kids and connect, give them your attention when they talk.  Let the phone keep ringing.  Do not check your text messages like Pavlov’s dog when the alert sounds.  Turn off the television.  Engage in eye contact and repeat what they said to you so they know you listened and understood.  If our kids sense we do not pay attention to them, why would they talk?

DO SOMETHING ACTIVE WHILE YOU TALK:  Throwing a football, going for a walk, or swinging at the park can be great ways (especially with boys) to connect and converse.  They still have your attention, but there is just something about walking and talking….

Because we regularly play the role of dad and mom, we need to redouble our efforts to connect with our kids in conversation.  They need to express feelings and ask questions, but they may not if the foundations of regular communication do not exist.

My son has recently shared some concerns with me on his own, with no prompting and seemingly out of the blue.  I have told him how appreciative I am he asked me and thanked him for trusting me with something bugging him.  I do not believe he would have asked had we not developed our communication skills.

Having said that, I still get “fine” and “no” when I pick him up from school.  And then he turns on the radio.

When do you find your kids most willing to have a good conversation?

“T’s” Of Single Fatherhood – Touch

In a split second, happiness turned into agony.

My son’s foot found the family jewels during a run-of-the-mill wrestling match.  It was not the first time and certainly will not be the last.

Photo Credit: Brian Auer via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Brian Auer via Compfight cc

I call a time-out and roll to the edge of the living room and curl up like a baby.  A few deep breaths and before I know it, my son is giving me a hug and apologizing.  Only a few words are needed to reassure him I will be OK and know it was an accident.  I shake it off and get back in the ring.

Sound familiar?  Why do kids find the most vulnerable parts of our bodies to accidentally hit, kick, and poke?  Why do we subject ourselves to non-accidental hitting, kicking and poking (also known as roughhousing)?

Bonding.  Not much different than a hug, kiss or reassuring touch.

My son loves to cuddle and watch TV.  He wants his back scratched at bedtime.  He will snuggle up while I read a book to him and just as quickly body-slam me and beg to wrestle.

He does this because touch makes connections and bonds.  We have all read stories about babies in orphanages who do not receive adequate touch from adults suffering from physical ailments, suppressed neurodevelopment, and emotional problems.

We also know, as men, women tend to be better at touch.  You may be an outlier, but, in general, men have room to improve in this area.

So, does your kid respond to touch?  Does your kid pester you, poke you, prod you?  Could he be looking for physical contact or physical reassurance?

Take a moment to consider the ways you engage in physical touch with your kid.  It could be roughhousing, tickling, or hugging.  It could be none of those.

Again, I commend to you Dr. Gary Chapman’s book – The Five Love Languages of Children – which explores the subject of physical touch and even provides an assessment tool to discover how highly it ranks for your kid.  As an aside, if you use the above link to order the book, I will receive a small portion of the sale which helps to offset the cost of running this blog…and is much appreciated!

Over the next few days, pay attention to how you use physical touch with your kid.  Does a hug, kiss on the head or a tickle fight change how you interact, improve his mood, or strengthen your relationship?  Do you struggle with even remembering to show physical affection to your kid?  Do you fall into the category of guy who just wishes there was a woman around to do the hugging and cuddling?

When mom is not around on a consistent basis to supply physical touch to your kid, you need to fill those shoes.

What benefit have you found when you show affection or engage in physical touch with your kid?  


“T’s” Of Single Fatherhood – Time

No quote from Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” in this blog post.  As a full-time single father, you have already committed to spending time with your kids.  Lots of time.  In fact, you may feel a bit of guilt when you wish you could get a break.

You give your kids an incredibly valuable gift with that time.  No matter what happened to get you to this place, you now have primary responsibility for them and will spend a large portion of your non-working hours being dad.

Photo Credit: Busy Chris via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Busy Chris via Compfight cc

Young children require greater and more intense attention.  Feedings, diapers, baths, reading, playing, more diapers, and more feedings – just tapping those words out on my keyboard reminded me how exhausting those years were.  You may have help, but when you have those kids alone your time is consumed.

When you change diapers, older potty trained kids seem easier.  Seem is the operative word.

Intuitively, we all know parenting requires lots of time.  We all know time invested in a relationship nurtures and grows it.  So, it would seem parenting – especially if you parent the majority of the time – would result in awesome relationships with your kids.

Again, seem is the operative word.

I have spent time with my son and squandered time with my son.  I have been present with my son and I have been in the same room as my son.  I have listened to my son and I have been aware some creature was chattering somewhere in the room while I responded to an email.  You get the idea.

We would not function if every moment of every day involved deep levels of intimate communication and attention to our kids.  They would go crazy, too!  But, we can begin to identify those moments we can leverage and allow for deep connection.

I wrote about the value of a bedtime ritual – intimate and quality time.  I suggested we pay attention to their prompting for your time and presence, even if it involves a cartoon.

We have been given time with our kids – something we should thank God for.  So, let’s handle the time well.  Give this a try:

  • If your kids are too young to effectively communicate, write down two ways you can have quality time with your kids each day and do them.  This could include anything from 10-15 minutes of focused play time at morning and at night, to reading, to going for a walk, or to throwing a ball.  Discover what your kids enjoy and what they enjoy doing with you…and do it.
  • If your kids are older, ask them to tell you two things they like doing with you.  Then do those things on a consistent basis.

How do you spend quality time with your kids?  What benefits have you seen?  What gets in the way of spending quality time with them?