A Father’s Loving Hand

A Father’s Loving Hand

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

I vividly recall my father’s long fingers and open hands as he spoke and welcomed others into his presence. I wisely knew not to interrupt him when I saw his face buried in his hands as he was deep in thought. I appreciated his big hands when he carried me to the emergency room a few times for accidents I had while playing ingeniously. And I tried to follow his teaching on how to appropriately grasp a baseball for a fast ball or a curve ball. Five years since his passing and what I mostly cherish were his embracing hands that would drain out the worries of the world.

There are many unique features about hands. You probably know that fingers carry unique fingerprints. But did you know that the hands carry most sensory receptors than any other part of the body. In a way, we carry our feelings in our hands. We can certainly pick up on how people feel just by observing their hands. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the privilege of being raised by a father who emoted love through his hands. He was welcoming, kind, loving and also protective – never overstepping his boundaries. Instead of being a father who is remembered by angry hands who hurt and can’t be trusted, be a father who through his hands welcomes, guides, and loves.

Welcoming hands

Assume an attitude and a posture that invites your children to come to you with questions about the world, about the relationships in their life, about life in general. When they approach you, go down to their eye level, hold their hands, look into their eyes. Take them in and be as present as possible. By giving them the gift of your presence, you are telling that they are welcomed, that they are valued, that they matter. And this will forge in their lives a strong sense of identity that will help them be confident adults.

Guiding hands

Take the time to teach your children. Invite them to join you while you work on the car, while you fix a door handle or even how to replace the light bulb. Not only are you giving him/her the opportunity to learn practical day-to-day skills needed in the real world but in so doing, you will connect and bond. As you work on projects together, teach your kids about your values, hopes and wishes.

Loving hands

Embrace your children. Carry them, tickle them, play with their toys, smooth over their hair. Create memories that remind them that you love them. Ensure the memories you create are not filled with closed fits or painful stings. Ensure that your hands are not ones to be avoided but ones to be cherished. Teach them through your example what is appropriate and

What impact has your father had in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

Family Bridges’ vision is strong families for purpose driven children. For more resources on parenting and fatherhood, be sure to download our Podcast, The Struggle Is Real.


Dr. Alicia La Hoz is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Founder, and Executive Director of Family Bridges. Dr. La Hoz works with the Latino community in the Chicagoland area, where she leads her team in developing and coordinating Family Bridges comprehensive marriage and relationship programs. Away from the office, she spends her time with her two inquisitive children and devoted husband, exploring nature, visiting museums and building lego-masterpieces.

My Dad, My Inspiration

My Dad, My Inspiration

Contributed by
Veronica Vasquez

If you ask me, who I admire the most in this world I’d tell you over and over again, Israel Vasquez. No, he is not a celebrity; his neighbors barely know his name. He is not a professional, he cleans the floors of a company. He is not a scholar, he stopped showing up to school by the second grade because his father thought education wasn’t necessary for success. Who is this man you may ask? This man is my father.

At his 62 years of age he’s still up and running around like if he were a teenager. He really doesn’t have a stop button, especially on the weekends. I look at him and only wish I could have that same energy he does. Not only is he full of energy but you should see this man’s faith and how much God has blessed him. He has been an inspiration not only to me but to others who get to know him and let me tell you why.

My father was born and raised in Cuetzala, Guerrero, Mexico. He is the fifth child out of 11. His family was kicked out of town because people believed his father was part of the mafia and he was “dangerous” to the people. My grandpa and his family left town and moved to a mountain where there was no electricity. My father became the man of the house at the age of eight, when his father was murdered. He had no choice but to work in the fields from sunrise to sunset to give his siblings the education they deserved.

My father was so illiterate that he was clueless when his birthday was or how old he was. It wasn’t until he was 16 that he asked his mother if he could fatten the sow for his birthday. My grandmother said to him “for what? Your birthday was three months ago, there is no point”. My father saw the need to better himself but lacked the money to do so. He attempted to cross the border not once, but twice in 1977. So yes, you are correct if you’re thinking he’s an immigrant.

His destination was Chicago and by the second day of his arrival and without him knowing the language, a simple word like “excuse me” got him a job. He was a dishwasher of a restaurant located in the city with a view of what used to be the John Hancock tower. Over the next 10 years, he had met my mother, had two children (my siblings) and had just bought his first house in Wheeling, IL.

Two years later in 1990, his biggest headache arrived; me, his youngest daughter Veronica. As a child, I remember my mother telling me she was going to get married to my dad. I used to hang from the kitchen’s doorknob and cry hysterically because I didn’t want her to marry the little short man who I called dad. Up to this day, he teases me about what I said but honestly, I’m glad my mother did not take up on my advice and married him.

It was not until my adolescent years that I finally understood why my father did not know how to read and write well. I understood his past and began to see the great effort he had been putting in throughout these years only to give us the best.

The little reading and writing that he knew was because he had picked up a book, The Bible. He’d write Bible verses over and over again, only to tell me that by the start of my school year all my notebooks had disappeared because he had used them up. I felt the obligation not only as his daughter but as someone who got inspired by his story to keep helping him grow, and so we read the bible together as a family. Our favorite verse is Deuteronomy 6:

Love the Lord Your God. These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 

To this day, his writing is not perfect, but he has improved. His reading is slow, but he loves to read and he is not ashamed of it and neither am I. Nine years ago, in 2009, he passed the U.S Citizen test. Not only did he accomplish that but he passed the test in the English version. And just four years ago, his first house became officially his.

 The past few years he’s been battling Pulmonary Fibrosis which has no cure. He was recently diagnosed with a rare skin disease and squamous skin cancer on his right ear. But despite all of that, his faith and trust in the Lord continues to grow and that is what has gotten him this far. There is not a day this man doesn’t get down on his knees and gives thanks to the Lord for his family. Now that, to me, is worth more than him having a Masters degree or a PhD title. Our relationship is not the best, I run after him, watching his every move, as if he were my child, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Thank you, dad, for all that you do for your children, your wife, and now your granddaughter.We love you. Happy Father’s Day!

What impact has your father had in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges

The Prodigal Dad, the Forgiving Son

The Prodigal Dad, the Forgiving Son

Contributed by
Eduardo Morales

My heart was pumping. I started to get all warm inside. It was that feeling you get when you know the Holy Spirit is prompting you to respond at that very moment.

“Bold Steps, who in here needs to take a bold step?!” the pastor was challenging all of the men from the stage.

His voice was easily drowned out by the sound of my heartbeat. “Why did I need to do this now God? At this moment? In front of all these men? I am going look weak! Lord, I can just talk to my father when I’m at home, why do I need to do this here?!!!” That was the dialogue that was going through my head. By that time several men had already taken the stage to take of the challenge and take their bold steps.

Six years prior I was left awestruck, confused, hurt, scarred, broken. My dad walked out on my mom, brother and I. Fortunately, for me I was able to cope by going away to college. It was my form of escape.  I wasn’t at the house, I didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t know how deep this cut was for my family. I knew one thing though, I had lost all respect for my father. The hard-working, strict, “do whatever I can to help and provide for my family” man I once knew, I wanted nothing to do with. “Why Dad? Why are you coming here? Why do you want to be around?” I couldn’t really grasp much of it in the moment, but my response was reject and ignore and try my best to forget.

I knew I needed to take a bold step and forgive my father. I needed to choose to put my pain behind me, so that our relationship could be mended, healed, restored. I started walking towards the front, gently pushing past all the men that crowded near the stage. I didn’t want to be up there; but I needed to be.

“Is there anybody else that needs to take a bold step today?” that pastor said again.

I stood by the steps and finally walked up. “And what bold step are you taking today?” he said.

In a very shaky voice I said, “I need to share something with my father. I need to forgive him.”

Turning his gaze to the sea of men before us the pastor shouted, “where is he at, let’s bring him up on stage…”

He wasn’t even in the room. “Seriously!!! Now I really look like a fool,” I told God in my head. They literally sent a search crew to find him and I waited up on the stage until someone finally found him. “I knew I should’ve just waited until we got home,” I said to myself.

I got used to my dad not being around. I took shelter in my achievements, my dating relationship at the time, even to a small extent drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Although he chose to be absent for a time of my life, didn’t change the fact that he was still my father and I was his son. I didn’t want to continue journeying life trying to figure things out on my own. I wanted that relationship. I needed that relationship. Some seasons in life had been activated a bit prematurely. The king left the household, so the prince had to take over to a position he was unfamiliar with, a position that he was not yet equipped to handle.

“We found him!” someone shouted in the back. He came to the stage with a sense of urgency.

“Your son has something that he wants to share with you…” and with that the pastor handed me the microphone.

“Dad, I just want to tell you that I love you very much…”(my eyes started watering,) “…I asked you to come up here, because I need to take a bold step. I need to forgive you for everything that has happened in our past. I don’t want the enemy to hold you in a guilty position anymore. I choose today dad to put the last six years behind me.” At that point I was sobbing. My father grabbed me and we shared a moment, as we embraced in one of the biggest hugs I ever gave him, I felt freed, I felt released. In that moment, the string of hurt, betrayal, abandonment all melted away.  I felt the power of release and the freedom of forgiveness.

I had several men approach me and tell me how impactful that moment was for them. I felt like the Lord showed me that that moment wasn’t just for you, it was so all those men in that room could see what a real-life, sincere act of forgiveness looked like.

Our relationship has changed in such a positive and drastic way since. I believe that choosing to forgive can be a vulnerable and risky thing, but learning how to forgive and applying it to our relationships is an integral act. Forgiveness frees, unforgiveness entangles and hinders. We must learn to forgive, as he has forgiven us.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

How I’m Becoming the Best Dad Ever 
(And You Can Too!)


How I’m Becoming the Best Dad Ever 
(And You Can Too!)


Contributed by
Freddie Beckley

6 weeks ago, I got a new job: dad.

 

I already know this is the most important job I’ll ever have. I’ve been looking forward to it for years. And I’m not the only dad who feels this way. Every Sunday, all over my neighborhood, I see gaggles of dads – hand-in-hand with their daughters or sons, pushing strollers, playing in the park, wearing matching clothes. It’s wonderful, being a dad in this day and age. It’s wonderful being a parent. Shifts in gender construct and family dynamics are opening the job up to wonderful, new interpretations and possibilities. Tasks once reserved solely for moms, like changing diapers, feeding and even household chores are now more easily distributed by facility – who enjoys and performs them best – and not simply by gender stereotypes. At least that’s the consensus in my family, and my home is all the happier for it.

 

You can imagine my confusion, then, when, 9 months ago, I began approaching some modern dads for advice on my soon-to-be-born bundle of joy. “Do you have any tips for a new dad?” I would ask. The answers almost always bummed me out. I heard all manner of things meant to scare me (“You’ll never sleep again.”), pacify me (“There’s nothing you can really do the first year.”) or lure me into a sexist frame of mind (“Dads are always wrapped around their daughter’s little finger, get your wallet ready.”) I will concede that many of these statements are based in truth. I know I’ll get less sleep with a child. I know I can’t breastfeed my baby. I know children (boys AND girls) are expensive. HOWEVER, dads, when you offered me advice, why did you collectively choose to put such negative, unhelpful, archaic thoughts into the universe? Why are so many of the parenting blogs, books and apps I read written for moms? And what about my initial inquiry? How can I be an incredible father? These questions, over a series of sleepless nights, unknowingly led me to a new job. Well, not a job exactly. A quest to become The Best Dad Ever.

 

While parents of old accepted without question the role and identity that times dictated, my quest will lead me to define and own a parenting role that allows me and my family to flourish. One that is more participatory, more positive, that shakes off masculine and feminine stereotypes, allowing me to be the passionate parent I strive to be. My quest will lead me to search out parenting strategies and techniques from specialists, parents, mother-in-laws, and the tips that work best for me, are the ones I’ll pass on.

 

Along the way, I’m sure I’ll know my fair share of struggles. Those are worth sharing too. To commiserate, to laugh at how little I used to know and to let the parents out there know it’s alright to make mistakes. That’s why I’ll also be confessing my deepest, most embarrassing parenting secrets.
At the end of the day, though, regardless of the mistakes I’ve made, I have to remind myself to breathe. Parenting is a serious quest, but it’s a fun one too, to be pursued lightheartedly and playfully at times. There will be rainy days, filled with heartache I’m sure, and on those days, a little dose of humor can go a long way. That’s why it’s essential I take the time to craft some of the best dad jokes ever. For the times when moms and dads just need a laugh. They can share ‘em with their kids too, in a tense moment, or a happy one. I’m sure it’ll be a real hoot!

 

And that’s how I plan to become the Best Dad Ever. I hope parents will join me. The capacity of humans is so much greater than the confines of gender stereotypes. Every parent has the potential to be the best. Every child can be raised to defy the world’s expectations. That’s what I hope waits for me at the end of this quest: for the world to be filled with more good people – fully realized, passionate, kindhearted humans.

For more jokes, tips and confessions, follow along on Facebook and Instagram @bestdadeverquest. #bedeq #bestdadeverquest

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

My Husband as a Father

My Husband as a Father

Contributed by
Eva Fleming

I don’t know about you but sometimes I observe and reflect about what kind of father my husband is to my children and a sly grin of satisfaction passes through my lips. He is not the fun, energetic dad that tosses his children up in the air or spends time with them in the basketball court. Yet, as I see my children growing and maturing, becoming independent and embracing life, I have to admit this reserved man has done something right. Why else are my children so adaptable, hardworking, responsible, respectful and focused? Is it perhaps, because they have the steady hand of a dad that takes them to karate practice every week, trusts them with big jobs, sets high expectations, and provides the resources for them to succeed? I believe it is.

My husband has been providing for our family physically and financially for almost three decades. But best of all he provides a stable home where love and trust can flourish. I have made the following observations about the type of fathering that goes on under my roof:

  1. My husband’s fatherhood is an expression of masculinity. True masculinity models healthy compassionate relationship behavior. This is good for my boys because they are learning to find their role and place in society by the power of modeling. And it is great for my daughter because the primary way she has learned how men should behave in a healthy relationship has been by watching her father. Most divorce and domestic violence happens to men and women who grew up without a father modeling compassionate relationship behavior (Steve Stosney, Ph.D)
  2. My husband’s role is integral to the wellbeing of our family. I know what the fatherhood research says about fatherhood and the list is long. Check out David Blankenhorn book Fatherless America. He says that, “fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation.” But our family has benefitted from emotionally stable children who exceed in school, don’t exhibit behavioral disorders, and don’t engage in aggressive behaviors all because, I’m sure, there is solid fatherhood happening in our home.
  3. Fatherhood has been good for my husband. The biochemistry and neural activity that kicked into his brain after he became a dad has literally kept him alive and focused. Loving a child and sacrificing personal comfort for their success and well-being has indeed turned my husband from a typical selfish bachelor to a complete selfless human. Perhaps he pushes it to the limit since he still drives a 15-year-old car to make financial sacrifices to benefit his children.

If you ask my kids about their dad, this is the first thing they will tell you: “When I ask dad about something, he goes more in depth than I thought possible. He looks at thing from all the angles, he is really thorough. Which lets me know that he really cares and wants me to make the best decision I can make. He truly has my success in mind.”

In my house my husband is honored for his character which, come to think of it, is the reason my sisters and I honored my own father. He was passionate, principled, forgiving, and compassionate. My husband is honest, responsible, trustworthy, and detailed. What about you or the special father in your house? What character trait are you passing down to your children? Whether you are an active, adventurous, affectionate dad or a reserved, steady, determined dad, society needs you, and so does your family.

While Hollywood’s portrayal of fathers in roles like those of Homer Simpson with his crude, short-tempered, neglectful, clumsy, lazy, heavy drinking, ignorant and idiotic personality may be comical, it’s definitely incomplete and thankfully does not represent the many awesome dads that I know are out there. These days’ fatherhood is on the rise and boy, am I thankful for that!

For more blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

Surprised by Love

Surprised by Love

Contributed by
Bill Ferrell

“I am dead.”

These were the first words that filled my head when I woke up.

Of course, I didn’t think that I was literally dead. I meant that I was in a lot of trouble.

I was a sophomore in high school and the night before I had gone to a movie with my best friend, Don. I drove my parent’s car to the movie. However, Don drove the car home because I couldn’t. I was drunk.

I would like to state for the public record that it was Don’s fault. I would like to say that Don made me get drunk. I would like to say that he threatened to hurt me if I did not match him beer for beer. I would like to say that, but of course that’s not true. I drank freely. That is not to say that the beer was free. In fact, I was the one who paid for it.

When I arrived home, my parents knew exactly what I had been doing. It was the first (and last) time I had consumed that amount of alcohol. Therefore, I was not good at hiding it. The fact that I had gotten sick on the way home, couldn’t stand up, and that someone else was driving their car probably made them suspicious.

In the morning I woke up and immediately felt sick to my stomach. Not from the alcohol, but from knowing that I was in trouble. I laid curled up under the covers, hoping that I had just dreamt the whole thing. But the voices coming from the kitchen brought me into reality. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could tell my father was upset. Very upset. I had never heard my father that way. Of course, he had never seen me drunk either. He generally was an even-tempered man. He seldom raised his voice. But that morning his volume was turned all the way up.

And for good reason. I had been irresponsible. I had violated their trust. I had lied to them. His anger was justified. And I felt horrible.

I decided not to delay the inevitable any longer. I slowly opened my bedroom door. Suddenly there was silence. I walked into the kitchen and sat down. I had avoided eye contact until that moment. I looked up, bracing myself to meet a burst of anger along with a speech about being a colossal disappointment. Instead, I was surprised.

With tears in his eyes, my father stood me up, hugged me, and said, “thank God you are safe.”

I realized in that moment his upset was not because I had disobeyed him or broken the law or had done something incredibly stupid. It was because he loved me.

I had been expecting punishment and yet I received grace. I was deserving wrath and yet I received kindness.  

I learned something that day. I learned that no matter what I did, my father would always love me. I learned that his love was not dependent on my obedience to rules, or compliance to his will, or even to common sense.

He loved me. Period.

I have learned over the years that I am deeply loved, as my father loved – and as our Father in Heaven loves.

When we experience that kind of love – we experience life.

P.S. I was grounded from driving the car for 4 weeks. True love also protects. Even if it’s from yourself.

For more blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.