Ben Stein’s 10 Commandments of Fatherhood

In his 1998 book Tommy and Me, Ben Stein chronicles his feelings of frustration and joy of being a father. It’s a short book, at 152 pages, and contains many insights into parenting that made me stop and think. I especially enjoyed his concluding chapter. Here it is (in abridged form):

Ben Stein’s Ten Commandments of Fatherhood:

1. Time is of the essence. Spend large amounts of time with your child. Kids don’t want “quality time”… They want you to be there all the time.

2. Share your strength with your child. Be an ally, not an adversary. Share with him stories of your own fears, failings, and anxieties and how you overcame them.

3. Do not expect your child to make up for your own losses when you were a child. Let your kids pursue their own hopes and dreams.

4. Look for the good in your child and praise it. Children are nurtured by praise as plants are nurtured by water. Deny it to them at their peril and yours. Children who are told that they can succeed in fact usually do succeed.

5. Do not allow your children to be rude. Being polite is a basic foundation of human interaction, and kids will not succeed in life if they’re surly and disrespectful.

6. Patience is indispensable. Children’s behavioral flaws cannot be corrected by flipping a switch. It takes a long time and a lot of patience to teach positive behaviors. If you are an impatient, demanding, short-fused dad, you will get that irritable, demanding kind of kid.

7. Teach your child and let him teach you. Children will tell you what they want and need. Dads get into trouble when they do not listen to their kids and dismiss their feelings as not important. Also, your child should get the benefit of your wisdom and experience about life, so tell him what you know about the world around you. Learn from your children and let them learn from you.

8. Value your child for what he is, not for what you think he should be. I want my son to know that whatever he becomes in the future, he is prized just for being my son, right now.

9. Raising a child is a job for Mom and Dad. Children with absent fathers are wounded for the balance of their lives. Dad should and must be in there pitching along with Mom, helping out as an equal partner in the tough job of raising children. The true heroes of our generation are at home with their kids.

10. Being a Daddy is priority number one. When you decide that your kids come before your sales quota or your poker-playing schedule or your overtime to make partner, then you will find that all of the other pieces of Daddyhood fall into place – teaching and learning, patience, looking for the good and praising it. When you put your kids first, you are far less alone in this world. What’s more vital, so are they.

Can You Canoe?

The Scouts said they needed another adult leader to go on their canoe trip last weekend.

My son couldn’t go, but that didn’t stop me.

Actually, it almost did stop me, but then I realized a few things.

Beautiful lake.

Sunny, warm weather.

Quiet, peaceful canoe.

And, oh yeah, the campout would be canceled if I couldn’t go.

When you’re a dad, it’s a given that you have to inconvenience yourself for your kids.

Sometimes you have to do that for other people’s kids too.

Turned out to be an awesome weekend. I didn’t tip over once.

photo (1)

A New Look

So, after ten years as “A Family Runs Through It,” I’ve made a little change. Or maybe it’s a big change.

It’s really just a name change.

New name, new look, new insights on being a dad.

Let me know what you think. Comments have been few and far between the past few years as everyone has moved their social interaction to Facebook and Twitter.

But it would be nice to know if anyone still reads this blog.

Food, Glorious Food

Early on in our trip planning, it was suggested by some that the Boy Scouts would seek out any American fast food they could find in London.

The food situation was one of my biggest fears, right after one of the kids getting run over by a black cab.

You take a group of teens thousands of miles across the ocean to a foreign land, and then spend your breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Subway, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut.

No thanks, I can eat that back home.

I told them how it was going to be. We would seek out British food at British restaurants and at least try to sample the traditional dishes of the country, whether they liked it or not.

Why travel if you refuse to try something new? Continue reading

Scouting for Candy

It goes without saying that the preparation for their trip to England taught the Boy Scouts many valuable lessons about money and finances.

No other Scout Troop from this area or, heck, even the entire Western United States, had ever undertaken this kind of journey.

The boys were really breaking new ground.

Raising over $21,000 in just over two years opened their eyes to the kind of time and effort involved with fundraising.

At the start, I think they thought it was going to be easy. To be honest, so did I.

With no interest from any of our local media, and little involvement from Scout executives, it was left to word-of-mouth, Facebook, friends, and family to help spread the news that the boys of Troop 3 were looking for opportunities to work hard.

They raked yards, cleaned up trash, washed cars, shoveled snow, parked cars, set up tables and chairs, weeded flower beds, loaded trucks, and, of course, sold popcorn, honey, and BBQ rub.

Just to name a few.

One thing I had always considered, but we never did, was to sell candy. See’s has a good fundraising program for large groups.

We were hesitant to try it because of the high price of many of the See’s products. It just didn’t look reasonable for us.

I kept coming back to the See’s brochure when we needed more ideas for fundraising, but I continued to dismiss it right to the end because I just couldn’t see someone paying more than $10 for a box of candy.

Imagine how I felt when we walked into Harrod’s, in London, and spotted this monstrosity:

Harrod's Candy

That, right there, is a $2,000 box of candy.

If only I’d known about this two years ago!

We would have had to sell just 15 of them to finance our entire trip!

Walking With Teenagers

Last I left the story of the Boy Scouts from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who walked across England, they were sightseeing in London.

And growing restless to get on with their epic 84-mile hike.

We were soon on a train bound for the northern city of Newcastle, where the trailhead to the Hadrian’s National Wall Path lay just five miles out of the city, in a little suburb named Wallsend (Sting’s hometown!).

With backpacks stuffed full of London souvenirs (that might’ve just been me), the group embarked on a week-long journey from sea to shining sea.

That would be North Sea to Irish Sea.

The last time I made this trip, I was among adults walking to raise money for charity.

This time I was with a bunch of teenagers.

There were similarities.

For instance, we had fast walkers. Even though Rule #1 was to walk at the pace of the slowest walker, we still had boys 100 yards or more ahead, and they’d have to hear us yelling for them to “Slow down!” and “Wait up!”

The first of the ups and downs.

On Day 2, one boy got so far ahead that we lost him. Temporarily, of course.

We stunk. That couldn’t really be helped. Bunk barns, cow pastures, and lack of laundry facilities were par for the course.

Although, to be honest, teenagers smell worse.

We had injuries. Blisters, sprains, pulled muscles, bruised toenails. And we had boys who stepped up to help when one of the group was down.

More of the ups and downs.

There were also differences from my experience of four years ago.

Teenagers aren’t able to maintain a brave face for very long. When they’re tired and grumpy, it bubbles quickly up to the surface. And brings them crashing down.

I missed the overall jolliness of the group I walked with in 2010.

There were times along the trail when the boys would grow way too quiet, and I knew they were in their teen moods. But, since there were no doors to slam or video games to play, and they knew we had to just keep walking to our next destination, all they could do was turn up their music, hide behind their earbuds and sunglasses, and keep their head down.

This is how teenagers are. Up and down, up and down.

But mostly up.

At the end of each day, when the backpacks were thrown down, boots traded for flip-flops, candy and soda procured, and dinner and a bed were in sight, the boys wore happy smiles and spoke in playful tones. Their moods lifted to new heights as they experienced new towns and people and accommodations at the end of each day.

Walking across England with teenagers was more manageable than I expected. The highs were absolutely exhilarating, while the lows were brief blips of discomfort quickly forgotten.

Not quite the thrill ride roller coaster.

Actually, more like the carnival fun house. Hilarious and strange and claustrophobic, and in desperate need of a good cleaning.

I’d do it again, or at least I’d point someone in the right direction.

Here are just a few photos from our walk. I’ll post more in a few days.

Tynemouth BeachTynemouth Beach, on the North Sea, before the start of the hike

Hadrian's WallHiking up a long hill, with Hadrian’s Wall at our side.

Hiking down to Milecastle Nick

Climbing the stile with style

Hadrian's WallA bit of rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Much.

Hadrian's Wall CowVisiting with the locals, along Hadrian’s Wall.

Hadrian's Wall HandsHolding hands was one way to get the fast walkers to stay with the group.

ChollerfordThey’re smiling because they’re near the end of an 18-mile day.