June 25, 2010

Honoring Community Fathers

Lowell Johnson is one of the collection of very good men and women I worked with to envision the Lakes Area Guys Network or LAGN. Simply put, LAGN is a guy's activity organization. It's a perfect vehicle for men who have interest or skills to share with young males in their community. For the young dudes, LAGN provides great adventures and activities, along with time for hanging out with older males. With LAGN, everyone wins, the boys, men, and especially the community.

Because we're still in the season of Father's Day, I thought it made sense to share the article, Honoring Community Fathers, which Lowell submitted to the newspaper in his community, the Brainerd Daily Dispatch. I love the language of "Communtiy Fathers," and the notion that boys really do need a wide variety men in their lives.

Honoring Community Fathers

Who is your father? When most people hear this question, they answer with the name of their biological father, or sometimes their step-dad. I contend that as important as primary fathers are in a child’s life, there are many unnamed men who are also important to the healthy development of children in our community. I call these men the community fathers.

What is a community father? Community fathers are all the men who show up for children in the variety of activities that kids participate in as they grow up. Some of these activities are organized, but others are spontaneous or informal, such as playing ball with neighborhood kids or taking a child fishing. Young males especially, are constantly learning and during these activities children watch how men interact with other people. They use this information to learn what it means to be a man, and hopefully a respectful human being.

Who are the community fathers? In one sense all men are community fathers since children watch all of us. This implies that men may want to consider their public behavior because of what they are constantly modeling for kids. However, this does not mean that men need to be perfect individuals, because none of us are perfect. We only need to be ourselves, and try at all times to show respect for others.

Generative fathers: Some men are very intentional about their community fathering, and it is these men who I would like to specially honor this Fathers Day. These are the men who researchers label as generative fathers. Generative fathers are men whose own personal development has brought them to the point where they want to “give back” to their community. Generative fathers have learned they personally benefit from showing up for the children of the community.

These are many organized groups where you can see community fathers in action; Lakes Area Guys Network, Kinship Partners, all sports coaches, 4H, church activities, Timber Bay, Scouting, PTO/PTA activities, and a wide range of community service organizations. Men who are ready to give back to our community can contact any of these groups to volunteer their time. Our children and our community need your help.

Lowell Johnson is a member of the Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition and a founding member of the Lakes Area Guys Network. You can contact him at this email address.

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June 21, 2010

Nature-Deficit Disorder

Most of us, at some level, understand that kids and teens don’t get outside enough. Who does these days? As a child I spent every non-school moment possible out of doors, hanging out at the “playground,” getting in trouble with my boy tribe, and coming “in” only when it was time to eat. We had a large (to a young male) chunk of undeveloped property behind our home that was a natural forest. It was our magic world, both a little frightening and a place my little band of guys could escape and find some adventure. At school, we had outdoor play, called recess, as an important part of a school day. Even winter weather in MN wasn’t a barrier to building “forts,” and the joys of making just about everything a target for a snowball. Sadly, for today’s young people in the digital age, much of that lifestyle has gone away.

One author, Richard Louv, has started a global conversation about the issue and given the sit in front of a screen epidemic a name . . . nature-deficit disorder. The new edition of his book, Last Child in the Woods, explains the sad costs he feels result from kids becoming “increasingly disconnected from the natural world,” and living in what he terms a, "denatured childhood." Louv feels that by truly appreciating the role nature can play in a child’s development we may lessen the frequency and severity of childhood physical and emotional issues. Reading this wonderful book will help you understand this important issue, and inspire you to get yourself and the young people in your life off on an outdoor adventure.

A challenging idea this author offers us is that nature needs children! He claims that if we don’t have young people with an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world, who will care enough to become its protective stewards in the future?

Use this link if you want to order Last Child in the Woods from Amazon.com

PS: In a curious combination of the digital and natural worlds, one of this blog’s readers pointed out a new iPhone hiking application. It comes with GPS, and topo maps of hiking trails and state parks! Purchasing the app even supports the American Hiking Society! Hey, if it gets kids outside I’m all for it!

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June 15, 2010

The Good Men Project Magazine - On Dads

The Good Men Project is a book, a movie, and a collection of web resources that are all supporting a national discussion about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. To that incredible mix they have added The Good Men Project Magazine. It’s a cross-platform, multi-media destination featuring solid writing about parenting, sex, relationships, identity, ethics, humor, and health. On the site currently is an excerpt from John Badalament’s new book, The Modern Dad's Dilemma. In that rich article Badalament has included a couple of what he calls, How to Be a Good Dad Exercises from his book. Challenging inventories for any father.

The special Good Men Project Magazine's Father's Day issue will go live on June 16th and it’s packed with man-making content. You will be able to read an article describing how a father and son learn to reconnect after the father’s mistaken 26 year prison sentence. There are excerpts from Will Leitch’s new book, Are We Winning? Fathers, Sons, and the Great Game in the New Century, and Good Men Project founder Tom Matlack asks famous men—from athletes to writers—to describe their fathers in two words. In an attempt to answer the question, What do fathers look like?, you will see an amazing collection of 100 photos of fathers — one per year from the last century. And that is all just for starters.

I am amazed at what the good folks at The Good Men Project have created and more than a little in awe of the positive force they are in defining manhood in today’s world.

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June 9, 2010

YOU can staff the YMAW!

One of my favorite Rite of Passage weekend models for men and boys is the YMAW, or Young Men’s Adventure Weekend, held near Vancouver, British Columbia, this July 16th -18th.

Imagine a calm beautiful shoreline, with crystal clear water, in a pristine Canadian wilderness. This tranquil setting will be invaded by 50 dedicated men and 70 or 80 energetic young males, 12- 17 years old. They will all have the intention of enjoying nature and having an enormous amount of fun. Along the way, the men will also be teaching the young guys some very important lessons about manhood. It’s a certain life-changing experience, and they want YOU to staff the weekend with them!

These YMAW men have been man-making in this way for the last 20 years and really know how to put on a righteous weekend. If you want a little taste, sit down, take a deep breath, and click this link for a truly inspirational video about how the weekend works. I guarantee that at the end of the clip both you and the boy in you will be hungering to be in Vancouver in July.

Here are links to some additional photos and the YMAW website where more information is available.

If you’d like to be an “outlander” staff man on the weekend, want a great get away for you and a young man in your life, or are ready to learn how to put on a program like YMAW in your part of the world, contact Brad Leslie at bradleslie@telus.net or call him at 800 663 2723. All the sign up forms are at this link.

If you hurry, there is still time to sign up 
to staff this year’s YMAW!

If the clip above is not available, use this link.

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June 4, 2010

A Feather, a Pipe and a Kicking Broom

A Feather, a Pipe and a Kicking Broom, by Michelle Arbaugh is, in my opinion, a perfect boy adventure book that will easily keep the attention of today’s young males. It offers a compelling adventure story based in Native American experience of the 1800s. With historically accurate details, the book explores many of the traditions and sacred values of tribal life in the days of open plains and bison herds. In the story are rich descriptions of rite of passage challenges and the training Native American boys were required to undergo in order to become warriors.

The book has a ten-year-old main character, some great humor, and it touches on the life events common to boys of that age. The book launches with our hero trying to cope with the loss of his best friend Zella and rolls right into a bullying incident. As the drama of the story unfolds, the author subtly delivers’ important life lessons about very contemporary issues such as discrimination, fitting in, personal insecurities, loss of friends, and the need to discover and honor your gifts and talents.

The book’s easy-to-read story is packed with humor, building mystery and excitement, and it’s all done in comfortable language for any young man. I especially love how the book avoids mention of TV, computers, combat, or any of the digital distractions that can so fill a young man’s life. This is a book that fully engages a boy’s imagination, and that is a very good thing.

If you want a great book to read in segments to a pack of boys, or for occupying some of a young man's summer hours, A Feather, a Pipe and a Kicking Broom would be a very good choice.

You can order this book directly from Amazon at this link.

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