Friday, June 29, 2012

Academic Achievement of Kids in Single Dad Families

Researchers at Ball State University, Lisa Pellerin and Abby Klein, undertook a research project, “Academic achievement of children in single father families.” Their objective was “to compare the academic achievement of children in a two-parent, single mother, and single father families.” I’ll save the minutiae of the regression and correlation analyses, moderators, like the existence of a daughter among the single father's children, and modeling, which Dr. Pellerin and I discussed during an informative telephone conversation. The findings, however, yield interesting possibilities for single dads.

To summarize, Pellerin and Klein concluded “the economic theory, which states that single fathers are more capable of offering economic resources to their children” facilitates children in a single father household to attain at least the same level of academic achievement as children in single mother families. “The individual perspective of gender (theory), which states that children in single mother families fare better because women fulfill the caregiver and homemaker roles,” according to the study, also provides benefits for children's academic performance.

Translated, children in single father families do well academically because, in part, single fathers generally have relatively more economic resources and other "fatherly" parenting skills. Conversely, single mothers typically provide a more nurturing environment than their male counterparts, and those skills also yield benefits to children at school.

Okay, so what does all this mean for a single father? While making generalizations can be dangerous, statistical correlation suggests courses of action. Therein lies an opportunity for single dads to both become better care-givers and to supplement his children’s environment with people who can help him. Look, brother, there's nothing unmanly about being sensitive, communicative, and caring. Seek opportunities to improve nurturing skills through support groups, discussing parenting ideas with platonic female friend’s (PFF’s), and even using other resources like, The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball. Also, consider enlisting a female role model from a pool of family members, PFF’s, and groups like Big Brother/Big Sister. Imagine the effect on your child’s academic performance if you can provide both the economic wherewithal to be successful as well as the benefits of care-giving and nurturing!
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Friday, June 22, 2012

To The Favorite Son, Happy Birthday

This week, we celebrated the eighth birthday of my son, to whom we affectionately refer as "Jones," "Boss," "Pablo," "Little Man," "Brother," and even, "The Favorite Son."

He's my only son.

Folks who are connected with me personally, on Facebook, or elsewhere know that I have countless, great "Favorite Son Stories." I'll limit the anecdotes to just a few:

When The Favorite Son was about five years old, I bought him single-color Hanes boxer briefs. You know, the same ones that Michael Jordan and, well, his dad wears. He thought they were so cool, he couldn't stop giggling and wanted the two of us to wear the same color.

DAD: "Time to get your pajamas on and brush your teeth."
FAVORITE SON: "Hold on. I have to get a drink of water. My throat is pouched."

The Favorite Son likes to watch "scary movies," so he and I watched the most recent M. Night Shayamalan one Friday night. It was more a thriller and not too crazy, but he still wanted to sleep on the big chair in my room.
The next morning I asked, "Did you sleep okay? Were you scared?"
He answered, "I slept okay. I told my mind to think happy things, and it listened."

After The Favorite Son asked to watch television one night, I first said, "No," but then I reconsidered and answered, "I think we will watch T.V. tonight because it's a very important night for . . . "
The Favorite Son interrupted, "The Jets?"
"No," I said.
"The Missouri Tigers?" he asked hopefully.
"No," I repeated.
"Then, what?" he asked.
"The Republican candidates running for President of the United States."
He started to cry.

During a recent family dinner, The Favorite Son opined, "The best thing about me is that I'm not lactose intolerant."

And then some, Brother. Happy Birthday.


To make sure you're getting blog posts and news, connect with Matthew S. Field on Facebook at Matthew S. Field - Author and subscribe to The Single Father's Guide by adding your email address at the upper right side of this page.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dwayne Wade's Decision: A Father's Day Story

It’s not easy for this single dad to root for the Miami Heat against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals given LaBron James’s “The Decision” on ESPN to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for South Beach in 2010. The only thing that could be worse for a Cavalier fan than The Decision would be a girlfriend breaking up with him with a public post on her Facebook wall.
If a guy could have a reason to pull for the Heat this season, though, it would be NBA All-Star and single father Dwayne Wade.
After a bitter, public divorce, Wade fought for and was awarded custody of his two sons, Zion and Zaire. The child of a single father family himself, Wade “was seriously motivated to be a full time parent,” according to recent Newsweek article. “All children need their fathers,” Wade said, “We have to step up as men and do our part. There are no excuses.”

If the definition of a man is a guy who takes responsibility for his actions, then Dwayne Wade is great example. Although he was criticized, Wade made the decision to travel from Miami to Chicago for custody hearings during the NBA regular season. He explains, “I had a duty to fight for my kids, and I did it.”
“I can’t say what we’ll do for Father’s Day, because since my sons came to live with me, every day has been like Father’s Day,” says Wade.
Almost makes a fan want Miami to win an NBA Championship.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 5 Father's Day Gifts for About $20

So, you’re a single dad, Father’s Day is Sunday, your kids want to buy you a special gift, and time is running short. To complicate things, your kidlings have a limited budget and they don’t drive. What to do?

If your kids don’t have access to shopping due either to geography or their ages, then enlist the help of a platonic female friend (PFF). Explain to your PFF that your kids want to get Father’s Day gift for you. (Believe me, this is not self-serving; your kids really do appreciate you in their own ways and would love to have a chance to show you.) Ask your PFF to surreptitiously drive them to a store or help them order something from an on-line store. Your kids can use their own money or you can slip your PFF a few bucks.

Once you’ve got the logistics worked out, here are my Top 5 Father’s Day Gifts for About $20, which you can suggest to your little shoppers and your PFF:

1.      Leatherman Micra – Whether you know it or not, every man needs a Leatherman. For those unfamiliar with the Leatherman Micra, it’s a durable, 2.5”, stainless steel tool that can attach to your key ring. It includes a scissors, a pocket knife, a nail file, bottle opener, tweezers, a screw driver, and more. I can’t tell you how many times my Leatherman has bailed me out of crises, ranging from heroically freeing a bird caught in a blueberry bush net to disposing of an uncomfortable hang nail.

2.      Steve Raichlin Non-Stick Ultimate Rib Rack – An ingenious idea to cook any kind of ribs to tender perfection while effectively drains fat without burning meat. The metal arcs fit everything from small baby back ribs to jumbo beef rib slabs. Vertical grilling maximizes space so you can cook a full rack on a small grill. Learn more at Ultimate Rib Rack.

3.      Brookstone Wine Bottle Gift Set – Even Bacchus would be impressed with this one. The wine bottle shape can be conveniently stored in any wine rack, so you’ll always have it handy when you’re ready to enjoy a little of "the grape." Includes a stainless-steel corkscrew with foil-cutting knife, bottle stopper, drip stop collar, combination wine pourer/stopper and 4 colored wine charms. Shop at Brookstone Wine Bottle Gift Set.

4.      Xicar X8 Cigar Cutter – Every cigar aficionado needs a good cigar cutter, and one cigar cutter never seems to be enough. In other words, you can always use another one. In addition to the X8, there are several other great cutters under $20.

5.      Father Like a Tree by Matthew S. Field – Okay, this IS a little self-serving. In my defense, Father Like a Tree is a beautiful, timeless allegory of a father’s commitment to his children. Reached #4 in its category in 2005. The heirloom quality book reads well aloud, and will be enjoyed by you, your children, and you’re your children’s children for years to come. Dads, I dare you not to get misty when you get to the story's climax. Order at Matthew S. Field's 'Father Like A Tree'.

When you open your Father’s Day gift this year, your children will be beside themselves with excitement because they got you a gift they know you wanted. For you, you could get no better gift than the happiness you see on their faces.

Happy Father’s Day.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kid Rock's 'Single Father' & Grief

We’ve all experienced it: a song that is so moving in lyrics, tempo, and mood, that it puts the listener in the singer’s shoes. It’s not easy to write about how it feels to be a divorced or widower single father, but David Allan Coe did just that for Romeo, Michigan’s favorite son, Robert James Ritchie, aka “Kid Rock,” who recorded Coe’s Single Father.

Like a lot of great country music, Single Father is a great “story” song. As the tale begins, the narrator laments the loss of his former life as a husband and as a part of an intact family. He grieves the pain his son experiences as a result of the mistakes he'd made. In the second, Kid Rock communicates a parent’s refrain that he’ll only one time have this time with his son - this one chance to be a good father, who will eventually grow up. Sometimes, the narrator admits, he deflects rather than answers his son’s questions. Rather, he takes his son to buy a Happy Meal or a toy to avoid the conversation. In the last chapter, the single dad regrets he neither the answers for his son nor for himself. After each heart-wrenchingly delivered thought, the chorus repeats:

Single father, part-time mother.
When I’m not one, then, I’m the other.
You used to be my full-time lover,
Now, I’m a single father, and a part-time mother.

In The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball (Arundel Publishing, September 1, 2012), I broach the subject of “unclear loss vs. clear loss” with some help from Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Kim Sumner-Mayer. In my discussion with Kim, she explained that a man and his children will grieve the loss of a relationship or a way of life, as in the case of divorce, not dissimilar to that grief experienced after a death. The difference between grief resulting from divorce and that from death is unclear loss compared to clear loss.

Both a single father and his children will not only experience grief when a marriage ends, but they will repeatedly be reminded of the loss when the children are exchanged in shared custody arrangements or even when a child talks to the other parent on the telephone. In such cases, the loss is undefined; both parents are still alive, but the family unit no longer exists. Children may even maintain a fantasy of reconciliation and a return to that earlier life. In contrast, when a spouse/mother has died, the widower father surviving and his children are, in most cases, crystal clear about the circumstances. There is no doubt that the family’s life has changed and, unless a time-machine suddenly becomes available, a return to the past is not possible.

I make no value judgments regarding which incarnation of single fatherhood is more or less preferable. Frankly, being a single father is often a challenge regardless of the circumstances. To create for his children a safe environment in which to process grief, however, the single dad must first understand and address his own feelings.

For more information about understanding grief in the context of a divorce or the death of a spouse, feel free to contact a professional grief counselor, clergy at your local church or synagogue, or local support groups. Some other resources include:

Lisa Crank, Heartland Hospice –,  618-632-0304.
Karen Loschiavo, Psy.D – 845-346-5150.
Kandy Magnotti, Life Through Loss –, 941-807-7431.

In the meantime, take stock in the fact that you’re a single father, but you’re not alone. Heck, Kid Rock is singing about it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Single Dad & New York’s Ban on Large Sugary Drinks

This single father, I must admit, is a little conflicted about the ban of the sale of large sugary drinks by New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg. In The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, on one hand, I encourage single fathers to “replace sugary drinks including soft drinks, fruit juices, and energy drinks with water or other no-sugar-added beverages. Heck, that’s the Single Father’s Golden Rule #13! On the other hand, I also advocate that if a single dad has an occasional “itch to scratch,” like an unrelenting desire to eat a Big Mac, a Whopper, or The Colonel’s Original Recipe once in a while, then he should! If Bloomberg or another politician decides to ban specialty sandwiches or one or more of the "eleven herbs and spices," well, that itch would go perpetually unscratched.

Okay. I’ll remove my tongue from cheek.

More important than any one of the Single Father’s Golden Rules in The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, is the subtext of personal responsibility is a consistent theme. As a single father, you’ve made decisions, some good and some bad. Every decision you’ve made has contributed, for better or for worse, to where and who you are today. If “being a man” is defined as an adult male who takes responsibility for his decisions, then be a man.

There will always be circumstances beyond your control, like the maximum number of ounces of Coca-Cola you can buy at one time. In spite of those other circumstances, be responsible for yourself and your kids. Use your judgment when making decisions about clothes, activities, and yes, diet. While you're chewing on that, here’s a quick recipe for a healthy drink that takes Mayor Bloomberg completely out of the decision-making processes in your kitchen:

Orange Whip? Orange Whip?

                        16 ounces of milk
                        2 -3 peeled oranges
                        1 tablespoon of non-sugar sweetener or dollop of honey

                        1 handful of ice

Combine ingredients in a blender. Blend on “High” setting for 15 seconds or until ingredients are smoothly whipped. The preparation time is approximately three minutes and is enough for a thirsty, health-conscious dad and a couple of his sugar-deprived children.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Single Father's Take on Playing Football in the "Concussion Era"

How does a single father answer the question, "Dad, can I play football?"

Much has been written and said about football related head trauma. Recently, father, Super Bowl MVP, and all-around good guy, Kurt Warner, said “he’s not sure” if he should let his sons play football. The father of New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, echoes a similar sentiment, “I would be very hesitant to let him play (football today).”

Another school year is ending and another season of preseason football training camps will start again a couple of months. So, given the recent media attention to head injuries among NFL players, what should the single father do when he gets "the football question?" Here are a few things to consider.
There are about 30 million kids under the age of 14 playing an organized sport, according to a research study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Among the participants, roughly 10% are injured. The most common injury is a strain or sprain. A head injury is most likely to occur during cycling, skateboarding, and skating, not football. According to, the concussion rate among high school football players is 60 per 100,000, or 0.06%. In contrast, based on data from the United States Department of Transportation’s “Fatal Injury and Accident Data Related to Licensed Drivers,” operating a motor vehicle, the rates for serious injuries (like a concussion) and fatalities is significantly higher than six one-hundredths of a percent.
Almost by definition, living involves risk. We’re probably not going to prevent our teenage children from driving a car, or even cycling, skateboarding, or skating for that matter, right? Concussion related tragedies that have occurred among former NFL players like Junior Seau are tragic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a single father should prevent his son(s) from playing.
To reduce the risk of your children having an automobile accident, you encourage participation in formal and informal “driver education” classes. Do the same kind of thing relative to participating in football or any sport. Make sure your young athlete has the necessary safety equipment, appropriate fitness training, and proper coaching. Then, your kids will be able to participate in the sport they love and you’ll be able to enjoy watching them play.