There is so much out of our control as fathers, as parents. But what we can control is what we teach our children: to stand up for what is right, to love each other for who we are, and to be kind. In his latest blog, Heart Dad, Chris Perez shares how we, after times of darkness, can be the light for others.
My kids watch all sorts of stuff around the house, whether it’s on TV or YouTube. My oldest and youngest will often be watching videos about Minecraft, while Nolan is watching videos about stuff like counting to novemtrigintillion (that’s a 1 followed by 120 zeroes, btw). Sometimes we’ll find something we all like and we’ll pile onto the couch with our giant dog and watch something together…that’s always my favorite. Of late, Disney+ has been the channel that has been getting the most love in our household. But a couple months ago, Nolan asked me to watch something with him on his little tablet, and I agreed. I somehow even coaxed him into watching something on PBS Kids, thinking he’d want to watch Sesame Street, which I still love after all these years. To my surprise, he asked, “Dad, can we watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood?”
And I was like “What? Mr. Rogers? You sure?” And he was insistent. Now, I grew up watching that show, like I’m sure a lot of you have, and I loved it, but whenever I tried to show it to my kids, they weren’t interested in it at all. So, I definitely jumped at the chance to watch it again, but to be honest, I was expecting Nolan to zone out after a few minutes. To my surprise, Nolan was engaged the entire episode and asked lots of questions about the characters and what he saw on the show (this particular one showed how crayons were made). When it was over, I asked him if he liked Mr. Rogers, and he responded with, “Yes! Mr. Rogers is my friend.”
This was way cool to me: enjoying something that I loved in my childhood. There is always something calm and comforting about Mr. Rogers. He was always positive and encouraged his viewers to be their awesome selves. There are tons of stories out there about Mr. Rogers doing awesome things or saying very kind things to others. The most notable quote of his is about finding helpers when things are scary:
I always loved how Mr. Rogers turned these big, grown-up world issues into simple concepts for kids to understand and work through. And you know, with Father’s Day coming up, I think Heart Dads (and all Heart Parents) can take his advice a little bit further. While it’s good to look for the helpers, we should also work hard on being the helpers. But how? Thankfully, Mr. Rogers tells us just how to do it:
“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”
Kindness is powerful, and so is compassion. Dads, we should lead by example, for our kids and our peers, by being kind towards others. Sometimes these are small, simple acts like a kind word or sticking up for someone who needs help…and if you’re able, sometimes they’re bigger gestures of kindness. Sometimes it’s speaking up for those who have no voice. Sometimes it’s joining the voices of others calling for justice and change. Just know that no act of kindness is ever wasted. As Heart Parents, we’ve witnessed some pretty intense, scary, traumatizing things; and in spite of all that, we can still be helpers. I can’t think of a more beautiful reason to share some kindness today.
Chris Perez lives just outside Charlotte, NC with his wife and 3 sons – including Nolan, who was born with HLHS in 2012. He is the author of Half Heart Whole Life: an HLHS Dad’s Blog, where he shares his journey as a heart dad with honesty, wonder, and a good dose of weirdness. In his spare time Chris enjoys New York Yankees baseball, coffee, paddle boarding, and kickboxing. You can visit Chris’ blog at http://hlhsdad.com.