Part 2 of an interview with Tez Brooks,
Author of The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce
The saying used to be “father knows best,” but with changing cultural tides, a man’s role in the family has been greatly diminished — especially when it comes to single dads. The divorced father is often portrayed in movies and television as an object of humor, ridicule or pity. Where does that leave real single dads trying to do their best? It can easily make them susceptible to overcompensation or apathy, which is why Tez Brooks has written The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce (Kregel/February 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443602/$14.99).
I wanted it to appeal to your average Joe. That theme just seemed to come naturally as I began writing. I kept comparing a divorce to a car accident. I compared the similarities between finding your way through that wreck and navigating a road trip. Those metaphors just kept coming until I realized a theme was developing. I liked it because men and cars seem to go together.
Q: The Single Dad Detour is filled with practical advice on topics from what food to keep in your fridge to how to decorate your new house or apartment. Why are these things important?
Kids need a sense of home. There’s a reason sometimes why Hollywood portrays us as clueless single dads whose fridge contains nothing but soured milk. It’s because they know it’s often true to life. While a lot of single dads may have found real freedom in being able to display their Mad Max posters and their beer can lampshades, our kids need photos of Grandma on the wall and a living room floor not cluttered with tools. One of the easiest ways we can create a sense of home for our children is to learn to cook and provide a safe and warm environment for them to live in.
In the early months following my divorce I hadn’t learned this valuable lesson yet. I made the mistake of buying my son a dog bed. Yep, you heard me right. You know the big round ones for German shepherds? I know I’m an idiot, but it seemed like a great idea at the time. And my son Caleb loved it! It took about 30 seconds for it to hit me: My son’s sleeping in a dog’s bed! I got him a real bed the next day.
Q: It’s common for single dads to feel overwhelmed by their financial and relational responsibilities. How is The Single Dad Detour designed to bring meaningful change to a busy dad’s life?
I wanted to be intentional in addressing this very issue, so I developed an interactive element at the end of each chapter so dads would have some practical “takeaways.” Readers have an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve read by answering some hard questions, reading a scripture passage and then planning their next steps to apply what they’ve read. There’s even a suggested prayer at the end of every chapter. These things are key for going beyond just reading a book to discovering lasting change.
Q: Why are some men tempted to become absentee fathers? What are some of the consequences for their children if they do so?
As I interviewed men in my research for The Single Dad Detour, I ran into guys who said they were tempted to be absent. I think this comes from the insecurity men can develop as a single dad. There’s already an expectation from the world that they are going to fail, coupled with the normal low self-esteem that comes with a failed marriage. It can make a guy feel like maybe his child would be better off without him in his or her life.
What happens is actually the opposite. Studies show boys who don’t have their father around are more likely to end up in prison. Little girls without that strong connection to a present father are more apt to become promiscuous as a teen. It’s imperative dads cast down those lies the devil tells them and be intricately involved in their kids’ lives.
Q: Men are “fixers” by nature, but it can be tempting for them to fix parenting problems without the Lord’s help. You had one such moment after Christmas shopping with your daughter once. Tell us about that.
I was shopping with the kids and had really had my fill of the holiday crowds and traffic. I just wanted to get home. My daughter was crying in the back seat because she didn’t get to have her photo taken with Santa at the mall. My impatience was building, but I didn’t expect it to boil over like it did!
Her whining wouldn’t stop, so in a moment of exasperation I screamed, “Be quiet! Santa’s not real. He’s dead!” The crying stopped as she blinked in disbelief. I knew I had messed up as soon as I said it. I could see by the look in her eyes, my words had slapped her in the face. No Father of the Year Award this year, I supposed. My daughter started her crying again, but this time it was more of a high-pitched squeal. “Nooo, Santa’s not dead!”
I remained silent all the way home, considering how I might cover my mistake. There was no hiding my outburst, though, and all I could do to make it right was apologize. When we got home I hugged her and asked for forgiveness. She sunk into my chest as we rocked back and forth. I realized that night I must make it a habit to initiate an apology when I screw up. Even more, I learned I’m a pathetic father without God’s grace and help.
Q: How can a dad have a strong spiritual impact on his children even when not living with them all the time?
Your kids are watching you no matter where they live. For kids who watch their fathers, there’s no mistaking what their dad is passionate about. It’s going to be obvious. Kids observe when you react to things in your flesh, rather than respond with Christ’s character. I messed up a lot. I showed my anger, my selfishness, my pride . . . but I tried to live a life of repentance. I think if we make the Lord part of our everyday conversations, our kids will be able to discern our Christianity is more than a hobby — it’s a relationship with the Creator.