Quantcast

Talkin' with Trav: What I learned about fathering, from my mom

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 1:45 a.m. MDT

 (Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)

Men, we’re getting outdone by many of our mothers and wives.

It seems they’ve got this nesting thing down pretty good. They nurture like they are on steroids, they foresee needs like oracles and their boundless energy with the small things that have big outcomes in our families belong in the Super Hero file.

It seems to me that a lot of women get it and a few of us guys do. In some homes, fathers are MIA.

My mother knew something I didn’t, you could see it in her actions and in her smile. She taught me many important attributes over the years, among them being charitable, kind, and full of love; when to be serious and when to have fun, and how to learn to love the savior Jesus Christ.

I was also taught by the wonderful examples from my mother-in-law, whom we call “Rockin’ Ruth,” because of her contagious personality, and my amazing wife LaRee, who continues to teach me how I can be a better husband, father and man. Women get it. It seems they are smarter, more sensitive, more loving and more beautiful then us. The list could go on and on.

That begs me to ask the question: How can we be better fathers, brothers, sons and men? A simple answer would be to strive to be more like the wonderful women that surround us.

It was December of 1995, I was 18 years old and a senior in high school when I was called out of class. My English teacher, Mrs. Jones, whispered to me to go down to the front office and that my parents needed me. I grabbed my book bag, checked out and ran home as fast as my legs could go.

As I rushed through the front door I noticed that all my brothers and sisters, minus my older brother Tyler who was serving a LDS misson in Japan, were home from school as well. We gathered in the family room, my younger brother and I, my younger identical twin sisters, who were 11 years old, at the time and my wonderful parents. I had no idea what the meeting was about but I knew it was serious.

My mother began to talk as she wiped the tears from her eyes and said, “We have just met with the doctors at Utah Valley Hospital and I have cancer. It is pancreatic cancer and we don’t know much more than that.”

Devastation, sadness and fear filled the room as we learned about the tests, procedures and treatments she would undergo over the next few months.

In March of 1996, just three months later, my parents master bedroom upstairs had been filled with medical equipment as her body began to shut down. Two days before she moved from this life onto the next, she sat down with me, and told me of her love for me, that I was a son of God and I was capable of doing great things if I worked hard and believed in myself.

The last words out of her mouth to me were that I should go on a two year LDS mission. I was playing basketball at the time, I had many scholarship offers to play at the next level and I was contemplating whether to go or not. After our wonderful conversation I made a promise I intended to keep.

I turned 19 the next month and within four months I was in the Missionary Training Center learning Spanish and preparing to serve in Santiago, Chile. One of the best decisions I have ever made.

My mother taught me so many wonderful, important lessons about life. My mission, my mother-in-law and my wife have taught me even more.

Abe Lincoln once said: “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my Mother.”

Why is this topic on my mind?

My wife has a talent of finding the cheesiest movies ever made. I don't know where or how she finds them, but she's a pro. We love to watch movies as a family on Friday nights. A few weeks ago she was excited to announce her new findings in a movie called "Courageous." I was expecting another cheesy Hallmark-like movie when she started it.

As the movie streamed along I was pleasantly surprised by how great the message was. In fact it is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.

It portrays four policemen with one calling: To serve and protect. Yet at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood.

While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they're quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark. A truly inspirational movie. It touched me and by the end I was truly committed to be a great father.

Just like they say in the movie, "I don’t want to be a good enough father. I want to be a great father." Just like my mother was a great mother.

What is the difference between a good enough father and a great father?

Jim Valvano, former North Carolina State head basketball coach and founder of the Jimmy V foundation said: "My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me. "

A great father cares and you know it. He puts fatherhood at the top of his list. He talks with his children and tells them he loves them everyday. He takes an interest in their lives and in his grandchildren. He treats his children’s spouses like children of his own. He doesn’t shake hands when he sees them, he hugs them and holds them tight.

A great father is a great husband, teacher, coach, doctor, therapist, motivator; he walks the walk, he is a man of integrity and is an amazing example of hard work and persistence.

We have a few short years to influence our children. Whatever patterns we set for them will likely be used for their kids and generations after that. We have the responsibilities to mold a life and I don’t believe that should be done casually. Half the fathers in this country are failing and I don’t want to be one of them.

This goes way beyond spending time with your kids, that should be a given. I am talking about setting the standards that they need to aim for in life.

In the book of Proverbs in the Bible it states: "Train up a child in the way which he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Don’t let your career, friends, or selfish desires get in the way of you being a great father. Our Heavenly Father loves us for what we are capable of becoming. We can all be great. My mother taught me that and I will teach my children that wonderful lesson.

Some children don’t have a father or mother here on earth. Because of different circumstances they are born into orphanages or end up in foster care or single parent homes. Definitely not fair.

In Russia, I’ve seen this and it is all over the United States. Unfortunately, it’s all around the world.

You can change the cycle. You can start a new chapter and be the parent you always wish you had.

A good starting point might be to start an affirmation program. Affirm to my kids that they are great, they are loved, they can do anything. The opposite would be to be over critical with negativity. One the the greatest things young people need today is good self esteem and a feeling of good worth, a vision that takes them from Point A to Point B and unlocks their dreams.

A great father makes all the difference in a child's life. He's a pillar of strength, support and discipline. His work is endless and, oftentimes, thankless. But in the end, it shows in the sound, well-adjusted children he raises.

Be there for them.

Anyone can be a good enough father but it takes a real man to be a great father.

Travis Hansen is a former BYU, NBA (Atlanta Hawks) and Euroleague basketball player. He co-founded the Little Heroes Foundation and is married with three children.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company