Some of you may or may not know, but I became a father for the second time this last weekend. My wife and I welcomed a very beautiful, healthy baby boy. Our infant son makes our little family a total of four and our lives are much more complete now that he’s here. Our oldest son is a proud Kuya (the traditional Filipino title for older brothers) now and is absolutely head over heels in love with his baby brother. Things are certainly more hectic in our home now but my wife and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There are many moments in my life that altered who I am as a man and changed the course of my life. Among them are enlisting in the military at 18 after an unconventional upbringing, becoming a NCO, losing my mother at too young an age, serving 12 months in Afghanistan, meeting my best friend and eventually marrying her. I’m naturally a bit of a cynic, but of course I will just tell you I’m a realist. Most of these events were profoundly positive. As I’ve grown older and wiser I’ve learned to find solace in even the most negative happenings.
The two most profound changes in my life were the days I accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior and the day I became a father. I accepted Jesus in my heart at a young age. He helped my through some very dark days in my youth and despite having a few personal crises over the years my faith never truly waned. I’ve lived my entire adult life with a personal relationship with God. I’ve known many family, friends and acquaintances who experienced crises of faith and I feel very blessed that despite all my setbacks, my belief in my holy father always remained.
The day that truly changed my life as an adult was almost four years ago, when my first son was born. Becoming a father impacted me in so many positive ways I can’t name them all. I’m a more fulfilled Christian, a better husband, my compassion and empathy are through the roof, my outlook is far more positive, I’m more aware of my surroundings, my driving is safer, patience is far less an issue and I’m generally much more fun loving and pleasant. I always knew I wanted to be a dad but nothing could have prepared me for all the blessings that came with it. Fatherhood was the last piece of the puzzle to me becoming the man I always strived to be.
Growing up my parents divorced at a very young age. It was a very difficult time for me and I remember going through therapy for a few years after my parents’ split. In hindsight, my father was put in a very difficult position and easily could have been a dad who paid child support and took phone calls. My brothers and I were very fortunate. Our Dad walked the harder path. Our father took every opportunity to maintain his role in our lives, far above and beyond what should have been expected. He would come get us any extra weekend our mother would allow and never missed a school function or any other event.
My favorite memories are playing baseball with my father and brothers. Growing up in the Midwest summer break was all about swimming and baseball. My father taught us all to play ball and we played in the summer leagues every year. My brothers and I are all three years apart so we never played on the same team. God bless his heart, my father travelled all through Northwest Missouri attending every one of our games for years. Sometimes we would play games the same night in towns 30 miles apart and he was always there without fail. My father and I share a love of baseball to this day. It’s a large reason my oldest son is named after my favorite baseball player of all-times.
Baseball and other sports taught me many great lessons as a youngster. The lessons I learned on the baseball diamond were paramount in shaping my understanding of teamwork, comradery, hard work, fair play, perseverance, resiliency and many other vital life lessons. I made many great friends and memories playing baseball over a decade in summer leagues.
The foundation of my personal belief system is rooted in Christianity and the teachings I learned in the church. The world I know in the church and the one beyond its walls don’t always go hand-in-hand. I learned to put those beliefs into practice in the real-world playing baseball under the guidance of my father and other men in the community who devoted time to me and my teammates. My father, youth pastors and coaches all played a huge roles preparing me for life after childhood.
The nuclear family is in crisis in Western cultures and the role father’s play in raising children are often discarded or taken for granted. There are many brilliant step-fathers, surrogates, guardians and mentors that play the role of father today. Men who step up and provide guidance to children in need of fatherly advice are heaven sent in my mind. Any man who takes a role in a child’s life to help shape them, guide them and let them know they are loved no matter what is just as blessed in fatherhood as I am.
As a young father I wanted something I could share with my sons as special as me and my dad had with baseball. For years in the military, friends and coworkers had been talking about comic books with me. At the time I was still very much a sports and movie fan first. I was always interested in comics but the hobby can be pretty intimidating. There are so many publishers, characters, writers and artists to choose from it’s hard to know where to begin.
Eventually I decided to take the plunge and ordered a few random comics illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver. This didn’t change my life as measurably as the previous events I talked about, but it had a huge impact nonetheless. I started discovering wonderful heroes and stories that made an impact with me. I became a true comic book fan under somewhat dark circumstances.
Soon after settling in the Philippines our son came down with a pretty severe case of pneumonia. It’s a terrible feeling when your little one is sick and as a parent you can’t do anything to help them. During my 12 months living on a FOB (forward operating base) in Afghanistan I was never as worried as I was during his stay in the hospital. The first night was nerve-wracking and very restless. As a father and husband you need to have a poker face to help keep everyone’s spirits up even though you’re a ball anxiety.
The second night I remembered I loaded the first three volumes of X-O Manowar written by Robert Venditti on my tablet. After my wife and son went to sleep I starting reading volume one. I fell in love with X-O Manowar, Robert Venditti’s writing and comic books that night. Venditti’s excellent origin story of Aric of Dacia provided a sense of relief and rejuvenated my spirits in a moment of true need. Comic books and the comics community have played huge parts in my life ever since. I’ve made many wonderful friends through comics and discovered many stories I want to share with my sons.
My father used baseball to impart on me how to apply the teachings of Christ into my day-to-day life. I plan on using comic books to do the same. I’ve personally taken inspiration from two YouTubers. Richard C. Meyer and Real Comic Stacks, like me, are fathers and veterans.
Richard C. Meyer is controversial in the comic book industry but I always admired that he includes his daughter on his channel. Their comic reviews together are really fun and Richard’s love for his daughter and comics come together seamlessly. Real Comic Stacks is much less known that Richard and he’s far less controversial. Stacks and his son (affectionately known as Half-Stacks on the channel) are a great YouTube team. He utilizes his channel to instill his love of comics in his son. You can tell he receives pure joy sharing it with him. Half-Stacks is also quite the budding comic reviewer himself.
I plan to follow both their leads and feature both my sons and our love of comics on my channel in the future. Comic books are already a daily part of my older son and my bedtime routine. Every night we go to bed and read two chapters of his toddler Bible. We say our prayers and thank God for all of his wonderful blessings and pray for relief for family, friends and others in need. Finally we crack open our comic book for the night. He lays his head on his daddy and we read about our favorite superheroes together. Thus far he’s a big fan of Teen Titans Go and Spider-Man. I’m hoping when he gets old enough X-O Manowar will be a favorite as well.
There are so many wonderful lessons in comic books waiting for my sons to discover. Characters like Hal Jordan, Clark Kent, Carter Hall, Peter Parker, Jessica Cruz, Bruce Banner, Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince, Matt Murdoch, Dick Grayson, Aric of Dacia and Steve Rodgers all have great lessons I can use to help grow my sons into good men ready for the real-world. One of the personal traits I see severely lacking in today’s youth is resiliency. All these characters have failed at one time or another, admitted their shortcomings and succeeded another day.
I’ve found comic books and the heroic stories in them are perfect vessels to reinforce the beliefs and values of my wife and I. I know comic books aren’t going to work for every father to help teach their sons and daughters. I hope all the dads out there find that one great thing they can share with their sons and daughters that will last with their children the way baseball with my father lasts with me. Society is changing rapidly and many entities want to usurp the role of fathers in children’s lives. It’s more important now than ever that fathers be as involved as we can be. We need to prepare our kids for life after childhood.