Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Showing My Son How to Help Others

With the holiday season upon us, my 5-year-old Little Dude has made it a daily, if not hourly, practice to remind Mrs. Dude and me which Hot Wheels items he would like to receive. Since he’s now old enough to understand the concept of wish lists, his mother and I are making an overt effort to teach him that while receiving things is nice but giving what we can to help other people is even more important.

We are certainly not rich people, but the reality is that there are always people in need who we can help, and it doesn’t have to be financially either. After the Junior Dudes’ recent birthday bonanza, we suggested they each pick some things that they received to give to kids who maybe didn’t receive anything for their birthdays, Christmas or any other day that we take for granted.

More often than I’d like to admit, I catch myself in the middle of trying to teach my boys a lesson by rambling on about it in a Ward Cleaver-ish manner. What I’ve realized, however, is that concepts like poverty and illness can be opaque for kids not living with them. As part of my ongoing effort to break through that archaic Cleaver-style of parenting, I decided to try another method for teaching them during this holiday season: actively showing them what we can do to help people, instead of just rambling on about a concept that a 5-year-old doesn’t fully comprehend, let alone his 2-year old brother.

When I heard that one of the finest Men/Fathers/Poets I know, Whit Honea of Honea Express, recently underwent surgery to help repair some internal issues he’d been battling for the better (worse?) part of a year, I decided that we should do something to help him and his family during his sure-to-be exhausting recovery period. Having been around more recuperations than I care to admit, one thing I’ve learned is that dealing with the mundane elements of life seems more taxing during those periods when life doesn’t flow along its normal channels.

So what could we do that would show the Honea family that the Dudes are thinking of them? Easy:
food. I’m admittedly less than a novice chef, but there are things I make reasonably well that are good as the mercury drops and with winter ready to spring in just a few days. My culinary specialty is baked penne, so I decided to show my boys how the seemingly simple task of making a meal can brighten a day and lighten a load at the same time. One less dinner to worry about after a long week of hospitals, poking and prodding goes a long way. A twist to the story is that Whit’s procedure necessitated an initial liquid diet for him so I decided to make him some soup, which is warming and filling as the L.A. weather turns a (relatively) chilly 55 degrees.

Though he obviously wasn’t going to help with the slicing and dicing of any vegetables, the Little Dude kept me company as I cooked and helped me with some of the prep work, including the critical cheesing of the bake.

We spent time in the kitchen and in the car ride to deliver dinner discussing what good deeds are and how being selfless is critical when others can use our help. It was only a moment before he was asking about other good deeds we can do and we started plotting a course toward helping others going forward.

My recuperating friend & his wife were thankful to have a night off from cooking after a draining week of hospitals, doctors and the fun they elicit. I felt a sense of pride after having taught my son about the power of good deeds as we headed home for our own family’s dinner. I’d initially considered ordering take-out and bringing it to their home, but that would have just made me a delivery boy. I wanted my son to witness the power of making time to complete something important from start to finish. Though I didn’t get to have any of my garlicky vegetable soup, my chest warmed as though I had. 

Though the plan to bring dinner to my friend was my own, it happened while I’m partnering with the kind people at Lee Jeans as part of their #LeeGoodDeed campaign. They sent me a pair of their new Modern Series jeans which are incredibly comfortable. Had I eaten the baked penne myself, Lee’s Active Comfort flex denim would have helped as my waistline expanded after dinner. Lee Jeans are available at retailers nationwide and on

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with and been compensated by Life of Dad, LLC for this promotion, plus Lee sent me a rad pair of these jeans, which I’ve barely taken off in the last week. All opinions and ideas contained in this post are mine alone, for better or worse. 

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