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That's 800-358-6329. That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Okay, now on with today's show. I've never met a single mother yet who said, you know, my hope and my dream for my daughter is that she get pregnant by some guy and he leave her. My hope and my dream is for my son to get someone pregnant and leave the woman and leave my grandkids, that kind of thing.
So if you want to break that cycle, there's got to be something that's different because, you know, it can be difficult to be what you didn't see. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson and I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. Well, today is a program my mom would love. She would have been so happy.
Yeah, I mean, I can just see her. I mean, she's with the Lord now, but she and my dad went through a divorce when I was seven years old. And think about this. I was in elementary school in the late 60s. I know that just dated me. You know, think about it. But I'm pretty sure I was the only kid in the school without a dad.
Yeah, I'm sure you were. And today, if I'm right, the stats more like one out of three go to homes without a dad in the home. And so we're going to talk about that. How do we help moms, especially like my mom, raise their kids in that kind of environment? I'm excited we're talking about this because I know a lot of single moms who are friends and they can feel forgotten.
They can feel alone and they feel at times like, I wish I had somebody that was around me that could help me. And there are people around them, but we're going to give some help today. Yeah, we've got Roland Warren in the studio with us today.
Roland's written a book called Raising Sons of Promise. And I don't think you've ever been on Family Life Today, have you? Well, years ago. Years ago? Like how long ago? You're not that old.
Well, I wrote another book called Bad Dads of the Bible, Eight Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid. Oh, I remember that. Yes. And I was on with Dennis and- In Little Rock.
Yes, in Little Rock. So now what do you think, Orlando? It's warmer here. A little bit. So give us a little bit of your history. I mean, I know you went to Princeton and by the way, high school football in Ohio. Yeah. I played, Roland played actually an hour away.
Yes, we did. But you're a little younger than me. Just a tad. And probably a little faster than me.
Probably not anymore. I'm still challenging if we got to go out and have a race. That would be embarrassing. That would be super weird.
That would be bad. But give us like, cause you went from there to Princeton. Yes.
And then ended up in the business world. Give us a little history. Yeah.
And you and I talked about this. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio and- Mudhands fan? Well, never really liked baseball much, but like the name. It was a great name, Mudhands.
Fantastic name. But yeah, I grew up in Toledo, Ohio and graduated and went to Princeton. You know, while I was there, you know, my thought was I was going to become a dentist, which- A dentist? That was the plan. Yeah, to become a dentist.
That was my thing. I was pre-dent. God had different plans for me. And I think folks who have teeth probably are going to be happy about that because I've got horrible spatial orientation and very limited dexterity. So it would have been an ugly thing.
Anyway, God does what he does. So yeah, went to Princeton and graduated and then went into the business world. And I worked for IBM right out of college and then Pepsi and then Goldman Sachs. And then God called me to an organization called National Fatherhood Initiative.
What is that? It's still going, right? You were the president? Yes, I was president there for 11 years, but it's an organization that's really focused on connecting the hearts of fathers to their kids. So I did that work for a number of years. And then in 2012, God called me to where I am now, Care Net, which is the largest evangelical pregnancy center network in the country. So it's really focused on helping women and men facing pregnancy decisions choose life for their unborn children and abundant life for their families. So that's sort of the path. Now, interwoven in there.
It's not sort of a straight line. When I was at Princeton, I actually ended up getting my girlfriend pregnant between my sophomore and junior year. She was a sophomore.
I was a junior. And so we were sort of faced with a decision. She was encouraged to abort.
And we chose to not do that. We chose to bring our child into the world and we got married and we've been married 40 years. So, you know, a lot of that's interconnected, even in terms of the topic of the book, because I grew up without my dad. And then I became a father fairly early in life.
And so, you know, all that together, God gave me a heart really for this issue, the fatherhood issue, as evident by my time I spent with National Fatherhood Initiative. But also, as part of that process, a real heart for single moms, because I grew up in that environment. And I grew up in what I call a single mother culture in the sense that many of the women, I'd say probably most of the women that I knew and that I loved were single mothers. My sister spent a time as a single mom. My cousins, many of them were single moms. So I've kind of been in that environment and I sort of know it pretty well just as a son growing up in that environment. So God gave me a heart for that to sort of minister to moms to kind of help them understand maybe to some degree what their sons may be facing. I mean, even as you go back to you're in college and you find out your girlfriend's pregnant, did your mom get involved in that?
I mean, walk us into that moment, because that had to be, wow, here I am. What am I going to do? Well, you know, interestingly, my mom got pregnant when she was 16, 17 years old with my older brother. She had me when she was 19. By the time she was 23, she was a single mother with four kids under the age of eight. Never married? She married my dad and early on with my brother, actually, my older brother. We got married, I guess, before the baby was born and the things started to fray and then the relationship kind of fell apart. And my dad was pretty much not there for most of my childhood that I remember, particularly when I was younger. And so when that happened in college, candidly, my mom's first response was, you're not going to graduate.
You know, this is a problem from that perspective. And so it really was a decision that, you know, that I needed to make on my own in terms of moving forward. And thankfully by, you know, the fact that even though I'd grown up in a home without a dad, because I had spent time in church seeing men being husbands and fathers, the idea of being a baby daddy, you know, or, you know, an absent father or something like that and not being a husband, like that didn't connect in my mind. And that's one of the aspects I talk about quite a bit in the book in terms of like the role that men in the church can play to model for your son a future that you would hope that he would have. I mean, I've never met a single mother yet who said, you know, my hope and my dream for my daughter is that she get pregnant by some guy and he leave her. My hope and my dream is for my son to get someone pregnant and leave the woman and leave my grandkids, that kind of thing. So if you want to break that cycle, there's got to be something that's different because, you know, it can be difficult to be what you didn't see. And that's part of the experience that I faced, you know, kind of growing up. So, Roland, the subtitle of your book is called A Guide for Single Mother of Boys.
Yes. Which is sweet. Like, I can't think of very many books that have been written to single moms about raising their sons. But I'm wondering, as you were this little boy growing up in church, do you remember seeing fathers in their families?
What did that feel like? Well, you know, I often say, you know, kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. You know, that God whispers into the wounds of their mothers that there's one who will love them like no other. And if a father is unable or unwilling to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that's not easily healed. And so, you know, for much of my life, I was a wounded soul. You know, and there wasn't much my mom could do about that because that's a hole that's created. She couldn't fill it.
Right. So, you know, as a boy growing up, and particularly as I look back on it as a man now, and particularly, you know, God had me on a couch for about 12 years at National Fatherhood Initiative. I wanted to be a corporate exec and this, that, and the other, and God pulled me away from Goldman Sachs and said, no, you're going to do this. And thank God he did because, you know, there were things that were happening to me. And even the way I was parenting and just various different things, I didn't even realize that those things were connected to the absence of my father. So, I longed for that connection with my own dad. And, you know, I coveted it when I saw it with others, you know, that kind of thing.
And so, that was a real hard thing. I mean, even the show I was telling somebody, the shows that I loved on television, you know, I loved the Brady Bunch. I loved it because it was a family, an intact family. I loved Good Times until they took the father out.
Oh, yeah. That was like, that was Fatherhood Month. So, all these different shows that had men being fathers and husbands, I was drawn to those. I mean, did you ever lay in bed and resent? I can remember laying in bed, especially probably middle school age, you know, back then we called it junior high. But, you know, 13, 14, I can remember laying in bed, looking at the ceiling and yelling at God. Like, why can't I be like Mark Davis's family?
Because their dad was there, they lived down the street, they had money, we had none. My dad didn't pay alimony. And I was resentful.
Did you go through that? I mean, I was angry. I processed it very interestingly in that I tell a story in the book about, you know, when I must have been like 10 or 11 years old and my dad was supposed to come pick us up. Yeah.
And take us for ice cream or something like that. And the thing about my dad is my dad was a life of the party kind of a guy. So, he wasn't abusive or anything like that. He was like the guy, he came in and just you lit up because he lit you up, you know, and he was supposed to show up and he didn't. And I just remember in that moment sitting there, can still kind of see it and kind of me sitting there on the curb waiting and he didn't show up. And at that moment, I cried and everything. And then I said to myself, I'm not going to cry about this anymore. I'm done. And so, what I did for much of my life is I just buried the wound that I had from the absence of my father.
I mean, I don't want mothers to like take this on as a burden that they can solve, but just an understanding that they can have as they're dealing with their son. It's not anything that you're not. It has nothing to do with that.
Right. And that's really important that you walk in that, but you need to understand that there is this absence when you're rejected by someone who is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. I mean, just think about, you know, one of your girlfriends who just says, you know what, we've been friends for 30 years. I don't want to have anything to do with you anymore. As an adult processing that, how difficult that is. Now, make that bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, someone who's supposed to love you like no other, that rejection. And you're five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 12.
You can see how that can create an issue for someone and you don't have a way to process that and understand that. So, my way of dealing with it, you know, was two things. One, I just sort of buried it, but then I also got in sports and these other things that I thought would bring my dad to me. I did well academic.
I'm thinking, well, surely, you know, I do well in sports. Surely. And those things didn't happen. I just sort of buried it away. And then God, when I started working with National Fatherhood Initiative, he really...
It came out. I know someone else who buried some things. I was wondering if she's going to look over at me. It's like we're brothers. I mean, I buried it.
I literally denied there was any real pain. I poured my life into music and sports. But here's what's interesting. You know, I hoped he'd come back. I end up playing college football and I'm on some list in the top of stats as a quarterback in the nation and he's down in Florida. And guess what?
He shows up on a Saturday at the university to watch me play. But now you're resentful. And now I'm mad. I remember walking out one day and I literally looked at him and I said, uh-uh, you're not allowed.
You can't do this. It's like, what do you mean? This is awesome. You're, you know, I'm like, you can't walk out of my life for 15 years and now you're just going to walk back in. I should have been overjoyed. And I look my dad's back. I struggle with, you know, resentment. You didn't have that.
Oh, absolutely. You buried it. I buried it.
I buried it. And mine was probably a bit more passive aggressive. I, you know, I talk about, you know, my relationship with my dad, which I'm not proud to say this and it pains me to say this because the whole experience kind of came to a head when my father died. So he died in 1998. He had actually changed his life. He had become a pastor and all of this.
Really? How old were you? I was in my thirties when this happened and it all came to a head at his funeral because my father was never sort of absent, moved away. I always knew where he was and he was there for holidays. He just was not involved in my life on a daily basis the way the in-house dad would be. And so, you know, I thought, well, we have a good relationship.
We weren't arguing and fighting. And I get to his funeral and there are people saying all these amazing things about my dad from the pulpit. You know, just he's this and he's done that. And I find myself just becoming enraged. I'm just furious. I'm like, where is this coming from?
I have no idea. So finally this guy comes up to the pulpit and he says, you know, Pastor Warren, he, you know, he came to me when I was in prison. And he helped me and he mentored me and all this stuff. And I'm sitting there in the pew and I remember that I said to myself, I went to Princeton, got my MBA at Penn.
Did I need to go to prison in order to get my father's love and attention? And I was ready to punch somebody out. Didn't shed tier one at my dad's funeral.
Not proud to say it, but she didn't cry at all. Just no one knew I was upset about it, except my mother, interestingly. And I talked about it years later.
My wife didn't know, never mentioned anything. God calls me to National Fatherhood Initiative. I'm giving my very first speech as the newly minted president of National Fatherhood Initiative.
And they show this video of this young lady who had grown up without her dad and somebody had interviewed her and she was crying about it and whatever. And I felt myself welling up. And you don't know me well, but I just was not a guy who cried hardly ever.
It just wasn't what I did. I go to the men's room. I'm bawling like a baby and I'm the next guy up to speak. I'm just crying and crying.
Somebody comes in, I kind of chest bump myself and just kind of like splash some water. I get up, I'm ready to do my speech. For some reason, you know, you're a speaker probably too.
I decided to link to what was just on the video. And I told the story that I just told you. And when I said, you know, I went to Princeton and Penn and I burst into tears in front of 400 people. I could not stop myself.
One of my college buddies who played football with me, it's a defensive back and I was a running back so he liked to tackle me a lot. He's in the audience. He's now a psychiatrist.
He comes up and he comes up to try to get me to pull together. And I stumbled through the speech. And I realized as I kind of psychoanalyzed myself after that, that in that moment I wasn't 40 years old or whatever. I was that 10-year-old kid sitting under that tree waiting for a dad that didn't show up. So, you know, God used that early on to give me a heart for sons who are dealing with this and trying to help you understand that. But also for the moms to understand that even though he may not be talking about this, it's in there, you know, that hole in the soul. And you can't think about the father being gone like he's a peg in a pegboard and you get rid of the peg and now we don't have to deal with the peg. Well, now you have to deal with the hole. When I read that in your book, Roland, about how you were crying, you couldn't stop crying.
She looked over and I'm crying, reading your story, but it's similar to mine. I'm also feeling the heart of moms. Like, as a single mom raising sons, we want to fix the hole. You know, we want to be there to help. And even those wounds that are buried deep, how is a mom, like what's the best thing we can do?
Well, I think the first thing is just acknowledging that it's there. You know, one of the key areas is this whole notion of processing loss. So there was a lot of loss, the loss of my dad. My older brother drowned when I was eight and he was 10. My father was gone. I mean, so loss after loss after loss.
And if you don't process those losses well, then there can be problems. So I think the first thing is really to help your son, like, acknowledge it. And I think sometimes there can be a temptation not to talk about it because first off, maybe you don't want to hear the fact that he misses dad because you're like, well, wait a minute. Feel inadequate. Right, because he doesn't deserve you to miss him.
I'm the one here. So you feel like your son missing him is somehow a slight against you. It's not at all a slight against you. It's an acknowledgement of a loss that's there. And so that first step is to acknowledge that loss. And then, like with any other loss, because it's sort of the death of fatherhood in that sense, is what do you do? You grieve. So you help your son process this, and you've got to go into that area.
And that's the key piece. And no one ever talked to me about this when I was a kid. No one ever said, what's the absence of your father doing to you?
No one ever addressed it. And I kind of look at my life, I kind of acted out in some way, shapes, and forms that weren't good. But then there were some things like sports and academics that I was pursuing, but I knew other guys who pursued other things and dealt with their father absence through other types of things that were not good things.
But I think that's the first thing. Acknowledging that there's a loss. Yes, there's a loss for you as a mom. Maybe you're hoping your dream for a husband or whatever he was going to be, there was a loss that you have to deal with. But your son has a loss too, and it's different from yours. It's a different kind of loss. And even though you may be done with a guy and ready to move on, the reality is that he can never be done with him. So to try to draw that out as well.
Absolutely. How common is it, you would know better than anybody, for single moms to sort of stuff it? Because my mom stuffed it. We never had a conversation, not one. When my dad came to visit Anne and I a month after we were married, literally comes to, we're at the University of Nebraska, I'm like the chaplain for the sports teams there. He comes, we have dinner, sits down, and here's what happens. Anne, because she comes from a family, they talk, it's different.
About everything. She goes, so Ralph. Sounds like my wife.
Yeah. She looks over at my dad and goes, so, you know, his name was Dave as well, Ralph David. She goes, so Dave, tell us your side of the divorce. And I, Roland, I'm sitting there like, I mean, I'm grabbing her. We know, you don't talk about that in our family.
I've never one time in my life. He's squeezing my leg so hard. You don't do this, and I'm thinking, oh boy, here it goes. He is, and he, I'll never forget. He looks back and goes, wow, nobody's ever asked me. Okay. And then he tells a story and I'm like, oh, it's a whole different story than I ever heard.
It was not allowed to be talked about. So I'm just wondering, is that common? I mean, a lot of families just stuff it. My sense is, because I think this, in some ways, like you said, I mean, to address it is, is maybe difficult. I feel like you could feel like there's something wrong with you. Like, you know, and I always say, don't be upset that you can't give something that you're not designed to give. And I think that, you know, there's some anger that's tied to this too. So I think that's one of the key things. You've got to admit the anger.
You've got to address that. You've got to allow for grief. And I actually think that the opposite of what she may feel will happen, I'll just speak for my own life, is it actually deepens your relationship with your son. So by not going in that area, you actually are distancing yourself in a way that you don't even realize, because it's a pain, it's a hole. So when you sit down and say, listen, let's talk a little bit about the loss of your dad. I want to walk with you through that process, because you've got to help your son, right, understand that loss, process that loss. And then also there are other things that God wants to have happen, which is healing, forgiveness, all those things, right?
Bitterness is a root that yields a bitter fruit. And if you have that in your own life, right, then that's a problem. And if you feed that to your son, that's a problem. How much would you coach the single mom to tell her son, and it could be a daughter, but you're talking sons, her journey. I mean, one is, hey son, how are you processing this?
Does she talk about her own process or is that something she just sort of keeps to herself? Well, I think obviously it's age appropriate in terms of that. But candidly, from my standpoint, it would have been helpful to me to know that my mom was filling it too.
I mean, just think about it, right? Whenever you're having a pain in some area, right? And it's so comforting when other people say to you, you know what, hey, I'm struggling with that too. Like the loss of your, I know that hurts you. You know what, it's a loss for me too.
And we're on this journey together. Oh, that would have helped you. Would have helped me tremendously. I underlined this in your book when it comes to loss. You said if you don't stop and process the loss, your son will learn a dangerous lesson. Emotions don't matter and vulnerability isn't necessary for relationships. And then I love this.
If you haven't dealt with them, they will deal with you. Yes. And that's what you're saying. That's why you started crying so hard.
You had never dealt with the pain. That's right. And you're right. Someone else says, this is hard for me too. It helps you to open up about your own loss.
Absolutely. When I was at National Fatherhood Initiative, we spent a lot of time working in prisons. We had a curriculum called Inside Out Dad. So we were in prisons. And fatherhood issue runs deep in prisons. So many of these incarcerated men were boys who grew up without dads. And in my view, there's a danger by not helping him process that because every gang leader, drug dealer, pimp, whatever, they know that that hole is there and they leverage it.
Think about how members in gangs talk about each other and how the gang leader talks about it. We're family. We're this. We're always drawn to that.
By having that conversation and helping him process this in a God-honoring way, you actually are providing a protection for him in the future so that the tempter will come. See, I remember as a kid, they came up with the new Coke. You guys might be of an age to remember that.
Sure. And they got real new Coke. You work for Pepsi.
What are you talking about? I did. I remember a new Coke and nobody liked it. Nobody liked it.
No. And you know who didn't like it? The people who had the real thing. See, if you had never, ever had Coke before and somebody gave you this and they said, this is Coke.
Oh, okay, this is Coke. But if you had the real thing, you know the difference. So if you don't have a father in your life, for example, and you have that hole and no one's ever helped you process it, you still have that hole, that desire, then guess what? An imitation will come and that's what the evil one does. He always will bring imitations of the real thing, tapping into a desire that we have in our heart. So that's why engaging in this conversation with your son is so, so helpful to help him process it, because it's better to have you be the one to help him process it than someone who doesn't have his good in mind to help him process it. Because one of the things we know, right, is that the tempter will come no matter where you are. And he's always looking for an opportunity to engage and leverage him in a place where you have pain or there's not a wholeness.
That's where he tends to tap in. And so moms have an enormous opportunity to make that connection for the goodness and really to help their sons grow in faith in Christ in terms of that. I mean, when you look back on your childhood and your upbringing, as I look back on mine, for probably into my, I don't know, mid-30s, I felt less than, I felt like my mom did a bad job. And then somewhere in my mid-30s, probably I'm married, I'm a dad now, I'm like, she did a great job. Not because I turned out. It was just I was able to appreciate all the good things she really did.
Do you feel the same thing? It's very interesting that you say that because what I realized was that my mother dealt with a lot of loss and really didn't have a lot of support to help her work through that. One of the insights that God gave me was that, you know, sometimes I feel like as a single mom, a mom will feel like, you know, what she thought was going to be a life of addition and multiplication becomes a life of subtraction and division, right? So you add the husband and then you add the kids and then you add the family and there's multiplication from that. And then there's a breakdown in the relationship. There's a breakdown in the marriage.
There's a subtraction of the guy. There's division within the family. And I realized looking at my mom's life, now that I'm older, you know, I was able to process that and go like, wow, I can see where a lot of the pain that she had, that she wasn't articulating in public square and then came through in some ways in her parenting process because we're whole people, you know, was connected to that. So God gives us insights. And I just want to encourage the moms out there, maybe if there's a little distance or whatever with your sons, just to, you know, we'll get there. You know, we'll get there. But I really think one of the prescriptions on the front end is just to engage and to lean in early on so you can start to build that relationship.
I think if my mom would have talked about these losses, then I would have been able to see that there's a connection between her loss and my loss and that would deepen our relationship. And that's one of the reasons why, you know, in Sons of Promise, I actually used the story of Hagar and Ishmael. I mean, that's the core of that book. Yeah, it's all through. Yeah. Yeah, we don't have time to dive into that, but I would like to hear some of that in our next broadcast.
Yeah, me too. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Roland C. Warren on Family Life Today. Dave has some encouragement for single moms coming up in just a minute. But first, Roland's book is called Raising Sons of Promise, a guide for single mothers of boys. You can get your copy at familylifetoday.com. Just click on today's resources. Or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329.
That's 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, here's Dave with some encouragement for single mothers. And I would just like to say to the single mom, and I think Roland and I can feel your pain because we were your sons, have a conversation tonight with your 7-year-old, with your 10-year-old son. And I would say this, don't expect it to go real well. He may not respond. If you ask, hey, have you processed this? How do you feel?
He may not be able to answer right away, but that could be a seed planted to start a conversation that he'll be able to articulate later. I know I did. Amen. Join us tomorrow on Family Life Today where Dave and Anne Wilson talk again with Roland C. Warren about the path he traveled to let go and forgive his father. That's tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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