An Open Letter to the Dad of the 9-year Old Stowaway

This is an open letter to the father who’s 9-year old son made global headlines recently after he, among other things, stealthily boarded a Delta flight to Las Vegas.

Hey Dad, rough couple of days for you, eh? I feel your pain. While my 8-year son hasn’t made the kind of splash that your son has recently, he’s far from perfect, too. This is a difficult time for you, no doubt. Heck, it’s a tough time for any of us fathers to raise sons in this world. In a world where sex, drugs and violence are jammed down our throats 24/7, it can be hard to shield innocent eyes.

Coverage of your child’s adventures have spread like wildfire around the globe, and social media pundits have jumped to conclusions about your parenting abilities. From where I sit, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I believe you when you say you need some help for your son, but that help has to start from within.

I’m curious…what was your relationship with your son like before he went on this desperate attention-seeking adventure? Were you truly “there” when you were there with your son? Saying that your son isn’t an “honor student” or that he’s had his “ups and downs” is certainly a start in acknowledging that a better path could have been laid out for him. But as fathers, we need to be the ones that are doing the foundational groundwork when it comes to setting the path for our sons.

If your son, at nine, is already getting into fights and being suspended from school, where is he learning this behavior? Are his actions a reflection of the environment he’s been exposed to? I’m not trying to place blame, rather asking you to take an introspective look at where he learned that his actions could ever be considered appropriate behavior.

I respect your request for anonymity and privacy as you sort this matter out. If I were in your shoes, I’d likely do the same. However, when the dust settles and details are sorted out, I hope you both learn from this experience. If your son’s behavior – not just recently, but in the past 6, 9, 12 months – teaches you anything, I hope it’s that you both could use some help. Not just for him, but more importantly, for you.

I LOVE that you’re working with Mad Dads of Minneapolis. This is a wonderful organization that can guide you towards better days. I’d also advise you to consider seeking the help of groups like the National Fatherhood Initiative, Fathers.com, and in particular, the guidance of Carey Casey and his “Championship Fathering” philosophy. Consider joining – or starting up – a local Watch D.O.G.S. group; be present in your childs’ life, beyond just being a parent.

I was given a wall hanging from my dad a few years back, which was given to him by his dad. It’s a hand-stitched picture of a dad with his kids. The words resonate in my head as I think about your situation. “Anyone can be a Father, but it takes someone special to be a Daddy.” When was the last time you were your son’s Daddy? Maybe he needs a little more of that.

I pray that this situation, regardless of how challenging, scary, financially and legally burdening this has been for you, brings you and your son closer together. Change will come if you truly want it to. You’ve done the right thing in asking for help; I just hope that you find what you’re looking for.

Best regards,

Dave, the HD Hubby

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