Sons of Promise: Parenting Advice for Single Moms: Roland C. Warren
Author Roland Warren invites single moms on a journey to heal their hearts and offers parenting advice to raise healthy men, good husbands, and strong dads.
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Author Roland Warren invites single moms on a journey to heal their hearts and offers parenting advice to raise healthy men, good husbands, and strong dads.
Sons of Promise: Parenting Advice for Single Moms: Roland C. Warren
Shelby: Hey Shelby Abbott here. Before we get to today’s show, if you’ve ever been blessed by FamilyLife Today, did you know it’s because someone else gave? Yes. FamilyLife Today is listener supported. And if you’ve given, let me just say, “Thank you. Thank you for making gospel centered conversations like the one we’re about to hear today possible.” And if you’d like to partner financially this week with FamilyLife to help reach more families, then we have two resources we want to give you as our thanks. The first is FamilyLife’s online course called, The Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex. And the second is a new book called, Secrets of Sex and Marriage: Eight Surprises That Make All the Difference. It’s written by Shaunti Feldhahn and Dr. Michael Sytsma. You’ll get both of those when you give this week at FamilyLife Today.com or when you call 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.
Roland: I mean I’ve never met a single mother yet who’s said, “My hope and my dream for my daughter is that she’d get pregnant by some guy and he’d leave her or my hope and my dream for my son is to get someone pregnant and leave the woman, leave my grandkids,” that kind of things. 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 beat what you didn’t see.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Well today’s program my mom would love.
Ann: She would have been so happy.
Dave: Yes, 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 60’s, I know that just dated me. [Laughter] You know, think about it, but I’m pretty sure I was the only kid in the school without a dad.
Ann: Yes, I’m sure you were.
Dave: And today, if I’m right, that stats more like one out of three go home without a dad in the home.
Dave: 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?
Ann: I’m excited we’re talking about this, because I know a lot of single moms, who are friends, and they can feel forgotten.
Dave: –mmm hmm
Ann: They can feel alone and they can 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.
Dave: Yes. And 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 FamilyLife Today, have you?
Roland: Well, years ago
Dave: –years ago
Roland: –I mean, yeah
Dave: –like how long ago? You’re not that old
Roland: –well I wrote another book called Bad Dads of the Bible: Eight Mistakes Every Dad Can Avoid
Ann: –oh I remember that
Roland: –yes and I was on with Dennis and uh
Dave: –in Little Rock
Roland: –yes in Little Rock.
Dave: So now what do you think of Orlando?
Roland: It’s warmer here [Laughter]
Dave: A little bit. So give us a little bit of your history. I know you went to Princeton.
Dave: and then ended up in the business world. Give us a little history.
Roland: So yes, 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.
Dave: What is that? It’s still going right?
Roland: Oh, yes.
Dave: You’re the president?
Roland: Yes I was president there for 11 years. But it’s an organization that 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 (care-net.org), which is a, the largest evangelical pregnancy center network in the country. So it’s really focused on helping women facing pregnancy decisions, choose life for their unborn children, abundant life for their families. So that’s sort of the path now.
Roland: Interwoven in there [Laughter] it’s not sort of a straight line, when I was at Princeton. I was actually–I ended up getting my girlfriend pregnant between my sophomore and junior year. She was a sophomore. I was a junior. We were sort of faced with a decision. She was encouraged to abort, and you know we chose not to do that. We chose to bring our child into the world, and we got married. We’ve been married 40 years. A lot of that is interconnected, even in the 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 of 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 most of the women that I knew and that I loved, were single mothers.
Roland: My sister spent some time as a single mom. My cousins, many of them were single moms. So I kind of been in that environment and I sort of know it pretty well as a son just 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, to some degree, what their sons may be facing.
Dave: 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
Dave: Wow, here I am, what am I going to do?
Roland: Well, you know interestingly, my mom was–got pregnant when she was 16, 17 years old, uh with my older brother. She had me when she was 19 but by the time she was 23 she was a single mother with four kids under the age of eight. My dad was pretty much not there for most of my childhood that I remember, particularly when I was younger. When that happened in college, I can’t even believe my mom’s first response was, “You’re not going to graduate. You know this is a problem.”
Roland: from that perspective. So it really was a decision that you know I needed to make on my own in terms of moving forward. And thankfully like, you know, the fact even that I had 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, or you know an absent father or something like that, and not being a husband, 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 the role that men in the church can play to model for your son, a future that you would hope he would have. I mean I’ve never met a single mother yet who’s said, “My hope and my dream for my daughter is she’ll get pregnant by some guy and he’ll leave her,” or “my hope and my dreams for my son to get someone pregnant and leave the woman, leave my grandkids,” that kind of thing. 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.
Ann: So Roland, the subtitle of your book is called A Guide for Single Mothers of Boys,
Ann: –which is sweet. 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?
Roland: Well you know I often say you know kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad.
Roland: That God whispers into the womb of their mothers that there is one who will love them like no other. If a father is unable or unwilling to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that’s not easily healed. So, for much of my life I was a wounded soul. There wasn’t much my mom could do about that-
Roland: –because that’s a hole that-
Ann: –she couldn’t fill it.
Roland: Right. So you know as a boy growing up, and particularly as I look back on it as a man now, it’s particularly–you know God had me on a couch for about 12 years as National Fatherhood Initiative, you know I wanted to be a corporate exec, 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 as I was parenting, and 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.
Dave: I mean did you ever lay in bed resent? I can remember laying in bed, especially probably middle school age,
Dave: 13, 14. I can remember laying in bed looking at the ceiling and yelling at God.
Dave: Like, “Why can’t I be like Mark Davis’s family?”
Dave: Because their dad was there - they lived down the street. They had money. We had none. My dad didn’t pay alimony.
Dave: –and I was resentful.
Dave: –did you go through that? I mean I was angry.
Roland: I processed it very interestingly in that I was telling the story in the book about when I must have been about 10 or 11 years old dad was supposed to come pick us up-
Roland: –take us for ice cream or something like that. And the thing about my dad is my dad was the life of the party kind of a guy. So he wasn’t abusive or anything like that. He was the guy came in and you just lit up, because he lit you up.
Roland: And he was supposed to show up and he didn’t. I just remember in that moment sitting there. I can still just kind of see it. I was sitting there on the curb waiting and he didn’t show up. And at that moment I cried and everything and 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 when you’re rejected by someone who is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, I mean just think about one of your girlfriends who just said, “You know 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 it is.
Roland: 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, ten, twelve. You can see how that can create an issue for, for someone. And, and you don’t have a way to process it and understand it. 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. I do well in sports, surely.” - and those things didn’t happen. The whole experience kind of came to a head when my father died. So he died in 1998. He actually changed his life. He had become a pastor and all this.
Dave: Really? How old were you?
Roland: –I was in my 30s when this happened and it all came to a head at his funeral. Because my father was never sort of absent and moved away. I always knew where he was. He was there for holidays - he just wasn’t involved in my life on a daily basis as an in house dad would be. And so, I thought we have a good relationship. We weren’t arguing and fighting. I get to his funeral and there are people saying all these amazing things about my dad-
Roland: –from the pulpit. Just, “He’s done this and he’s done that.” And I find myself just becoming enraged. I’m just furious like, “Where is this coming from? I have no idea.” So finally this guy comes up to the pulpit and says, “You know Pastor Warren you know he came, 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 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?”
Roland: –no one knew I was upset about it except my mother. Interestingly, I talked to her about it years later. My wife didn’t know, never mentioned it, 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’m not just a guy who cried hardly ever. It just wasn’t something 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 and kind of chest bump myself and splash some water on, “Yes.” 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 the video.
Dave: Oh yes
Roland: And I told the story that I just told you. I burst into tears in front of 400 people. I could not stop myself. 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, you know, sons that are dealing with this, and trying to help you understand that. But also for the moms, to understand that even though he might not be talking about this, it’s in there you know, that hole in the soul. You can’t think about the father being gone like he’s a peg in the pegboard and you get rid of the peg and we have to do without the peg. But you have to deal with the hole.
Ann: When I read that in your book Roland
Ann: –about how you are crying and couldn’t stop,
Dave: She looked over and I’m crying. [Laughter]
Ann: but I’m,
Dave: –I’m reading your story but it’s similar to mine.
Ann: I’m also feeling the heart of moms like,
Ann: –as a single mom raising sons, we want to fix the hole you know.
Ann: We want to be there to help and even those wounds that are buried deep.
Ann: How is a mom–like what’s the best thing we can do?
Roland: Well I 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 ten, um my father was gone. So a lot of 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. 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 maybe he misses dad. Because you’re like, “Well wait a minute…”
Ann: Feel inadequate.
Roland: Right. Because he doesn’t deserve you to miss-
Roland: –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. So that first step is to acknowledge that loss. And then, like with any other loss, because it’s sort of like the death to fatherhood in a 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?” What is–no one ever addressed it. And I kind of look at my life, I kind of acted, in some way shapes and forms that weren’t good. But there were some things that like sports and academics that I, I was pursuing. But I knew other guys that pursued other things, and dealt with their father-absence through other types of things that were not good things. But they–I think that’s the first thing, acknowledging that there’s a loss. Yes there’s a loss for you as a mom maybe, your hope and your dream for a husband, or whatever he was going to be. There’s 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 the guy and ready to move on, the reality is that he can never be done with him.
Ann: So to try to draw that out as well.
Dave: Well, how common is it? You would know better than anybody for single moms to sort of stuff it. Because my mom stuffed it.
Dave: We never had a conversation, not one. When, when my dad came to visit Ann and I a month after we’re married. Literally comes to–we’re at the University of Nebraska, I’m like the Chaplin for the sports teams there-
Dave: –he comes, we have dinner, sits down and here’s what happens. I’m sitting beside Ann - and Ann because she comes from a family and they talk, they [Laughter] there’s like different.
Ann: –about everything.
Roland: Sounds like my wife.
Dave: She looks over at my dad and goes, and 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. [Laughter] We know you don’t talk about that in our family.
Dave: –I’ve never, not one time in my life-
Ann: –He’s squeezing my
Dave: –talk about that.
Ann: –my leg so hard
Dave: –like, “No, no, no, no…”
Ann: –be quiet.
Dave: –and I think, “Oh no, here it goes.” He’s and I’ll never forget he looks back and goes, “Wow. Nobody’s ever asked me. Okay.” And then he tells this story and I’m like, “Oh, it’s a whole different story than I ever heard.
Roland: Yes, yes
Dave: 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?
Roland: My sense is because I think in some ways, like you said, to address it is maybe difficult. I feel like you could feel like there is something wrong with you.
Roland: Like you know I always say, don’t be upset that you can’t give something that you’re not designed to give.
Roland: And I think you know that there’s some anger that’s tied to this too.
Ann: Oh, yes.
Roland: So I think it’s one of the key things too, you’ve got to admit the anger. You’ve got to address that. You’ve got to allow for grief. I actually think that the opposite of what she may feel will happen. I’ll just speak from my own life, is it actually deepens your relationship with your son.
Roland: So by not going in that area, you actually are distancing yourself in a way 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.”
Roland: Because you’ve got to help your son, right, understand that loss, process that loss, and then also there are other things God wants to have happen, which is healing, forgiveness, all of those things, right? Bitterness is a root that yields a bitter fruit and it–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.
Dave: How much would you coach the single mom to tell her son, and it could be a daughter,
Dave: but you’re talking sons, her journey
Dave: 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?
Roland: 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 feeling it too. Just think about it right, whenever you’re having a pain in some area, right - and it’s some comforting when other people say to you, “Hey you know what, I’m struggling with that too.”
Dave: Oh yes.
Roland: 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.
Ann: Wow, that would have helped you.
Roland: That would have helped me tremendously.
Ann: 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.”
Ann: And then I love this, “If you haven’t dealt with them, they will deal with you.”
Ann: And that’s what you’re saying. That’s why you started crying so hard. You’d never dealt with the pain.
Roland: That’s right.
Ann: And you’re right. It helps when someone else says, “This is hard for me too.”
Ann: It helps you to open up about your own loss.
Roland: Absolutely. Part of–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 the 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 you know 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,”
Roland: ”We’re this.” And why are boys 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. I remember as a kid they came up with the new Coke. You guys might be at the age where you remember that.
Roland: And they got rid of the old.
Dave: Ohhh, you work for Pepsi [Laughter] what are you talking about?
Roland: I did, right.
Dave: I remember when Coke and nobody liked it.
Roland: Nobody liked it.
Roland: –and you know who didn’t like it? The people who had the real thing.
Roland: –see if you had never, ever had Coke before,
Roland: and somebody gave you this and said, “This is Coke.” “Oh, okay this is Coke,” But if you had the real thing, you’d know the difference. So if you don’t have a father in your life, for example, and you have that hole and no one has 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 hearts. 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 in a place where you have pain, or if there’s not wholeness, that’s where he tends to attack in. Moms have an enormous opportunity to make that connection for the goodness and to help their sons grow in faith in Christ in terms of that.
Dave: 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 I was able to appreciate all the good things she really did. Do you feel that same thing?
Roland: 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 sometimes I feel like as a single mom, a mom will feel like what was going to be a life of addition and multiplication becomes a life of subtraction and division.
Roland: 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, “Wow. I can see where a lot of the pain that she had, that she wasn’t articulating in the public square, and then came through in some ways in her parenting process, because we’re whole people.” You know it was connected to that. So God gives us insights - and I just want to encourage the moms out there, maybe there’s a little distance or whatever with your sons, just to know, we’ll get there. [Laughter]
Roland: We’ll get there. But I really think one of the prescriptions on the front end is just to engage and 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 is 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 use the story of Haggar and Ishmael. I mean that’s the core of that book.
Dave: Yes, it’s all through. We don’t have time to dive into that but I would like to hear some of that in our next broadcast.
Ann: Yes, me too.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Roland C. Warren on FamilyLife 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. Alright, here’s Dave with some encouragement for single mothers.
Dave: And I would just like to say to the single mom,
Dave: And I think Roland and I can feel your pain,
Dave: because we were your sons. Have a conversation tonight.
Dave: with your seven-year-old, with your ten 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.
Shelby: Join us tomorrow on FamilyLife Today as Dave and Ann Wilson talk again with Roland C. Warren about the path he traveled to let go and forgive his father. That’s tomorrow.
Shelby: On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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