Building a Stable “Father” Foundation

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Although you might not think about the Business Agent for Heavy Construction Laborers to have a very soft spot in his heart for his wife and family, if you’re thinking of Derick Barnes, you’d be wrong. Derick describes himself as having a “lifetime of construction,” the last 13 of which have been spent with Heavy Construction Laborers 663. He is also married, and the proud father of three adult children and two grandchildren. In addition to his job, Derick has served as a youth pastor and is actively engaged in a small group of men.

Derick’s parents divorced when he was seven, which really threw him into a tailspin. He began getting into a lot of trouble when his dad moved out of the home.

Derick reports, “I became too much to handle for my mom and I put her through hell, but she was always there for me and prayed for me. I was thrown out of school when I was in first grade and had to attend another school instead. During fifth grade, I was arrested for stealing money from the Jerry Lewis Fund. I got into a lot of trouble including drugs use and alcohol.”

It was during this period that Derick was sent from his mother’s home to his father’s. Many people struggle to overcome a difficult childhood, but Derick found help and hope in his faith community. When asked how he learned to be a dad, he states that “without a doubt, my biggest influence was our church,” and then identified some couples who were critical to his development.

Perhaps it is his background in construction that causes Derick to describe himself as a “fixer.” That role, he claims, is a stressful one. Early in his parenting, he found himself feeling overwhelmed because he could not “fix” everything for his wife and kids. It was during this period he discovered that high-volume parenting really didn’t work very well at home or in the workplace.

“I learned,” he said, “to whisper criticism and shout praise,” but almost too late. Derick says he found this guiding principle to be especially important as he learned to coach his daughter’s softball team. In that context and in many others, he found it key to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Just knowing what to do doesn’t mean one will also do it. Derick stresses the importance of saying, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” when you fail. He says that meeting with a small group of men on a regular basis helps him to examine himself and admit his mistakes. Now that his children are grown, Derick says one of the best things is having them, in addition to his wife, all as best friends. He really enjoys having them nearby, even when some of them get their heads together to surprise him in a scary way. One such incident involved his wife and daughter handing him what he thought was a box of cookies that actually contained a dead black snake, knowing he hates snakes.

“That snake was dead,” he explained, “but it bit me three times before I got out of the chair.” All the same, he sees the trick as all in good fun and looks forward to other adventures with his family.

When asked what he would like to share with other dads, Derick identified six things:

1) Don’t be afraid to fail. The important thing is to try.
2) Be in a men’s group. We all blow it. We need to hear and learn from others.
3) Lead by example.
4) Be consistent. Your family and your coworkers should know what to expect from you.
5) Apologize when necessary and ask for forgiveness.

6) Be there for your kids—whatever their activities may be.

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