By Dianne Sudbrock
Michael Byron Smith is a local property owner and photographer who has captured beautiful photos of our beloved southwestern St. Charles County area. But more importantly, he has written a book on fatherhood that is full of common-sense advice for new and existing fathers (and mothers).
Michael was born and raised in the St. Louis area and grew up with a father who was mostly absent. “My father was a severe alcoholic and didn't take care of our large family. He was often unreachable, whether away from home or in the next room. Mom essentially raised us by herself on a waitress’s salary”, he said. Michael’s mom worked two jobs most of the time, and they moved frequently by necessity. “I went to no less than 35 schools,” he said, “and one Christmas the only presents we received had been left on our porch by a local church, Mom being out of work at the time.”
Michael knew at an early age that he did not want to live like that all his life; and he had dreams of being a pilot. Without anyone encouraging him to do so, he studied hard in school. “I knew I couldn’t be a military pilot unless I was an officer, and that required a college degree. Therefore, it was up to me to take my studies seriously to find a way into college.” His hard work and good grades were eventually rewarded with a full scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis. “Wash U. helped me change my life forever”, said Smith, “by awarding me a scholarship offered to need-based students.”
“Having a goal helped me out of a tough situation. I was the only high school graduate of the six children in my family. My siblings never developed goals or a passion for something specific they wanted to do, so they just glided along. I had a reason for everything I did. I had a mission, and I was able to reach it. I joined R.O.T.C., graduated with an Engineering degree, and then went to USAF Pilot Training after receiving my Second Lieutenant Bars.”
“But then,” Michael said, “a weird thing happened. After reaching my goal of becoming a pilot, I didn’t have anything pulling me forward. I loved flying and was no longer poor, but my weak social skills stalled my progress.”
“When my six-year Air Force commitment was up, I had to decide what to do. If I made it a career, I knew I would have to move at least four more times. I had never had a stable home and wanted to experience that with my wife and children. My new goal became that, a stable home! Unfortunately, I would miss flying.”
Michael joined the Missouri Air National Guard working full-time for a few years, then part-time, eventually retiring as a Colonel. Michael worked at Boeing as an engineer representing the Defense Department, and along with his wife, raised a family of his own - two girls, one boy.
“I knew before I ever had children that I wanted to be a better dad than the one I had,” Michael said, “but I didn’t know how”. He continued, “Like most men, I didn’t read books on parenting, but I did know I needed to be there for my kids, reading to them and spending time together. I made it a priority.” As the years went by, Michael learned what worked and what did not. “I learned that saying ‘because I told you to’, just makes kids rebellious. But by explaining my reasoning (time allowing), they could understand a little better, and they felt respected.”
Coming upon retirement, Michael needed another goal, not one that would help him, but others - especially kids. He decided to write a book about what he observed in families when a father was involved, and when one was not. Starting in 1999, Michael began researching and taking notes, eventually publishing “The Power of Dadhood - How to Become the Father your Child Needs”
Smith said, “There are many different types of fathers: absent fathers, uninvolved or under-involved fathers, loving fathers, authoritarian fathers, and more. But all fathers are human, and therefore, imperfect; hopefully, this book will help any father earn the title of ‘Dad’ - imperfect but trying his best!
Smith says he wrote his book, “Especially for men (and women) who grew up without a good fathering role model.” Designed to be a mentoring book, it is written in easy to read, common sense language to help fathers meet the ever-changing challenges of dadhood.
For those parents that are short on reading time, there are two helpful appendices. The first suggests ‘Seven characteristics of a successful Dad’
– Being Involved, Consistent, Fun, Principled, Loving, Balanced, and Passionate – with Smith explaining each characteristic. The second appendix is a ‘Dad’s Self Inspection Checklist’
to help fathers reflect on their relationship with their children: questions include, “Are you affectionate or distant and reserved? Do you encourage or belittle when mistakes are made? Do you set a good example of kindness, values, and manners?” etc.
There is a crisis today of too many children being raised without effective fathering. The statistics are frightening! Poverty, drug use, teen pregnancies, crime, suicide, truancy, etc. are many times greater without father involvement. ‘The Power of Dadhood’
teaches that fathers are vitally important to the futures of their children. The information in the book can also benefit women, not only from a parenting perspective, but perhaps more importantly, in helping to choose a man who has the potential to become a helpful and supportive father for her children.
To purchase a copy of ‘The Power of Dadhood’
, please visit www.michaelbyronsmith.com or order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. On this website, Michael also writes a weekly Blog: ‘Helping Fathers to be Dads’ in which he shares additional thoughts and welcomes thoughts and discussion from readers.