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NEWS | April 20, 2016

Mom and Dad cut down that tree

By SKC Patrick Garvey USCG Sector Charleston

In today's commercialized society we are constantly receiving messages about what is important in life. Bud Light suggests we should be "up for whatever." Not having a filter and "Thinking Out Loud" isn't a problem, according to Ed Sheeran. "Be Connected. Be Discovered. Be on Facebook" and don't be afraid to "think outside the bun" at Taco Bell.

Most of us are awake for 16-18 hours a day which means our ears and eyes are getting bombarded with advertisements for roughly 1,000 minutes per day. Bright colors, big letters, eye-popping images and catchy slogans all with the intent of luring us in. The corporations are casting their fishing nets, betting we will take the bait. Our minds and hearts are vulnerable.

Today, we hear the word "prevention"...a lot!  Because we can't cure most of society's ills, apparently we need to prevent them.

Suicide prevention. Sexual Assault prevention. Substance abuse prevention. Weight gain prevention.

Why are all these issues so prevalent nowadays? Using the analogy of a tree, is it possible to identify when these seeds of discontent were planted or where the roots of the problems have taken hold? Unfortunately, the seeds have sprouted, the roots have spread to unfathomable lengths and the tree has grown to unprecedented heights. But take heart. I believe there is a way to cut this tree down to size.

The good news is, it's more or less a simple solution: spend time with our kids.

Our children are the most susceptible to the world's glitzy and ritzy gravitational pull. They also have roughly 1,000 minutes a day during which their attention is up for grabs. They can befriend MTV, YouTube, Twitter, and Xbox One. They can try to emulate the latest musician, sports star or Hollywood actor.

Or they can take their lead from Dad and Mom. As parents, we must realize how vital we are to our children. Your daughter sees all those big smiles, hears the words you speak and feels you hold her as she drifts off to sleep. Your son knows who you deem to be a good role model, watches the people you surround yourself with and is aware of all of your efforts to provide for the family.

Fathers and mothers should know that our highest calling, first priority and favorite task is to be a parent. Our careers should never come before our life at home. When we let our careers outweigh our families' needs, our children and our spouses feel that void. That time will be filled by something or someone possibly less than ideal.

Parents usually have the child for about 18 years. Then, off they go to college, the military or to a job. Those formative 18 years are immensely crucial. If we are not present to our children and if we let the world educate our kids, we lose. That dysfunctional tree society planted will keep growing.

We need to start chopping that tree down. We need to take full advantage of our time and influence our children. We need to teach them the right from wrong. We need to educate them to learn from our own experiences. We need to demonstrate to them they can rely on guidance from Mom and Dad.

If we do these things, the tree that grew so tall...will one day be a stump.