Special Tender Lion Interview Feature

If you’re a new reader of our blog, Tender Lions is about building the vital relationship between father and son. Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the publication of Tender Lions. The book, among other things, contains interviews with numerous men that Jeff and I believe have valuable perspectives on their relationship with their dad.

What follows is the interview I did with Oscar Benavides, a true example of what it means to be a tender lion. Oscar is a great example of someone who wasn’t defined in a negative way by the difficult circumstances of his upbringing. He’s a great example of “it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you that really matters.”

Oscar is married, 52, and father of two kids. He lives in The Colony, Texas. A fun fact about Oscar is that he was once chased by an elephant in the Jungle of Botswana.

Brian: Describe your dad. Oscar: He was short tempered, blunt, emotionally absent, hard on the outside but soft on the inside (not in a positive way), dishonest, alcoholic. He passed away in 2013.

Brian: Looking back can you see things you appreciate? Oscar: Yes, he was ambitious, and always had entrepreneurial projects going. He had a soft spot in his heart that I sometimes got to see. He pushed us kids to get educated, that was my dad’s reason for moving the family to the United States from Mexico when I was 5 years old. My dad’s mom died when he was 5, so he was basically raised by an abusive older sister. So, there is some compassion when I think about his upbringing, but also some disappointment.

Brian: What did dad do that contributed (positively or negatively) to you being man you are today? Oscar: Dad had a strong sense of manhood (not spiritually – he was not a believer), but hard work, being tough, never crying, being personally responsible and self-reliant. My first year in college Dad stopped supporting me financially, so I paid my own way and that developed character in me.

Brian: Did your dad do anything that drove you crazy at the time, but now you appreciate? Oscar: He was always trying to teach us and give us wisdom, but unfortunately, he would do that by getting angry at us or berating us–that was his way of trying to communicate. I learned how to relieve his tension by making him laugh, so I learned my sense of humor from my dad.

Brian: What do you miss most about your dad? Oscar: I wish he could get to know my kids, and I wish he could see some of his desires for me that became reality.

Brian: What do you want your son to see from you? Oscar: I want him to be a person of character, and to work hard. He helps others selflessly and I want him to continue in that. I am so proud of him. I want him to be a gentleman in the way he treats women. He has learned through basketball that character and people are more important than the game.

Brian: What role does faith play in your relationship with your son? Oscar: He prays with me twice a day, and he loves when we read the Bible together. We’ve talked about the faith of our children’s birth families (they are both adopted), and we prayed for years for my son’s birth father who is now a believer. Once he came to faith he started being mentored by us.

Brian: What are you intentional about doing with your son that gives life to the relationship? Oscar: I never had physical or emotional intimacy with my father, but several years ago I noticed the emotions I felt of male bonding with my son were amazing. We are close spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Brian: What keeps you grounded and gives you perspective around being a dad? Oscar: When I return home from a work trip, my son hugs me and doesn’t want to let go. He has such a need to be connected to me. There is a sense of trust with my kids because they’re adopted. We are close with my son’s birth father and my son also loves to play and hang out with him. I know my son needs that connection with his birth dad too.

Brian: Any closing thoughts? Oscar: For me being a father has brought redemption for the pain and disappointment I felt from my own upbringing. I feel closeness with my son, and I get very emotional just thinking about how he and I will be close when he’s older. I can’t wait to have that adult relationship with him. It reconciles things for me.

Brian: Thanks Oscar for your great leadership example and commitment to being a true tender lion dad. Keep going!

This is an excerpt from Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son.

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