Tell us about “41 Deposits” and what inspired you to write it.
I grew up without a dad in the home and wanted to make sure I passed on a few specific things to my son, Kile.
When Kile entered high school, I decided to make an intentional, long-term investment into our relationship. Frankly, it’s something I regret not doing with more intent with our two older daughters, but I didn’t want to make the same mistake a third time around. So, in the fall of his sophomore year, Kile and I began going to a new bagel shop to discuss life over breakfast. Over the next three years, we talked about each of the “deposits” you’ll find in the book.
I had purchased three high-quality, leather-bound journals, one for each of our children, in Venice when my wife, Karen, and I traveled there for our twentieth anniversary.
Since Kile was about to begin high school, I decided I would fill his journal with fatherly advice and give it to him a few years later as a graduation present. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized there was an opportunity for something more—a chance for me to give Kile something I’d never gotten from my father. I would not just give him practical wisdom, but structured time together during a season of life we would never be able to relive.
The idea behind the journal morphed into the regular discussions between Kile and me at the bagel shop. We didn’t meet on a formal schedule, but as our calendars allowed. I drove the agenda and the timing, ensuring that we met at least a couple of times each month and that the discussions had purpose. But we were light on structure and formalities.
With Kile, my goal was pretty simple: To make wisdom deposits into his mind and relational deposits into his heart. I wasn’t trying to get an immediate transformation, nor was I trying to check some box to make me feel better about myself. There was no test he had to pass, and I didn’t expect him to agree with me or automatically adopt my way of thinking. Instead, I expected him to listen and share his thoughts and feelings enough that I could see in his eyes or hear in his words something that served as a receipt acknowledging the deposit had been made.
The importance of these discussions, by the way, also was personal to me, because I didn’t get these types of deposits, wisdom or relational, from my father.
Who did you write it for? How is the book structured?
Other dads of sons, especially, although any parent of any teenager, would find it useful. This book is really for any parent who wants to spend intentional time with their children. It will give readers a framework for discussing with their teens things that matter most to both of them.
Each chapter includes a story that drives home a succinct and specific point, followed by a few key insights to consider and questions to ask and answer. They are arranged into six categories—My Core, My Faith, My Heart, My Relationships, My Work and My Future. Readers can go through the chapters sequentially or randomly (as Kile and I did).
How did you decide what topics you wanted to discuss with your son during his high school years?
I started with a goal for 50. I simply sat down and tagged every possible topic I could think was critical. Then I combined a few, leaving spots open along the way for new discovery. The complete list of 50 evolved for sure and eventually became 41 because we just simply ran out of time.
How did both you and your son grow as you had these crucial conversations over time?
The main thing that grew was the depth and breadth and quality of our relationship and friendship. We have an uncanny tight connection today because of that time together. He and I are wired completely differently (like my wife and I). However, the time we spent knit our hearts together more tightly.
Kile is a young adult now, and I often see evidence that he’s drawing on the deposits from those breakfasts together. In many cases, I simply planted a seed that was watered and fed by other relationships and experiences. So, I can truthfully say the deposits are paying dividends in Kile’s life. I can thankfully report that they have strengthened the integrity of our relationship, and I am a better and more joyful man because of our experience.
What is it that makes it so difficult for fathers and sons to connect well?
I see several reasons why fathers and sons have a hard time connecting. The father is too focused on performance and outcomes with his son, not the quality of the relationship. They have already screwed up their relationship and the father is trying to do a correction after the fact, which is so much harder.
They could be wired completely differently, which makes any relationship depth-building a challenge and more work. Sometimes, the son really doesn’t admire his father, so there are no natural tie-ins for relationship building, or the father doesn’t know how to shift in the way he relates to his son at the different ages and stages (relating to a 7-year-old versus a 13-year-old and so on).
How would you encourage fathers who want to be intentional with their sons but just don’t know where to begin? What tips would you share for those just getting started on this journey?
- Start by hanging together around something the son would think is fun or enjoyable, such as attending a sporting event or play or going out to eat.
- Layer in something meaningful to the boy, such as teaching him to drive or how to open a bank account.
- If the son is a verbal processor, let the words fly. If he is more of an introvert, the dad must be careful of using too many words too often.
- Focus on helping the son find legitimate footing in his self image and knowing what he is uniquely good at and how he is wired by God.
- The dad needs to share his faith in stories, not Bible studies.
- Get some dedicated time together. If the resources are available, take a trip, go camping, visit a museum, etc.—whatever really energizes and interests the boy.
- Take a friend, even though your big goal is some one-on-one time with your son eventually.
How can fathers use this book? How do you hope it strengthens and encourages fathers and sons?
It can build confidence in the dad because intentional investing into his son is a smart move. When dads invest in their sons intentionally, they are doing more than just hoping the kid picks up some stuff while he lives in the home.
The book is designed to be a track to run on if you don’t already have one or don’t already have some stuff worked out to share. Dads can use the topics and stories as launching pads for meaningful discussion with their sons. It can help the dad take the first step if that is what he struggles with or stay on the process for two to three years if he is more of a starter and not a finisher.