Remember the tree

Published 12:03 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

Several months ago, I was in the woods with my three young sons. One carried his BB gun, another his bow and arrow, and the other picked up pine cones and sticks to use as his weapons.

They were all in their own world of adventure when I came upon an old rotten pine tree. All the bark was gone and beetles had consumed it. It may have been 25 feet tall and as I pushed on it, it made a crack.

I rallied the boys around and told them to listen up. I asked them to recall how their mother and I were always trying to make them eat well and how I would encourage them to exercise with me in the mornings so one day they would grow and be strong. “Yes sir,” was their response.

I told them to stand back as I put my shoulder into the tree, which probably would have fallen with the next wind. As I pushed into it, it made the most incredible noise, crashing through neighboring branches and exploding as it hit the ground. I looked at them with as serious of a face as I could and said, “Remember the tree.” They yelled in awe and told me that was awesome.

I know these days are limited and just a few years from now, their minds will be wrapped around sports, girls and cars. But it is extremely important for us fathers to be larger than life to our young children. They are sponges in great need of a positive male influence and if it’s not from Dad, who will it be?

More significantly, our boys need us to be there. Being there is not just a physical presence. They need to be taught to be watchful, stand firm and be courageous. They need to hear us compliment their moms, know that we have jobs, and that extracurricular activities like fishing and golf are less important than spending time with them.

Remember, you are making a man. We should know that everything that comes out of their mouths is important to them, no matter how irrelevant it may seem. Statistics tell us that if you haven’t talked to your sons about drugs before the age of 11, someone else already has. Our culture applauds inappropriate behavior and the entertainment industry makes billions on vulgarity. In our county jail, 75-80 percent of our population is male, and nationally, a male is more likely to commit a violent felony.

These are dads, sons, uncles and husbands that at some point made a bad decision. We shouldn’t give up on them, but that choice is made. Your son will find another role model if you’re not there, and that role model may lead them astray. Even if you don’t think you have the right answers, perception is reality to a young child, and the fundamentals they are taught at a young age will stay with them as they grow older. Recall as a child how everything was bigger, people were taller and everything you were told for the first time, seemed real.

Anybody could have knocked over that tree, but I wanted my boys to see me do it. To them, that tree was a great sequoia. Remember the tree.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. He can be reached at