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Family Room



"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." —Matthew 6:21

Treasures come in all shapes and sizes, from gold doubloons of pirate lore to the dime-store prize buried in a cereal box. Which is more precious depends on the priorities of the person doing the digging. Take young men, for example. What should they hold dear? If they chart their course using a cultural compass, they'll pursue money, fame, women, hot cars, round-the-clock cable sports access and the best lite beer on the market. And if X marks the spot, XXX must be three times as rewarding … right?

As you and I know, chasing such treasures leads to an empty chest, though it may take becoming a dad for many guys to realize it. Fatherhood changes a man. We can't measure the effects scientifically, but it's a lot like falling in love; it alters the brain at some subatomic level. How else do you explain a guy's willingness to risk the ire of co-workers by canceling meetings to attend a Little League game or piano recital? Such unselfish treasure hunters drive old beaters to pay for braces. They think nothing of trading a round of golf for a family outing, and will even put career ambitions on hold to keep from uprooting thriving kids.

But even when it comes naturally, it's not always easy. The culture keeps dangling fool's gold, tempting devoted dads to reorder their priorities or, at the very least, wonder what they might be missing. These men need encouragement—reminders that they're investing wisely. Wouldn't it be great to know that even celebrities who "have it all" see fatherhood as the ultimate role? I'm happy to say that several have had that epiphany.

"When I became a dad for the first time, it was like a veil being lifted," said Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp. "I was never horribly self-obsessed or wrapped up in my own weirdness, but when my daughter was born, suddenly there was clarity. I wasn't angry anymore. It was the first purely selfless moment that I had ever experienced. And it was liberating. In that moment, it's like you become something else. The real you is revealed."

Another Hollywood heartthrob affected by fatherhood is Brad Pitt. He explained, "It completely changes your perspective, and certainly takes the focus off yourself, which I'm really grateful for. … You know, I've had my day. I made some films and I've really had a very fortunate life. And it's time for me to share that a bit. I'm so tired of thinking about myself. I'm sick of myself. … I can't do justice to it anymore than any other parent can. You feel that you want to be there and you don't want to miss out on anything. It's a true joy."

Actor Michael Douglas said recently, "It's tough with two young kids and a happy marriage to have the same hunger for a career and to seriously seek out material as I did when I was younger and didn't have a happy home life. My priority now is family, and I smile when I say that because I hear my father in my head saying something about me finally listening."

Musicians have been known to turn their hearts toward home as well, including rocker Jon Bon Jovi. "The only thing I guess I would treasure more than anything else is the health of my kids, then my wife, then me. In that order. … I go to bed at night, you know, with four kids laying on your head. That's a lot cooler existence than being on the cover of a goofy magazine with the latest starlet. Having the kids, they don't really care about chart positions. They don't care how many tickets I sold. You know, [my son] Jakey said, 'Daddy, you have the big plane?' I said, 'Yeah, Jakey, I got the big plane.' He goes, 'Well, come home!' That hit it right on the head, didn't it?"

I'll say. I hope he's jumping on the jet more often these days. For Jakey's sake. After all, despite having the third Sunday in June set aside in our honor, treasuring our role as dads isn't about what it does for us. It's about what it has done to us—that desire to make our children feel precious, all the while setting an example that will echo for generations.

Published June 2007