Roger Marsh: Any experienced parent will tell you that from the moment you hold your child for the first time, you suddenly feel unprepared. This precious newborn comes into your life without any instruction manual, or any how-to brochure. And it can be a very overwhelming moment. I still remember the first time I saw my oldest daughter, Emily, and she was in the nursery, had just been born and my mom had to point out to me and said, "Roger, go pick up your daughter. I mean, she's yours. You need to start holding her." It was a very daunting moment indeed. Well, today here on Family Talk, you're going to hear from two experienced dads with a lot of wisdom and encouragement to share.
On today's Family Talk broadcast, we're going to revisit Dr. James Dobson's meaningful discussion with Super Bowl winning tight end, Benjamin Watson. Benjamin played 15 years in the NFL before retiring with the new England Patriots in 2019. The conversation you're about to hear centers on Ben's book entitled, The New Dad's Playbook. Well, there's a ton of applicable advice and content to get to, so let's get started. Here now is Dr. James Dobson to introduce today's guest on this edition of Family Talk.
Dr. Dobson: We want to talk to a really great football player. One that you may not know if you're not heavily into football, but many of the men will know him. His name is Ben Watson, and I like this man. I haven't known him very long, but you're going to like him too. And you're going to like what he has to say. Women should find this program very interesting too, because our guest has so much to say about being a good husband and a good father. But I'm been especially interested in the dads paying attention today because there's an awful lot here for them.
Benjamin is known as a famous NFL star, but he's much more than that. Let me tell you a little bit about him. This is a very busy dude, and I met him today and I love him already. He's a leading spokesman for All Pro Dad. He's the founder of One More, I want to know more about that. And that's a foundation that helps spread love and hope of Christ in the city where he is and elsewhere. In 2016, Benjamin was the finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Now that is a big deal. That's the golden name of the NFL in this.
Benjamin Watson: Yes sir, yes sir.
Dr. Dobson: And how close did you come to winning?
Benjamin Watson: Every team has one nominee. So, there's thirty-two nominees. And then from that pool, they get down to three. And so, I was one of the final three, and Anquan Boldin who was a wide receiver, was for the 49ers that year, he ended up winning, but it was an honor to be in the last three.
Dr. Dobson: Well I guess so, you have played NFL football for 13 years?
Benjamin Watson: Yes, sir.
Dr. Dobson: New Orleans Saints and-
Benjamin Watson: Cleveland Browns.
Dr. Dobson: Cleveland Browns.
Benjamin Watson: I was drafted in 2004 to the New England Patriots.
Dr. Dobson: You are a deeply committed man of Christ. How early in life did you come to know Him?
Benjamin Watson: Well, I was raised in what you would say a Christian home, whatever that means. Both of my parents were believers. My father would do a lot of speaking around the country. My mother catechized us from a early age and I always knew about the Lord growing up, we were in church. And so I knew a lot of church answers growing up. But really when I was about five or six years old is when I really understood that I needed to make a decision for myself. And I was about five or six years old. My father's about my size, about six two. He's six two, 250. He played college football and he used to have this big teddy bear.
Dr. Dobson: What do you weigh, Ben?
Benjamin Watson: I'm 250 as well. I'm six three, too. I'm a little bit taller than him. So I can look down on him a little bit.
Dr. Dobson: Not very many men I look up to.
Benjamin Watson: Exactly. And he used to compete with me. He had this big teddy bear that was about my size and he would let me box the teddy bear when I was about five years old, before I used to go to bed. So, if you can imagine this big guy with a teddy bear with a five-year-old and he'd go, "Benjamin, you want to fight the Teddy bear?" I was like, "Yeah, daddy, I want to fight the teddy bear." And so he'd get behind the teddy bear, and start boxing me and he'd knocked me down. I'd get back up and swing back. I think he was trying to make me tough, I don't know.
But one night I lost to the teddy bear, and the story, my mom and dad say, "I was sitting in my room saying, 'Daddy, you bring that teddy bear back here. I'm not going to bed.'" So he brought the teddy bear back out. He let me win. And that night my father said to me, "Benjamin," I used to ask about death a lot. As a first child I always wanted to know what would happen. And he said, "Do you know what will happen to you if you die?" And even as a kid, I kind of understood those things. And I said, "No." And he shared with me John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life."
And right there at six years old, my father and I prayed and I repented of my sins, put my faith in Jesus Christ. I've learned a lot since then, obviously, but that was when I first passed from death into life. That's when I first became a new creation-
Dr. Dobson: What a great father.
Benjamin Watson: ... even at that young age. So, again, there's obviously been a lot since then and I've grown and I've fallen and all those sorts of things, but that's what I point to when I first really had an understanding, even as a child.
Dr. Dobson: Not many NFL players have good fathers, do they?
Benjamin Watson: Well, not many people have good fathers. I mean, if we look around, in the United States it's estimated that a third of our children grow up without fathers in the home. A third of them, 33%. Maybe more, maybe less, depending on where you're from or your background or whatever it may be. But there is a fatherlessness crisis in our country right now. And it's only getting worse. That's why I believe fatherhood is so important. That's why I believe that manhood is important and also challenging men. When it comes to being fathers, many fathers don't quite know that they can do it because it wasn't demonstrated to them.
Dr. Dobson: Here is a copy of your new book, Benjamin Watson, foreword by Meg Meeker, MD, she used to work with us here.
Benjamin Watson: Yeah, she's a good friend.
Dr. Dobson: And the title of it is The New Dad's Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life. You feel that way about it?
Benjamin Watson: I do. Having a kid, it's like the Super Bowl. You go through this whole process, kind of like a football season. You go through the off season program, which nobody wants to do. You go through training camp, which nobody wants to do, it's tough. You go through the regular season, the playoffs, all the way for the chance to hold the Lombardi Trophy. And kind of pregnancy, I look at it the same way. I haven't gone through pregnancy myself, clearly, but I've witnessed very closely my wife's five. And what the book does is it kind of relates it to football and football terms, but really it's a handbook for dads. A handbook for dads telling us practical terms.
When we go to the first OB appointment with our wives and the doctor puts the ultrasound on there, you hear the heartbeat and you're wondering what in the world is meconium going to be? And what is colostrum and what is a zygote? What is a fetus? All of these terms that men think we know, but we don't really know. And you know, men like to know information. And so what the book is, it's a handbook for men as they go through pregnancy with their wives, with the mother of their children to be educated, but also to understand that they can do this.
Dr. Dobson: And you said-
Benjamin Watson: And that they're needed.
Dr. Dobson: You guys have five kids?
Benjamin Watson: Five kids, three girls, two boys.
Dr. Dobson: Three girls, two boys.
Benjamin Watson: Yep. The oldest is eight. The youngest is one. We've been married for 11 years. We waited three years and decided ... We always talked about having four kids. So we waited three years to kind of get the kinks out, because we didn't get along very much the first few years, to be honest. We're very strong personalities. And we had to go through our stuff. And then we went straight two minute drill. Once we started, my wife was either pregnant or nursing or both at the same time for five years, poor woman. And then we waited a couple years, and had another baby girl.
Dr. Dobson: She's had quite an influence on you, hasn't she?
Benjamin Watson: Of course.
Dr. Dobson: ... she talked you into writing this book.
Benjamin Watson: She did, she did. My wife was always saying, "You need to write some sort of handbook for men, how they can support their women when they're going through this, educating them on what's going on. But also where you've messed up and where you've done well. And so that's what this book is. It's a New Dad's Playbook. There's plays in there. How do you help a woman when she's going through her morning sickness? Or when you don't know what to do to help it? Or when her back's hurting or when she's feeling depressed?
Even things when she doesn't want to be intimate sometimes because of the changes that she's going through. How do you as a man navigate those things to support her the way she needs to, but also understanding that what you're doing with her right now is building the foundation for you to be the father God wants you to be once that child gets here. Because as we said before, we as dads need to make the commitment to be there. And a lot of it isn't because we don't want to. A lot of it, sometimes, is because we don't know how to.
Dr. Dobson: Tony Dungy endorsed this book, didn't he?
Benjamin Watson: Yes, sir.
Dr. Dobson: And so did Drew Brees?
Benjamin Watson: Yeah.
Dr. Dobson: Familiar name.
Benjamin Watson: Two great men and two friends. Tony is a guy who, when I was playing in New England he was with the Colts. And he's one of those coaches that if you didn't play with him, you always said, "Man, if there's one guy I wish I could have played for, is him." I mean, a lot of guys say that. And so I can remember after games in New England and we played the Colts and we had a lot of great games through playoff games and everything back in the mid 2000s. And after games going up to him and just telling him what he meant, not only as a man, but as a man of faith as well.
Dr. Dobson: Title of it is The New Dad's Playbook. And we will tell folks how they can get copies of it here.
Benjamin Watson: Yes, sir.
Dr. Dobson: But there's a lot of inspiration in this book. You really have been very much involved in not only the production of those five kids, but in being a good dad to them. You care about that, don't you?
Benjamin Watson: Of course. And part of it is understanding that as it says in Psalms that, Children, blessed is a man whose quiver is full of them. But also understanding that our children are like arrows that we can shoot to places that we may never see. They have an opportunity to change the world and affect positive change for the Lord way after mommy and daddy are gone. And understanding that children benefit from having both parents in the home. I mean, studies show over and over and over again that young girls benefit in certain ways, young boys benefit in certain ways, and it's important. And it matters to me because number one, they're my kids. But number two, I'm a person that understands that this is what God has called me to. And although I'm not doing it perfectly, I want to honor him by the way I parent my kids.
Dr. Dobson: We don't have television here, so people can't see it. But something means a lot to me. You got a copy of my book, Bringing Up Boys, which your mother gave to you. And she has put yellow stickies on about every fifth page throughout that book. She wanted you to read that, didn't she?
Benjamin Watson: Yeah. So as I mentioned, we have five children and I'm the oldest of six, four boys, two girls. And we had two girls first. And when we found out we were having a boy, our third child was a boy, found out we were having a boy, my mom brought Bringing Up Boys and gave it to my wife for her to read about how to raise these rambunctious boys she's about to have. Because when you start off with girls, girls are great and then boys are a different story. They don't listen. They can't hear, they're always trying to jump off something. They have this crazy sense of adventure and they're just different, you know? The kids are different.
And so my mom brought this book to my wife and she has notes in it. And again, we were raised, Dr. Dobson on much of the work that you've done, not just this book. But I can remember reading, Bringing Up Girls back in 2008 when I knew I was about to have my first child in 2009. I remember being in New England, having that book, maybe sitting in the ice tub after practice, reading it, just trying to glean, how am I going to parent this girl? I have no idea what to do. And so, no, this is going to be a family heirloom, because once a ... My wife has instructions from my mother saying that when she gets done, then when my brother has a boy, he started like me, two girls, so whenever he has a boy, it's going to be passed on to his wife.
Dr. Dobson: You know, Ben, when I was writing the book, one of my major objectives was to get across a message to women, many of whom don't have brothers. They grew up as either an only child or a bunch of girls. And they have no idea that boys are wired differently. I mean, they are not the same. And the feminist and a lot of those with liberal views have tried to convince women that the only difference between boys and girls was the way they were raised. And that there were biases, patriarchal biases in the way boys were raised. Baloney man, I'm telling you, it's called testosterone. And it is there-
Benjamin Watson: It is.
Dr. Dobson: ... from the beginning. And if a woman doesn't know that, she starts to go crazy because she's never seen this before.
Benjamin Watson: Of course. A man can go crazy too, because I swear, I tell these boys something and they literally look at me and do the exact opposite. I'm like, "Do you not hear me, son? Be quiet, you're not listening to me." So, they all are wired totally differently. And the great thing is that men and women were made by God to complement each other for unity. And so the differences are there on purpose. And what Satan will do is he'll pervert those differences and make them to be something that is a negative when in fact it is a positive. That rambunctious mode that the boys go into, that strong willed child-
Dr. Dobson: It's for a purpose.
Benjamin Watson: Exactly. It's for a purpose. And so it's important as parents to be able to guide them and realize that the differences in the two are there for a reason, but how do I guide them into becoming the adults that God wants them to be without crushing that spirit that they have? Because it's a good thing.
Dr. Dobson: You mentioned your relationship with your father and how he fought with you and how he made a man out of you. My dad was six four, and he did that for me. And I've shared this before and some women hear it and just shake their heads. In fact, my mother shook her head, because my dad liked to fight with me and I loved it. And we used to have kick fights. He would encourage me to kick him in the shin, and then he would block my leg with his foot. And I'd go and got stung, you know? And I would come after him again. And I'm telling you, I'd rather do that than anything in the world. And my mother was saying, "You're going to hurt him. You're going to hurt him. Don't do that." But she had no idea what that meant to me.
Benjamin Watson: Well, I haven't gone that far where I had them kick me, but we do wrestle a lot. And it's funny because when we do those wrestling times, my wife says, "You know, I understand you got to wrestle with your daddy. That's part of being a boy, part of being kids. Don't do that with me, do that with your dad." But again, that goes to the point of ... And every family is different obviously, but that goes to the point of there being something that each parent brings. When I go to say good night to my girls now they have this thing, they're eight and six. And when I come in the room, they're standing on their beds with pillows in their hands and they want to fight with me before they go to bed.
Dr. Dobson: The girls like it too.
Benjamin Watson: Yeah, the girls like it too. So I'm with the boys in their room, wrestling with them. Then I go to the girls, and that's kind of been our nighttime routine lately for whatever reason. But kids have this aggression, but it's also the physical touch. That's the way it goes with the dad. But it's also a sort of intimacy with your children having that rough housing, because it breeds confidence in them. It shows them that you accept them.
Dr. Dobson: Here's something that many men and women don't know about boys. They're born different, as we said. They are born not knowing how to be a man or how to be a boy. That has to be taught. A girl didn't have that problem, because she grows up in the tutelage of her mother. And she picks all that up on how to be a girl from her mother. But if a boy's father is distant, angry half the time, a big disciplinarian who's mean and aggressive, or who's gone a lot and who isn't there to teach a boy how to be a boy. He can grow up bonded to his mother and it sets a sexual identity crisis in place. It's so important to have either a father or a male substitute or a coach. I had a coach that was just wonderful with me and taught us as junior highers how to treat women respectfully and things of that nature. But you got to have it from somewhere.
Benjamin Watson: Very true. I left early this morning to come here. And yesterday, I'll be back tomorrow, but yesterday I told my five- year-old when I ... My son. When I say goodnight to him, whenever I leave, I say, "You're the man of the house." He's five years old. He's not going to stop a robber from doing anything. And matter of fact, my four-year-old boy is bigger than my five-year-old boy. But since he's the oldest, I say, "You're the man of the house."
I was talking to my wife. And I said, "Does Isaiah, does he act any differently when I leave, and I say he's the man?" She was like, "Well, actually when I go outside sometime to the garage, or I'm doing something at the car, I turn around and he's right there beside me.
Dr. Dobson: Isn't that neat?
Benjamin Watson: Because he inherently knows that, "Okay, daddy's gone. I have to kind of step into his role." Even though he's still subservient, he's still a kid. He's under mommy's-
Dr. Dobson: Authority.
Benjamin Watson: Her authority, but he's learning what it means to be a man. And so it's very important. A man can't learn that from a woman. I feel like as a dad, on a spiritual level it's my job as a father to do my best to show them what their heavenly father is like. Now, I'm not going to do that perfectly at all, at all. I'm going to wound them in many ways, but for a child, their first encounter with who their heavenly father is in large part is what they think their earthly father is like. Was he loving? Was he compassionate? Was he a disciplinarian? Did he discipline me and love me? Did he hate me? Was he present? A lot of those wounds and how we look at our heavenly father come from the wounds we've received from our earthly fathers.
Dr. Dobson: When did you know you were a good football player?
Benjamin Watson: I'm still trying to be one. It's like you never quite get there. It's never quite enough. I still feel that way.
Dr. Dobson: What was your first year of playing like?
Benjamin Watson: Well, my first year of playing was disappointing. I get drafted in 2004 to the Patriots. They'd just come off a super bowl in 2003. We went in-
Dr. Dobson: So you weren't there for the Super Bowl?
Benjamin Watson: I was, they won two in a row.
Dr. Dobson: So you had a ring?
Benjamin Watson: Yes.
Dr. Dobson: They won two in a row. But I get drafted, 32nd pick of the first round to New England. I'm in training camp and doing well. And the first game comes along. I have pain in my knee and end up tearing my ACL. I missed most of that year, watching the team play well and go to the Super Bowl without me, what a blow to my ego. And I can remember being at the Super Bowl, not being fun to be around. She was my fiancé then who was my ... my wife obviously. I was being a jerk to her, being a jerk to my family who was there to support me. I felt like because I couldn't play, I didn't have any worth to the team. I was taking it out on them.
And a lot of that pointed into my struggles that I've had with perfectionism, with my identity being tied up in what I do instead of who I am in the Lord. And so even as a believer, I've struggled with this. And so my first year in New England was tough. I come back the second year and years two through five and end up playing very well and still having these struggles that I've had. And it wasn't until maybe my fifth year is when I really sat down with my dad and with the Lord, and really had a talk about receiving grace fully. And understanding that my worth isn't tied into what I do.
Let me give you a big hypothetical, far off in left field. Suppose I play college football and I make it to the NFL. And I'm now a rookie. You got advice for me?
Benjamin Watson: Oh, yeah.
Dr. Dobson: Suppose I sit down and say, "Ben I have admired you. By the way, we're talking to Ben Watson and I'm loving this conversation. I know a lot of dads out there also, but I sit down and I say, "Ben, how do I handle this thing?"
Benjamin Watson: Yeah. Well, first thing I say is, "Congratulations, because you're one of about, less than 1% of high school players who would make it have three years in the NFL. Secondly, I just say that to enjoy the ride. I didn't enjoy it my first few years, because I felt like I was under so much pressure, that I wasn't able to perform. My biggest thing to guys coming in now, obviously there's a difference between college and the NFL, I tell them practical things. With my work with the NFLPA, the union of the NFLPA. We do different programs to help guys adjust. And so one of them is about dealing with their relationships, dealing with people that want to take from them, and people that think they owe them something. Dealing with their finances, dealing with-
Dr. Dobson: They spend their money. They blow it, don't they?
Benjamin Watson: Like any person who is 20 something years old and you give them millions of dollars. I don't care if you're from Orange County or if you're from Dallas or if you're from Mexico, you give a young kid that much money he's going to be-
Dr. Dobson: He's going to spend it.
Benjamin Watson: It's going to be tough, exactly. So teaching these younger guys about their finances. Many of them have never even written a check before, but they got millions of dollars.
Dr. Dobson: That's a recipe to destroy them.
Benjamin Watson: It is. It is. It is. You know, I would just say that the one piece of advice that I got from being a rookie was: it's okay to fail. But don't let a simple failure ruin the rest of your career. You see it as-
Dr. Dobson: What's about your relationship with the coach?
Benjamin Watson: With the coach? Well, you better do what the coach says. There's something we say in the NFL is like, "It's okay to mess up, just don't mess up twice. So, you can mess up, but don't be error repeaters, because those guys don't last very long.
Dr. Dobson: Well, Ben, that 30 minutes went by in a big hurry. And there's so much more to talk to you about, we haven't talked a lot to this point about your new book, it's called The New Dad's Playbook. And I want everybody to have a copy of this book, especially young men who've just gotten married perhaps, or who are not making it in marriage, they're fighting with their wives, whatever their job is. There's enough pressures to go around in any position. The subtitle is Gearing Up For The Biggest Game Of Your Life. And I do hope that millions of people will get a copy of this book and it will do what it's intended to do. Now we're going to talk again another day. Is that all right?
Benjamin Watson: Would love to.
Dr. Dobson: We're not finished. And I'll meet you right here next time.
Benjamin Watson: Sounds great, thank you.
Roger Marsh: Well, that concludes the first part of Dr. James Dobson's conversation with retired NFL tight end Benjamin Watson here on Family Talk. Be sure to tune in again tomorrow, as they'll continue to encourage first time dads and discuss the importance of godly role models. In the meantime, learn more about Benjamin Watson and the various ministries that he's involved with at drjamesdobson.org. Well, that's all the time we have for today. Be sure to tune in again next time for the conclusion of Dr. Dobson's interview with former NFL tight end, Benjamin Watson. I'm Roger Marsh. Thanks for listening. And thanks for your continued prayer and support of Family Talk. Have a blessed day.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.