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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World

8 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World.

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Absent Fathers: On the advent of Father’s Day next week, I have been thinking about this topic of fathers. It has often been my observation throughout my lifetime, and again, more recently, that many of the men in my life (not all), have had what they have described as fatherless experiences. This is not to suggest that they were all orphaned (although this was sometimes the case); rather, they expressed knowingly being forgotten or overlooked in their fathers’ lives and feeling something that I would describe as an “absent father syndrome”. From the time that I started dating through to sharing significant relationships with men; and, as well, my ongoing male collegial, teacher-student or friendships have given me reason to pause and reflect on the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of sons. I am also intimately aware of the impact of the father-son relationship on my own son’s life and his subsequent relationships with other people.

Distractions of the Father: Over the last few generations, and perhaps very prominently in my own generation, the roles of men have been in flux. They have had to really consider the competitive, fast-paced and demanding world around them, and to discover how to be successful within it. The ego-driven distractions that tempt them in their professional and personal lives, in my opinion, have posed as obstacles, pulling them away from having healthy intimate and responsible relationships with the people around them. Where the world has become obsessed by money, materialism, pop culture, technology and, in some cases, addictions, young boys have grown into adult males that have not had time to really adapt to the world that is constantly changing its expectations of them.

Because the men of the past hundred years have been busy being pioneers, going to war, building new lives, providing for their families, rising out of poverty, carrying on family businesses, making a name for themselves, dying young in their struggles, or other, they have not always been available to mentor the younger generation of men beneath them. As a result, each generation of men have not always had significant male role models on which to form their own strong and healthy identities, nor have they had substantial rites of passages that have helped them to establish where they are at in their journey into maturity. Therefore, many men have not truly been taught by other men how to have responsible and successful relationships. With the changing roles of men and women in society, marital relationships have also changed, and again, children are sometimes disconnected from having full-time relationships with their fathers.

My Son’s Mentorship: Since the time my son was very little, he has always watched men carefully, perhaps because he is trying to figure out who he is; what it means to be a man in the world, and who he should best emulate as he tries on different male identities in his coming of age. It has always been fascinating to me to watch him watch men, and assess them for their various strengths and weaknesses. He has had a quick eye, and is quick to point out any flaws of my dates. Fortunately, through his family, education, sports and music, he was put in contact with some very strong and generous men who took him under their wing and made the time to mentor him in some very important ways.

One of his most significant male relationships that he was able to count on throughout his lifetime and into the present is the one with my father. His “Poppa” (grandfather) was the one who was always there for him, regularly and reliably, and would take the time to show him how to “be” in the world. From a young age, my father took the time to teach Andrew things, attend his special events, and to be emotionally and physically available where Andrew would call him for virtually everything. Their time together had a profound impact on how Andrew operated in the world with strong morals and principles. It is now of particular joy to me when I know they are playing chess or pool together and enjoying the privilege of being men together now that my son is almost twenty-two years of age.

Interestingly, my father was fostered out, along with all of his siblings (who were adopted out across Canada) due to family difficulties and extreme poverty as a new Irish immigrant family on the bald headed prairies. He was raised by a hard-working (and busy) foster father who took time to show him how to work on cars and take care of the family. His biological father returned into his life in his later teenaged years, and then he was also reacquainted with all of his siblings. By this point, he had met his wife (my mother), and had determined that the most important thing for him to do in light of his difficult upbringing, was not to replicate any of the mistakes of his family of origin, but rather, to become a dedicated father himself. I imagine that he was a bit disappointed that he did not have a son, but he never let both of his daughters know this. Instead, he made a point of connecting with us regularly and always being their for us when we needed him. He made the choice to be the man that he knew we would need as a father. However, later in life, he clearly made his grandson the apple of his eye.

Father’s Day: I suppose that my conclusion in all of these observations about men and mentorship is that being a good father is a choice. Despite some of the gaps of mentorship that men may have experienced in their own lives, they have the opportunity to turn around and raise their sons differently. They can be the fathers that they may not have had, or wished that they had experienced in their own lives. They can model other ways of being and break the cycles of the fatherless world. For many of us, good fathers have made a difference in our lives, and we have been fortunate enough to know them. We have benefitted from their time and attention. For my son, I know that he always makes a point of remembering his grandfather on Father’s Day (along with his own father) because he knows that fatherhood is about mentorship, love and the dedicated time that is spent helping him to be a better man.

I would like to say how much I admire all of the men out there who are taking the time to be incredible fathers (you know who you are) and are doing their very best to raise their sons to be good men themselves.

Happy Father’s Day!

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”

William Shakespeare

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Pressed: Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over

26 Dec

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over.

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen:

The Job of Parent is Never Over

Andrew walking away in field

“Self-discipline is self-caring.” The Road Less Travelled, Peck, 2006

A Little Distance: It sometimes just takes a bit of distance to have a bit of objectivity (although I always like to think that objectivity is simply subjectivity kept in check). With a bit of an arm’s length view on the world, I have released myself from being involved in the decisions of others, especially where it is none of my business. Except, of course, when my son phones me up in the middle of the night and tells me some choices that he is making lately and how they are impacting his health and well-being. Then, I have to pull myself back out of my Zen-like reality that I have created for myself here in BC, and get back into the arena of parenting. I believe that even though I have accepted that my son and I are now heading down different life paths in his new adulthood, I also have to accept some responsibility for continuing to parent my son, although that becomes trickier, and needs to be handled respectfully. The trick is to continue to make him feel valuable and capable while helping to provide guidance from the sidelines: “The feeling of being valuable –‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline” (Peck, 2006, p. 12).

The Job of Parent is Never Over: As tempting as it is, and as easy as it would be to follow the advice of others admonishing me and other loving parents not to be too involved (I am finding they often say this to allay their own parenting choices), I cannot sit on the sidelines and say, “my job is over”. The parent pressure from our current parenting culture is to not be a “hovering” parent, as if there is a danger that simple involvement risks being too involved. It is a delicate balancing act between empowering our children by letting go with continuing to be connected to them in important ways.

Problem solving is the basic premise of life and learning, and it is important to direct our children toward mentors. We do so by imparting the idea that we will continue to be mentors, but there are also other mentors with various skills and talents out there in the world to access. By doing so, our adult children become apprentices in life. “Tread humbly and always have a mentor”, is my motto, and once people understand this, they let go of some of the ego that drives them to know or do it all by themselves.

Parenting Due-Diligence: I like the term we use in the education world known as “due-diligence”. If anyone questions us, we can say that we did everything in our power to afford students success. Therefore, we develop systems, processes, policies and procedures to insure that we truly have done everything to lead students to successful outcomes (ideally graduation and successful transitions into the world of work or post-secondary involvement). Similarly, I believe that we also need to provide due-diligence when taking care of our loved ones in our families.

We have some obligation in life to lead our young horses to water. The drinking part is entirely up to them. However, what I am noticing, as I watch parents of adult children in this decade, is that too many are just letting these young wild horses hit the road, and they are literally crashing and burning. For example, we attend young people’s weddings, but very few of us sit and talk to newly married couples and advise them about what married life might be like, and the challenges that might need overcoming, the pitfalls to avoid and the joys to look out for along the way. Instead, we throw our rice, go to the dance, and likely never talk to this young couple again about their marriage because we assume that they will “figure it out”.

Air Traffic Control Tower: In our culture, we value this “autonomy” to the degree that our extended family wisdom and values are being ignored for fear of smothering or over-protecting our new adults. Whereas, in other cultures, the mixed generations consult each other and those with the most wisdom and the strongest skill-set in any key decision-making areas, take some leadership and responsibility for the young individual grappling with the matter. As much as I understand that our children need to step up and take responsibility for themselves, our responsibility continues to be to keep an eye out, and step in where they are about to drive over the cliffs in life. We can’t always save them, but sometimes we can help them with a loving conversation or some advice not always sought after, but later appreciated. Sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know.

I believe that just as God watches over us, and from time to time, steps in, so should we as parents of our loved ones make the effort to do the same. And who said that that was always going to be easy or feel good? The accolades and thank-you’s may never come, but we know that we have done due-diligence to steer some of the next part of their journeys from the family watch tower. I often think of parents as airline traffic controllers. Sometimes the pilots will call in and exclaim their dilemmas asking for direction and help from the tower. Sometimes, however, the traffic controllers have to call up to the pilots and say, “You may not see it from where you are, but I am advising you that from where I sit with all of my radar equipment and background in aviation, that you are heading for a crash.”

I believe that we have an obligation, as parents, to sometime hold up the “stop” sign to the people that we love, just like the woman on the road-construction crew on the Malahat Highway did to me as I was winding through avalanche territory at mock speed a couple of days ago to pick my son up from the Victoria airport for Christmas. It annoyed me a bit, but after that, I paid attention. Just as my son finds my road signs highly annoying, he knows that someone in the world is caring enough about him to hold them up, and say, “Hey, be careful!” Who better to do so than the people who really care and love them? Yes, there is grief for our intervention. It is never appreciated. However, it is valuable that we continue to try to stay connected in their lives so they are not alone.

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over

26 Dec

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now:  Week Thirteen: 

The Job of Parent is Never Over

Andrew walking away in field

“Self-discipline is self-caring.”  The Road Less Travelled, Peck, 2006

A Little Distance:  It sometimes just takes a bit of distance to have a bit of objectivity (although I always like to think that objectivity is simply subjectivity kept in check).  With a bit of an arm’s length view on the world, I have released myself from being involved in the decisions of others, especially where it is none of my business.  Except, of course, when my son phones me up in the middle of the night and tells me some choices that he is making lately and how they are impacting his health and well-being.  Then, I have to pull myself back out of my Zen-like reality that I have created for myself here in BC, and get back into the arena of parenting.  I believe that even though I have accepted that my son and I are now heading down different life paths in his new adulthood, I also have to accept some responsibility for continuing to parent my son, although that becomes trickier, and needs to be handled respectfully.  The trick is to continue to make him feel valuable and capable while helping to provide guidance from the sidelines:  “The feeling of being valuable –‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline” (Peck, 2006, p. 12).

The Job of Parent is Never Over:  As tempting as it is, and as easy as it would be to follow the advice of others admonishing me and other loving parents not to be too involved (I am finding they often say this to allay their own parenting choices), I cannot sit on the sidelines and say, “my job is over”.  The parent pressure from our current parenting culture is to not be a “hovering” parent, as if there is a danger that simple involvement risks being too involved.  It is a delicate balancing act between empowering our children by letting go with continuing to be connected to them in important ways.

Problem solving is the basic premise of life and learning, and it is important to direct our children toward mentors.  We do so by imparting the idea that we will continue to be mentors, but there are also other mentors with various skills and talents out there in the world to access.  By doing so, our adult children become apprentices in life.  “Tread humbly and always have a mentor”, is my motto, and once people understand this, they let go of some of the ego that drives them to know or do it all by themselves.

Parenting Due-Diligence:  I like the term we use in the education world known as “due-diligence”.  If anyone questions us, we can say that we did everything in our power to afford students success.  Therefore, we develop systems, processes, policies and procedures to insure that we truly have done everything to lead students to successful outcomes (ideally graduation and successful transitions into the world of work or post-secondary involvement).  Similarly, I believe that we also need to provide due-diligence when taking care of our loved ones in our families.

We have some obligation in life to lead our young horses to water.  The drinking part is entirely up to them.  However, what I am noticing, as I watch parents of adult children in this decade, is that too many are just letting these young wild horses hit the road, and they are literally crashing and burning.  For example, we attend young people’s weddings, but very few of us sit and talk to newly married couples and advise them about what married life might be like, and the challenges that might need overcoming, the pitfalls to avoid and the joys to look out for along the way.  Instead, we throw our rice, go to the dance, and likely never talk to this young couple again about their marriage because we assume that they will “figure it out”.

Air Traffic Control Tower:  In our culture, we value this “autonomy” to the degree that our extended family wisdom and values are being ignored for fear of smothering or over-protecting our new adults.  Whereas, in other cultures, the mixed generations consult each other and those with the most wisdom and the strongest skill-set in any key decision-making areas, take some leadership and responsibility for the young individual grappling with the matter.  As much as I understand that our children need to step up and take responsibility for themselves, our responsibility continues to be to keep an eye out, and step in where they are about to drive over the cliffs in life.  We can’t always save them, but sometimes we can help them with a loving conversation or some advice not always sought after, but later appreciated.  Sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know.

I believe that just as God watches over us, and from time to time, steps in, so should we as parents of our loved ones make the effort to do the same.  And who said that that was always going to be easy or feel good?  The accolades and thank-you’s may never come, but we know that we have done due-diligence to steer some of the next part of their journeys from the family watch tower.  I often think of parents as airline traffic controllers.  Sometimes the pilots will call in and exclaim their dilemmas asking for direction and help from the tower.  Sometimes, however, the traffic controllers have to call up to the pilots and say, “You may not see it from where you are, but I am advising you that from where I sit with all of my radar equipment and background in aviation, that you are heading for a crash.”

I believe that we have an obligation, as parents, to sometime hold up the “stop” sign to the people that we love, just like the woman on the road-construction crew on the Malahat Highway did to me as I was winding through avalanche territory at mock speed a couple of days ago to pick my son up from the Victoria airport for Christmas.  It annoyed me a bit, but after that, I paid attention.  Just as my son finds my road signs highly annoying, he knows that someone in the world is caring enough about him to hold them up, and say, “Hey, be careful!”  Who better to do so than the people who really care and love them?  Yes, there is grief for our intervention.  It is never appreciated.  However, it is valuable that we continue to try to stay connected in their lives so they are not alone.