For fathers with young children this time of year is advertised as a magical time. It is a magical time because it’s the part of the calendar year associated with Christmas. As a secular society we have chosen to make this holy day our most special, as presents for the worthy materialize under a decorated symbol in each individual home. Other attempts to explain these world-wide occurrences of benevolence fall short. It truly is magic. And a custom often dependent on consumerism.
This time of year brings forth many opportunities for gatherings. From a father’s point of view it’s the double-edged sword; you want your children to associate with family and friends and different kids, but you may not condone the type of behavior of other peoples’ children. That’s the contemporary kicker if you will, from a parent standpoint. When does the unacceptable behaviour of children (not your own) eliminate you from attending certain gatherings, certain events? Or maybe better put, when do you extend a helping hand from a father’s standpoint to another male who looks as though he is struggling?
It’s tough. From what I call an “active” parent’s perspective there’s a whole cultural relativist piece to parenting that makes me feel ashamed. I may believe that you are a “not into it Dad,” but I don’t offer any help. As a teacher, administrator and dude this scene plays out far too often. I watch as you publicly berate your child. I switch my focus as you do your best to avoid spending time with your children. I wince as you mentally break them down as they seek you out. I get it. Our roles as men continue to evolve. There are more expectations now as men. The act of having a career that provides a family with everything it needs (and want$) should also entitle you with some time to relax.
It should, if life was fair. But from the time you were old enough to understand you had a dink, you knew you were entitled, and you knew life wasn’t fair. We live in a society devoid of the masculine examples that existed when the world was a smaller place. I wonder if the absence of examples of fatherhood results in the wide range of what is acceptable now? It is hard to know. There has been a power vacuum where the old days of authority from the church, the company or the school have been erased. Any time-honoured laws of tribal well-being have been forgotten. The loss of rites of passage and male milestones has been lamentable. Intelligent leaders, quality organizations and continued improvements in gender attitudes will catch up and rectify this in time.
But if you should happen to exist as a father before some sage has indoctrinated you into our faulty ranks, let this be your benediction: You are now a man; find the heart to act like one.
The commercials on TV may tell us it is a magical time of year. The flyers in my mailbox may tell me it is a magical time of year. Ads in your junk email account may attempt to remind you it is a magical time of year (and maybe add a few inches to your magic wand), but guess what?
When you are the father of young children EVERY DAY is magical. You have the power to form that reality; to fill the air with the expectation of hilarity, of awe, of creativity, and warmth. Children don’t need the newest line of talking dogs, or a stocking full of sugar or this or that. They need dads. Every woman in the world with children exists essentially as a single mother. The amount of time that dads invest in their children when they are young will be the greatest investment they ever make in life. We need to listen, to value them as people, to play with them following their merriment as it flows. Correct them when it is warranted for sure, but it is a relationship based on compassion. They require our affection, our loving embrace. The advice I give the young dads I come across is this, “Shower them with your attention; like a growing plant would receive from the sun.” At least that is what I say when I am brave enough to offer any up.
Dads that put themselves out there help raise better functioning kids. From a school perspective this is evident everyday in the halls of every school in North America. The relationship between a father and his children should develop the confidence children need in themselves to go out and make a positive difference in the world. This is more than a relationship, it’s a covenant; this is why we are here.
Societies choose what days we deem as being special. This can at times absolve a populace from understanding we have that power to make each day special. Young children are the perfect reminders of that. They exist in a perpetual state of awe and wonder. Their playful little natures should constantly bring us back to a profound appreciation of life. For they allow us to “see through eyes of a child.” If we have quit bringing that curious fascination to this experience that plays out in a multi-layered universe more complex than we can imagine, perhaps our society should start seeing each day as special again. Even if the perspective of young children is no longer around to remind us of this gift, we can still choose to make our own days full of love.
As men we have the power to create how we live. As fathers that duty is transfixed to creating the environment our children live in. When you are around your children, be present in that exchange. Put away your phone, and any contrived notions of what you want them to be. Be with them in their way. Cut away all the illusion and remember them for the blessed little creatures they are. Listen to them and value what they have to offer.
We recently attended a theatrical production of Sleeping Beauty at the Globe Theatre. The three different realms made up of fairies, human, and the dead all intersected to shelter a chosen maiden’s gift of life from the forces of evil that transpire against her. My older two sat in the front row and their faces shone with the delight of the production. Iris (our 3 year old and chicken #3) sat with Reagan and I. Mostly, she cuddled into my lap whispering to me about the mean witch, with me whispering back how she’s strong enough to handle her – my own #daughterfairy.
Creating theatre magic allows us to suspend our belief. Our role as fathers exists for us to guide our children into believing in themselves. That we have been given that responsibility really is magic. We have the power to give them so much; we just need to remember what is truly worth giving. As with many fine tales, there is a truth often shared – “True love conquers all.”
Happy New Year!
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