HOW IS MY performance as a dad? Ultimately the final judges will be our two sons but until they reach a place to pass judgment how do I gauge my learning and success in the role of father? These are two questions that I think about often in my fatherhood journey.
Three years ago I was just over a year into my new role as Dad. We had moved to a new town nine months previous with a loose community of friends and connections. I still felt isolated. Friends without kids were disappearing from my daily life and calendar while finding new father-friends was challenging and took time - something I didn't have much of being a new parent. Then my partner introduced me to a group of fathers that met once a month called Father’s Community Café. This is a group of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, neighbors, and friends is funded by Alaskan Children’s Trust.
At the first café that I attended I was introduced to eight other men who were also fathers at different places along the journey. Although I didn't know any of them, I didn't care - I wanted support. I felt like my challenges with the transformations of man and partner to father were unique and I was alone. I wanted help and advice of how I could get through this period and how to do so in a constructive way. Through the round of introductions to these other men I quickly realized that my challenges were not unique. I also was introduced to the realization that my challenges with fatherhood could be much greater. This is when I began to discover the strength and bonds that are created when men share their experiences of guiding of children, youth, young adults and eventually, adults.
For two and a half years now I have now been the parent leader of this organic group of men that meet once a month at evening meal time. Rarely is there a specific agenda. Occasionally there is a suggestion of a topic by one of the attendees before the gathering but more frequently the discussion revolves around a topic brought by an attendee. Organizing this group and more importantly attending monthly is my litmus tests of how I am doing as a father. This event allows me time to think about what I am doing well as a father and a platform that I can share these accomplishments with other fathers. This is an empowering feeling.
This time for connection with fathers also allows me time to listen and empathize with their challenges. The connection also teaches me methods and creative solutions to challenges that I have with my family and within myself. I no longer feel as alone as I did in my first years of fatherhood and know that there is a community of dads that I would consider as friends. We are now friends because we share the bond of fatherhood but also because we have shared our experiences.
I have tried numerous methods and outlets to bring other fathers into this continuing conversation that happens once a month. It is challenging to get men to engage in conversation outside of a sporting event, a fishing boat, a hunting trip, you get the idea but these are important connections that fathers need to make!
I still do not know how my overall performance as Dad will be judged in the end, but I do know that I have learned so much in my on-the-job training to date and I have been able to share some of those successes that I've had while learning from other dads.
If you are interested in joining this group in Juneau, or maybe have a question or two about how to get one going in your area drop Seve a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
DADS HAVE BEEN the focus on Kids These Days! quite a few times. We know that the importance of fathers means a lot to our listeners because one of our most popular shows ever was all about dads. Here, we've gathered all the shows, stories and posts that focus on fathers in one neat list for your browsing pleasure.
FROM THE RADIO:
FROM THE WEBSITE:
It is a wise father that knows his own child.
- William Shakespeare
STANDING ALONG THE fringe of a decidedly warmer Pacific ocean than the one we had left behind 24 hours earlier, my husband and son stood hip-to-shoulder, surveying the sandy shoreline and topaz water. We had arrived on the Hawaiian island of Oahu after a nearly catastrophic year of accidents and illness, and we figured we deserved this 10-day respite of surf, sunshine, and family rejuvenation.
The decision to visit Hawaii together had been a plot hatched by my dynamic duo - the older (dad) had promised the younger (son) a trip somewhere warm after dad's arm and body had healed sufficiently from an accident that nearly claimed his life and left us flattened and battered like the bicycle laying on its side in the backyard shed. Hawaii, they believed, was the Promised Land of togetherness after 12 months of physical pain and emotional separation.
Sometimes, the mere act of packing up and moving on, however briefly, is all it takes to return roses to cheeks and light to a pair of eyes. I saw a slow but steady progression of both as days began and ended with sweet tropical scents, pounding waves and side-by-side footprints in the sand. The ocean, with its warm breath and peaceful color became a welcome ally, and we splashed within its coral-circled arms from dawn to dusk.
Our son, a timid swimmer in Alaska, made headlong rushes into the waves with his dad, wiry arms akimbo, shouting praises to no one in particular as he danced among the foamy crests. I watched their banter from the security of my grass mat, pretending to read a novel but more interested in the relationship rebuilding before my eyes. This was the missing piece, the part I had swept under the pillow with my nightly tears and daily medication lists and therapy appointments. I wasn’t about to let it fall by the wayside like I had so many other aspects of our life.
The remaining days were full of bold explorations and tentative moments of insight; my husband’s first overhand strokes 50 yards offshore in a triumphant return to ocean swimming, our son’s impressive dolphin kick while adorned with fins and snorkel mask, drinking out of a coconut, watching a rainbow form over our mountainside bungalow.
“Should we try to encourage him to talk about your accident?” I had asked my husband one night shortly after his return from the hospital.
“I don’t know,” he replied thoughtfully, curling the still-swollen fingers of his casted arm. “I think we’ll just have to watch carefully and show him everything’s going to get back to normal soon.”
I thought about that statement a lot during the course of our trip, and how, in his quiet way, my husband had indeed demonstrated courage and love and fatherhood to a seven year-old boy who, hopefully someday, will be able to return the favor to his own children.
My husband and I had hoped a trip to Hawaii would provide a needed diversion at best, and perhaps enable us to return home a stronger, more confident family. I’m glad it worked out that way.
Erin Kirkland is the author of AKontheGO.com, an Alaska family travel website and blog.
SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE that we have a “fatherhood crisis” today in the United States. About one-third of children in the United States live without their biological father; 2 out of 3 African American children live in “father-absent” homes.
It’s a big change over 50 years; in 1960, only 11% of children lived in “father-absent” homes. Search the internet for “fatherhood” and you come up with a lot of efforts aimed at keeping dads more involved in their kids lives – the National Fatherhood Initiative, the National Center for Fathering. It all adds up to a Fatherhood movement.
Kids These Days! contributor Jessica Cochran set out to find out about Alaska’s fatherhood movement.
Links from this story: National Fatherhood Initiative media;
National Center for Fathering; Alaska parenting classes; a previous KTD story from Jessica on Southcentral Foundation's Family Wellness Warriors initiative
AS A FATHER I understand the need for recognition - it's great to be thanked for the effort us dads expend on behalf of our families. So this Father's Day I though I'd make some suggestions for thoughtful ways to recognize the dads in your life.
Let's put aside the usual coffee mugs, ties and sports jerseys for a moment (unless dad really likes that stuff, of course) and discuss a different kind of present - a meaningful gift that shows that you are thinking about his interests and what he enjoys is easier to give than you might think. In our home we attempt to give gifts of experience as opposed to giving stuff. Here is a list of some gifts I have received for past Father’s Days or wish to receive for Father’s Days of the future. My hope is that it may spark some imagination in how you recognize your father on this day and remaining days until the next Father’s Day.
1. Make something. As I type this post I can see a handmade card with my son’s face smiling at me. This was a recognition that was given to me two years ago and still makes me feel good today.
2. Give dad a break. I know that I never have enough time to do the things that I want to do. Give your dad some time to fish his favorite stream, take a run, or go and hike with buddies he rarely sees - not necessarily on Father's Day, but at a later date.
Hangin' with some dad friends
3. Give dad some of your time. Most dads have a weekly and one-time project lists. Offer to do some of these projects for him.
4. Ask dad what he wants for dinner. Our family menu seems to revolve around two people under the age of five. I am grateful, however, that everyone in my home seems to appreciate ribs, chicken wings and steak so I often get to enjoy my favorite meals. Your father may not be so lucky.
5. Take dad out to lunch. This is what I am doing for my father this year. My father rarely eats out and much of our time spent together is focused on his grandchildren and projects that I need help with. One-on-one time is a luxury and a gift.
5.5 Let dad ride in the wheely chair...
6. Send dad flowers. Yes, really. Some father’s may cringe at the idea of having a bouquet of flowers on their workbench at their workplace but you know your dad and if this would be a good idea. I enjoy receiving flowers and you may be surprised how many fathers would enjoy this too.
7. Give dad updated, framed photos. My father recently moved into a new work space. Within the first weeks I took him framed photos of his grandchildren and he beamed with pride. Updated photographs are always appreciated by fathers.
8. Recognize dad's hobby. Chances are your father has at least one favorite pasttime, so buy him something for his hobby. For a past Father’s Day I received an ID bracelet for when I go running. I wear it almost every run and I am reminded how much my family cares about me.
9. Give dad a date with mom. I need to spend more time with my partner. Our children are not old enough now to know this but when they are I would be very grateful for a date with my partner as a Father’s Day gift.
Yes, any gift and a card to recognize your father will be accepted and appreciated. Recognizing your father in unique ways or giving a thoughtful gift will truly show how much you appreciate and value him.
Happy Father’s Day fellow dads!
With Father's Day coming up, we at Kids These Days! thought it the perfect time to explore the role of fathers through history. How have dads changed, and how have they stayed the same through wars, civil rights movements and shifting economic times? We'll learn about the growing Alaska Native Fatherhood Movement and the groups that advocate for an active, engaged father (or father figure) in every child's life - and why it matters. Join us for this discussion that spans decades, cultures and a country as we look at dads in the USA, then and now.
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining host Shana Sheehy to discuss all things dad are two special guests - both fathers, these professionals have made it a focus of their careers to focus on the topic of fatherhood.
• Patrick Anderson is the father of three children, Ashley, Alexander and Austin. He is Tlingit Indian (Eagle moiety, Thunderbird Clan, from Yakutat) and Alutiiq (from Cordova). His Tlingit name is Daakudein. He is the Executive Director of the Chugachmiut Native corporation, and considered one of the founders of the Alaska Native Fatherhood Movement. Read more about Patrick here.
• Dr. Ralph LaRossa is father to two sons, Adam and Brian. He is professor of sociology at Georgia State University and an internationally-recognized scholar who has written extensively on the history of fatherhood in America from colonial times to the present. His most recent book, Of War and Men: World War II in the Lives of Fathers and Their Families (University of Chicago Press), examines the effects of the war on the culture and conduct of fatherhood and the diversity of men's experiences throughout the war and after. He joined us from the studios at WABE-Atlanta. Read more about Ralph here.
LINKS FROM THIS PROGRAM:
- Fatherhood Movements in Alaska - Search the internet for “fatherhood” and you come up with a lot of efforts aimed at keeping dads more involved in their kids lives – the National Fatherhood Initiative, the National Center for Fathering. It all adds up to a Fatherhood Movement. KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran set out to find out about what Alaska's fatherhood movement efforts look like.
- Dads on TV Through the Ages - Since the 1950's we've seen all kinds of dads on television. Good or bad, these characters have helped to define what the American Father looks like, acts like and how he treats his family. Those who study the influence of pop culture say that it does matter how dad is portrayed in the media - and for a very good reason. KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales spoke with the National Fatherhood Initiative's Vincent DiCaro to learn more...
NUMEROUS STUDIES HAVE looked at the relationship between how much couples share household duties and how much they have sex. Generally speaking, more sharing of housework leads to more frequent sex, less contentious marriages and partners reporting being more content.
Now, there’s a certain segment of the population that doesn’t believe those studies: back in 2009 when the Wall Street Journal published the findings of one of them, several commenters complained that the studies couldn’t control for all factors, or that they must have been paid for by feminist groups.
But the whole idea kind of makes sense to KTD! contributor Jessica Cochran. So when she spied a book on the grocery store shelf titled Equally Shared Parenting – Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents by Amy and Marc Vachon, she bought it.
WE SENT REPORTER Ben Anderson to Service High School to find out what teenage boys have to say about being a man. He spoke with seven teen boys, ages 15-18, asking the following questions:
This story originally featured on Show 21: Dads These Days.
TOM MATLACK, FOUNDER of The Good Men Project, a foundation and an online magazine, says that men need to be having the important, ongoing conversation about their roles as men and fathers these days.
He spoke with producer Sarah Gonzales from Boston about what it takes to be a good man. (More: @tmatlack)
This story originally featured on Show 21: Dads These Days.