One Sunflower

“and all I ask is for a tall ship and a star to steer her by”

on June 20, 2010

It is Father’s Day and although my father and my husband don’t like to acknowledge this day as anything special, fatherhood and the role of men in children’s lives is significant.  In my last few years of teaching, I have had more fathers and men participate in my classroom as volunteers, more of them attending parent/teacher conferences and family activities.  They are always amazed when I tell them how important it is for them to “show up” in their child’s lives.  I haven’t kept the statistics in my head but I know that male involvement in a child’s life is a significant factor in their growth and development.

My father worked a 9-5 job but he was home every night for dinner, read us bed time stories and loved enjoying family vacations.  As a child I couldn’t tell you much about what he did – only that he rode the bus to work everyday, but I could tell you that he loved Winnie-the-Pooh, The Wind in the Willows and the Thornton Burgess books.  Boats were his first love, he’d been messing around with them since he was a child and road trips were often lengthened because Dad just had to drive as close to the water as possible.  My dad had high expectations for me and my 3 siblings and it was his disappointment that was the toughest to bear.  I don’t know why that is, I just know that it sometimes wreaked havoc on my psyche.

My own husband will say that working graveyard and swing shift most of our children’s lives is his biggest regret.  It did save us from needing child care, but it meant that entire childhoods had to be caught up with on weekends.  By the time they were in middle school, he was on a day shift and I am glad to report that both my children have their own unique relationships with their dad and enjoy special time with him.  I think they would both say that his interests in world events, language, and music have had the greatest impact on them.

  

Our program tries to recognize this special relationship that children have with the males in their lives.  We plan special events, invite them to speak out about the roles they have in the children’s lives and try to nurture quality in their interactions. It has truly been a privilege to be able to do this for some of these men who didn’t have good male role models of their own growing up or for those men who are no longer in contact with other family members that could support them because they have left their countries or communities of origin.  These men are often bewildered by trying to blend a mish mash of cultural roles.

I am happy to see my own children eager to have both parents be fully represented in their children’s lives – if and when there are children.  Right now there are lots of cats and dogs and rats and fish – and lots of shared responsibility for cat boxes, dog walks, rat cages, etc! 

In recognition of Father’s Day – and my dad, here is one of the poems often quoted in our household:

“Sea-Fever”

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

by John Masefield

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