As we get ready to embark on our cross country move to Arizona, we are keeping ourselves busy with nightly sorting, purging, and packing. This weekend, our son Colin came home to go through his items which we have continued to store at our home. The best part of this process, at least with him, is the constant walk down memory lane – photos, childhood books, toys, school papers, and many other treasures. At certain moments in the process, time stood still.
One reason that kept us in Michigan longer than our bargained 2-3 years (nearly 25 years ago), was the want to raise our only child near my rather large extended family. It was important to us to create space for our son to be exposed to and have the experience of being part of this greater family system. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents became and continue to be a significant part of Colin’s life, even today as he is clearly planted in adulthood.
Our children don’t learn how to be a responsible adult or a caring parent just through us, the parents. They learn it through their exposure to so many others in their lives – relatives, teachers, neighbors, friends, and the culture at large. As parents, we opted to stack the deck, and give Colin as many positive influences as possible.
In addition to learning how to fish from one of his uncles, he also learned the importance of education. In addition to learning how to drive a boat from another uncle, he learned the importance of having a strong work ethic. These are lessons his father and I also tried to impart, absolutely, but I’m sure the reinforcement from others made a difference.
Many children are raised without the presence of their father. Divorce, deployment, and abuse are possible reasons but also some women opt for single parenthood or in many families, two women are raising their children. There is no right or wrong configuration of parents, in my book. But having positive male influence is important. Thankfully there are many uncles, brothers, cousins, and friends who can fill that role. The role of modeling, for young boys and girls, that men can be caring, nurturing, loving, and kind.
At HAVEN we are fortunate to have men engaged with our services and programming. They share, by example, that equality works, that women and children matter, and that masculinity doesn’t mean power and harm.
To the men of HAVEN and to the incredible men in my life, thank you. Thanks for serving daily as a reminder of what can be right in the world. Thank you for standing by me, instead of in front of me. Thank you for teaching my son that he doesn’t have to be stuck in a stereotyped role of masculinity. Thank you for caring and for making a difference.
And to those that are Fathers – Happy Fathers Day!