Turning Loose –
Last weekend Beth and I took a trip to see some family in another state. When we left the yard seemed green, the bushes and trees covered with leaves and even a few blossoms dotting the yard. However, when we returned after only a few days things looked very different. The yard had begun to turn brown, the blossoms were gone and the bushes and trees had brown leaves which had begun to fall. In the last week, most of the yard contains the leaves that until recently were holding on. The clocks were turned back last weekend and it seems fall has finally settled in and winter is not far behind.
I don’t like the end of summer. The bright days growing shorter, the green trees and bushes getting bare, the colors becoming a muted brown. However, I also know it is the cycle of life. What is alive and flourishing will diminish and die. The long winter nights remind us of the journey each of us will make at the end of our lives to the other side. There will come a time for all of us when must turn loose of the lives we have and accept the passing of time.
I have spoken this week with a young woman who is getting married next Saturday. She has two young children and loves these symbols of spring and new life. I also connected with someone who is faced with the reality of how quickly life passes.
The cycle of life is ever-moving. We don’t know where we are in the circle but we do know it’s movement, fast or slow, never stops.
One of the first questions I have, when teaching a new class or working with a father, is “Tell me how you express your feelings. Can you show you are angry, disappointed, frustrated in a healthy way or does it all come out as toxic anger?” Toxic anger is dangerous and greatly inhibits a child’s growth, impedes communication with others, and can lead to abuse and neglect. Understanding how a father deals with his feelings is key to understanding his relationship with his family, friends, and community.
One of the most common responses on how men deal with the feeling of anger is; “I want to hurt someone else. I want another to feel pain. I don’t want to be alone in my suffering.” This can surface in many ways, a bruising hand, a mouth filled with hurtful and caustic words. Other men leave and don’t come back, others come back but never talk about the emotion that erupted like a volcano. A lot of men simply get mad and stop talking, letting their silence oppress everyone who is near them.
Most men have never learned to deal, and healthfully express, their feelings. This is why for most men anger is their default emotion. The saddest part is they pass these traits along to children and the unhealthy cycle starts all over again.
An old Zen proverb says; “To hold on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”
A Real Chance –
This morning our Fatherhood Engagement program hosted a Dad/Child reading event in an adjacent county. These are always a good time with a light brunch, puppet show, a reading time with Dad and the kids and a short lecture from me on the importance of fathers being involved in their child’s reading, educational development. I stress the vital role of moms and dads working together to give their child the greatest chance at their best life.
Last week I met a new client in his late 30’s who needed some guidance on connecting with a difficult child. We talked about issues he felt needed to be addressed and improved upon so he could be the dad he wanted to be. When we were wrapping up, I confirmed his cell phone number and told him; “ I have your next session set but I also text my clients to check in and make sure everything is going well.” After a moment he said to me; “I can’t read.” He said it nonchalantly and I did my best not to display any surprise but inside I was taken aback. This is one of those basic abilities most of us take for granted every day. I mentally added this to my list of issues we’d discuss and, hopefully, make a plan to solve.
I thought about this guy several times today during the reading event. I wondered how someone a few years younger than me could get through life without knowing how to read? Did he not have someone, somewhere along his life’s path who noticed and cared enough to help? The dads at our event today crawled around the floor with their kids, made paper bag puppets, sang “Ol’ Mac Donald had a farm,” and then were given the chance to read a book from the library to their children.
My hope is this event today would be a part of these kids developing not just a love of reading but a building of skills which will give them give them every advantage possible in a life that’s already hard enough.
On my way to a Community Action Board meeting in Centerville, Tennessee this morning I passed the sign pictured above. It is located in an overgrown, mostly dead, unattractive piece of land in the middle of nowhere.
I arrived early to the meeting and sat in a room waiting for the other members. Pinned to a bulletin board was a piece of paper which read; “Being a Parent Means Loving Your Children More than You Love Yourself.”
My mind went back to the sign I saw earlier. I wondered who put it there and what their vision of the “Children’s Garden” was originally? What happened? What stopped the seeds from being planted, watered, grown, cultivated, harvested?
I thought about our world and the world our children, and our children’s children, will grow up in. What happened to giving future generations something better than what we have? What happened to the dream of a brighter tomorrow? Where are the seeds of hope, the light that grows, the love and grace that cultivates, the harvest of peace?
Maybe if we loved our children more than we love ourselves…