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Father’s Day and the importance of being Dad

Monday, June 21, 2010 @ 08:06 AM

I’m fascinated by recent media articles celebrating Father’s Day and the things Dads do (or should do). One story I read was particularly moving – it described the Bruce Feeler story. The author cum founder of the Council of Dads. In it he describes how his life threatening illness put him in the delicate position of facing death and having to find surrogate ‘Dads’ for his twin daughters. He invited a half dozen of his friends and they all said yes to his invitation to help raise his daughters should he die. The story is important because it underscores the real need for a father and how this figures in the lives of children.

Having worked hard over the years to help raise awareness on the issue of access for non custodial parents – the greatest percentage being male, I helped to change the laws on custody and access for non-custodial parents in the mid-nineties and am proud to say that many Dads benefitted from this. The truth of the matter is that non custodial parents (mostly Dads) tend not to be not a fruitful part of the their children’s lives as a result of the turmoil of their marriage breakdown and then the emotional upset as a result of the battle between divorcing parents. The loss of Dad in these scenarios is often the case and the real losers are the children who are robbed of the benefit of Dad. I met a fellow the other day who will be doing business with us and his story was so sad. He painfully detailed the hardship of not being able to see his two boys. He made an interesting comment wherein he said that the ‘system’ (as he calls it – which is the courts and/or mediators) often makes mom the custodial parent and he described it that he moves out of the house and out of the children’s lives and mom is ok with that. “Just get rid of me”, he said, “they get on with life as if I was never there in the first place and they seem to think that’s ok – but it’s ripping my heart out”, he said.

It’s awful to hear stories like this, but there is help and there are good stories, I would venture to say.

Men have a hard time openly addressing the issues they have and face at the best of times. We’re not taught to emote well. Add in the pressure, stress and emotion of a family breakdown and it’s worse. It’s not good for the children of these situations either.

Another story that is equally moving is Dan Hill’s story in the National Post “Rallying Cry for Real Fathers”. In it he details is relationship with his own father and other strong father figures including CFL football legend Pinball Clemons , with whom I have had the honour of interacting over the years . What Hill’s essay outlines is the power of strong father figures. In any culture or race or economic situation – it’s important and necessary to have Dad as part of their children’s lives.

My wife and I talk about the importance of being a father often and my role in our children’s’ lives. Our children rush to the door every time I arrive from work, but in a few short years they may not even lift their heads to say hello when I come home. She and I want to make certain that doesn’t happen. Our vigilance in making sure that Dad is always present and a major force in their lives is what’s going to make the difference in our childrens’ lives.

At the writing of this blog, I am in Northern British Columbia with several dozen men at a remote fishing club. We are all fathers and there are two very important things that I have experienced here. There is a Dad who has brought his 13 year old son here to have a week of fishing with him for the boy’s birthday. This Dad has done this with his other sons when they turned 13 and it’s this Dad’s way of bonding with and being a major influence in his sons’ lives. The other interesting thing is that all the guides (men of course) have other professions that they do in the off season. Our guide, a macho stoic on the water, who can balance himself in 12 foot high waves while setting our deep sea reels on a 25 foot Boston whaler that I am sharing with two other men, is a gem. Dan is his name, he’s a grade three teacher in Nanaimo when he’s not a fishing guide from June to September way up here near Alaska. He’s a hero to me – the kind of hero that should be ‘lionized’ like Dan Hill has described in his essay. Dan talks openly about wanting to help shape the lives of young boys and girls who need a strong male leader in their classrooms.

Maybe a Council of Dads, more Dan Hills, Pinball Clemons’ and more Dan the fishing guides are what our fast moving society needs or maybe every family should take Father’s Day and reflect on Dad! The point is being a Dad is a privilege and one that should never be discounted, over-looked, treated casually, thrown away or denied – by Dad, Mom, ‘the system’ or anyone.

- Marc Kealey
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