That’s a great question. My experience with cooking and food is probably not paralleled with most families and to give one example is that when my son was age 1, I moved our family to a land trust to live in a community so we could grow our own food and live close to the Earth. For the first 5 years of my son’s life, we lived on the farm using compostable toilets, harvesting our own veggies, tending bees, collecting eggs, raising chickens, and wild-harvesting food. To say that making our family’s food center to life is understating the devotion we one time invested to the prosperity of the sustainable food we integrated into the average day. My wife, at the time, worked in childcare, and she played an important role in my son’s early education in regards to reading and writing and those very important first years of development. I provided the hands-on survival skills that my son has been able to take with and use in his everyday and, of course, we both gave him the love and attention needed for a healthy life.
To the point of eating together, which I believe to be important, I also believe that showing my son I care is more important and I can describe that in this way.
There have been many times when I have not been able to make it to the dinner table and the same goes for my son. So I have to come up with new ideas and new patterns to make sure I keep that connection alive and growing. Over the years, I have done many different things to implement and strategize. One thing recently is that when I know we won’t see each other during the evening, I take him to the park in the morning, and we will exercise together or play hoops. I also pack a handmade lunch for him that I know will give him the nutrition to fuel his entire day. The result of that connection is that he just got the presidential award for athletics at his school. One of only three students to receive that. This is a boy that does not do organized sports, but is in the drama and choir clubs.
Another thing to keep the connection alive is we pick a word for the week which he will demonstrate and relate back to me. For example, one week he will pick ‘Integrity’ and he will share how he displayed actions that involve integrity. Another is setting goals. Our recent goal is that he wants to be the next “American Hero” so now he is working on all the things necessary for him to become that. I ask him what that idea looks like to him and we begin to execute that in our everyday life.
And yes all of the above mentioned are directly related to my own experiences growing up. I lost my mom at age ten and my father is diagnosed Schizophrenic and were never able to develop a typical father/son relationship. I lived with many families and so I learned how important it is to love and be loved. It has taken my entire life to understand and feel love and it is something I work on everyday. Even today as I write this to you, I realize I have so much to learn about how to express myself as a person who truly cares for the well being of my son, my family, my friends and community.
Do you have any moments when you challenged the norms or tested the boundaries for the good of your family?
Thank you for the question – that’s a good one. And yes, besides the above mentioned of moving my family to the boonies to live off the land, build a cottage industry and become self-reliant, I have other examples. It ties into the beginning of these questions and being uncomfortable. Like I said, I will sometimes put my son in uncomfortable situations, when he was young before two years old, I taught him water safety and how to be comfortable in the water and not be scared. This was a challenge because I had to get my son comfortable holding his breath underwater. I achieved this by hours of me demonstrating how to hold your breath beginning above water and then what that looks like below the water. So on the final day, I had a favorite toy, which we were playing with in the lake, and I “accidentally” dropped, it and with no hesitation, he held his breath and got it. Now up until this point, many parents would look on with disapproving eyes regarding me and my very young son playing in the lake. It’s like when I grow plants, it is important to wiggle the young sprouts to create a more vigorous root system. I feel this is what I do with my son. And something else that helps in my success is the idea, “What other people think is not my concern.”
What’s the toughest part of being a dad? and what about being a father gives you the most joy?
These are tough questions, the toughest part about being a dad is seeing my son hurting, sad, or upset and realizing there is nothing I can do about it. I have to let my son make his own mistakes and hope he learns from them and won’t have to repeat the same mistakes too often. I get the most joy with my son with his happiness and personal achievements. When my son is able to navigate through life and help others to do the same. My son is a compassionate, loving and caring young man and I am deeply proud and honored to call him my son.