Isolation is preventing us dads from parenting as well as we might and hurting our children. Enough already! It’s time for each of us to take one small step towards creating the community so many of us crave.
I’ve had it with all the fathers I know (and that includes myself) who are soldiering on in isolation, brave troopers, stalwart warriors. The armistice is here–time to lay down our arms and stop battling for our families, for ourselves. There must be another, more peaceful, relaxing way to thrive as fathers, a way that is more humane and less combative and exhausting.
Sure, it’s amazing we can be the loving dads we are despite all the demands on us, but come on! How long are we willing to accept that we have so little support around us that we’re sometimes down on our knees? And I don’t mean because we’re hugging our children. I mean because we’re so downtrodden by all our responsibilities and obligations that we collapse when we come home.
Something tells me nothing will change unless we stand up as one and say: Stop! This is not on. I feel like shit, like half a man, invisible at times too tired to meet my child with an open heart. I’m going to do something different from here on out. For myself. For my children. For my community.
A World Gone Mad
If I were to create a slogan for fatherhood it would be ‘Pause and Connect’–we have to kick our addiction to busyness and break out of our isolation and create the community we and our families need.
A while back I did a survey with dads, and one question I asked was what would you want if you could wave a magic wand. You know what was a surprisingly common response? Dads want a village–”a thriving community”, a “village to help me raise my child”, “starting an alternative school”, having “a really sound community close by”
And when I asked what dads feared the most, a common response was a fear of the world in which our children are growing up in–”a world gone mad”, “a deadly place”, “a deteriorating environment and vanishing wellfare”, “a disastrous future”, “commercialized public schooling”.
And you know what gets me in the pit of my stomach? That we all want more community. And we fear what will happen if we don’t. And yet so many of us seem too busy running around in this machine world to do much else.
We simply can’t find the time to figure out how to give our children a community where they belong and that helps us raise each other’s children together, with a deep sense of awe, gratitude, grace and reverence.
We’re on our knees and too worn out to reach out. And oftentimes we feel utterly alone.
Searching for Kinfolk
As a trained ecologist I dreamed of healing the planet. Then I worked as a journalist. And for a while I dreamed of telling stories that were so great people would love nature just as much as I do and come to its rescue.
Then I became a father. And my dream now is that we can pass on a deep love for all of creation to our children.
That’s something none of us can do on our own. We need people to help us, friends, relatives, elders, uncles, aunts, teachers and other folk who share our values and our fear that our children will come of age in a world that is ravaged by war and alienation. We need people like ourselves who don’t want our grandchildren to come of age in a world where tigers, polar bears, lynx, wolves, rhinoceros, lions and so many other species in the web of life only exist in social media.
Our children’s health hinges in part in theirs being planted in such a community.
The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit,” said Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck, author of The Good Earth. “No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament.
I think us dads have a huge role to play in radically changing the way things are going and providing our children with a world of diverse kinfolk. I think we have a huge role to play in leaving a legacy that honors everyone’s love of life. A legacy of nurturance, respect, stewardship, awareness, gentleness and belonging.
And yes, a legacy of standing up for what we believe in, for defending what we love, and for going against the grain of our forebears by taking the golden strands of collaboration, generosity, helpfulness and weaving a supportive web that holds us all.
But we need to wake up! It’s time to raise our heads up from diapers and iPhones and orient ourselves to the bigger picture so we can take some leadership in creating healthy communities where everyone thrives.
This asks that we acknowledge the cost of isolation to ourselves and our children. Isolation is lethal for all we hold dear. Our dreams wither in seclusion, and our families suffer.
The only way out is to overcome our unease with asking for help, our fear of exposing our imperfections, and take the risk of reaching out our hands to the right people with a request for their support or an offer of ours.
When we do, we often find the help is gladly offered or graciously received.Isolation is lethal for all we hold dear. Our dreams wither in seclusion, and our families suffer. Click To Tweet
New Ways to Provide and Protect
Across cultures, fathers are seen to provide and protect. But every culture has a different perspective on what those words actually mean. So what does it mean to us dads who want our children to feel welcome and at home on earth?
Here are some ideas (and you’ll have others). We provide gentle guidance. We provide nurturance. We provide compassionate attention. We provide tenderness.
We also provide an example of the healthy masculine, refusing to carry ancestral wounds that are not ours to carry. We provide an example men who are willing to heal in ourselves whatever needs to be healed for our children to thrive. We step into our full power as brothers to harness the creative and nurturing powers of men.
We hold ourselves accountable as leaders in co-creating the family, the neighborhood, the community and the culture that collectively raises our children to come of age with a deep sense of belonging to all of creation.
We provide a safe home environment for our families to thrive.
Why? The best answer I can give is not mine. It’s from Brené Brown, who says
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.
What do we protect? We protect what we wish to provide, a world of diverse kinfolk, human and otherwise. We speak up for trees, meadows, and burbling brooks. We protect our growing community.
That includes our right to our own well-being too.
And it certainly includes protecting our children from violence, but not just violence to their physical beings, but lasting injury to their souls too.
We protect our children from a mainstream culture that is out to get their loyalty from the day they are born, through intrusive branding, alluring technology and through forced schooling.
We protect our communities from being fragmentated by big corporations, rampant advertising and poor confidence.
How do we protect and provide? By ending our isolation day-by-day to build relationships with people who share our values, by becoming visionary leaders of our own neighborhoods.
Start Small and Build on Success
To ease the pressures on ourselves, and the deadly impact of isolation on our families, we must find the energy to break out of our shells and begin to mend our communities.
It doesn’t have to be huge. To use a permaculture principle, we can start small and build slowly on what works.
We might start a conversation with some friends about starting a men’s group. We could invite other fathers over for a meal to share our dreams and tribulations around parenting. Or perhaps get some families excited about a regular sleepover in the woods.
Every equinox or solstice, every transition of the seasons, we can gather over a potluck to acknowledge the shifts in our world. Taking some time to share stories around a fire.
We take one small step at a time, with the aim of repairing what has been broken from centuries of misuse, so our children can experience what it’s like to be part of a community that’s connected to place.
One small step, then another, until we’ve walked our way out of isolation and into a community of caretakers and stewards, the beginning of a village environment where each of us is indispensable by nature of who we are and what we offer.
It’s not going to happen unless we take that first step.
Or as one dad in my survey put it,
I’ve had this in mind for years and I’m coming to the point now of realizing nobody else may wave that magic wand unless I do…
Question: If you had a magic wand, what would you create for yourself and your family?