Do you see now that fathers
who cannot love their sons
have sons who cannot love?
It was not your fault
and it was not mine. I needed
your love but I recovered without it.
Now I no longer need anything.
For over 25 years, Richard Rohr has identified something he calls father hunger as “the single most prevalent absence in the human soul, and also one of the most painful.” He underlines the unique importance of identity the same-sex parent passes on to their children. For men, “we cannot be ourselves, we cannot be our own man, or our own father, until we have been someone else’s little boy.”
Father hunger is a deep, often unconscious, need for masculine acceptance and approval.
When this craving goes unsatisfied, it may be a key driving force enabling many of the world’s self-destructive problems. It’s what keep men imprisoned under the myth there “is no other game in town but the game of power, status, and wealth… the game that is played in the boardrooms of corporate America, on the stock and commodity exchanges, on the playing fields of professional sports, in local and national governments, in the ranks of factory and office workers and in the neighborhoods of suburbia,” as Rohr says. It is the compulsion behind doing whatever it takes to please men in power — coaches, CEOs or presidents — deep down almost everyone wants a chance to make Daddy proud.
Too many men spend their lives trying to prove to other men they are men, while often emotionally, spiritually and psychologically still remaining boys who secretly feel powerless. All because they have yet to experience the energy of a father’s love and guidance that says you, my son, already are a man.
Being a parent is tough.
Parenting is the hard work of facing yourself and growing beyond your fears, doubts, and insecurities.
Like the cocoon before the butterfly, parenthood is an intense transformational phase of life. You cannot stay the same you entered into it — it changes you — for better or for worse.
Unfortunately for many of us, we fear it’s the latter.
Perhaps the inspiration that once flooded our veins the first time we held our newborn children is worn down over the years with the monotony of daily responsibilities. Perhaps when we imagined the kind of parents we wanted to be and the ones we are becoming, there’s a gap.
No one measures up to their own expectations.
None of us escape parenthood intact. It breaks us all down. But this is not a sign of failure. The struggle is not something to feel ashamed about, to judge yourself over or to fear judgment from anybody else. Everybody has a mountain to climb. Difficulty is proof of life. When we come to a rough patch, it’s a sign this amazing transformational process has already begun. Something new is now breaking through.
“Vulnerability isn’t so much about allowing others in as it is about letting you out.”
If you are anything like me…
You long for experiencing a life of simplicity in the midst of our current modern world.
But sometimes — well, most of the time — we don’t know how to get there. Thankfully, that’s what friendship and honest community can do. A new friend recently invited us to spend the day out at her farm and the experience hit me with some long forgotten memories.
I thought, I’ve been here before.
My earliest childhood memories are from my grandmother’s farm. By then, most of the animals were gone which left a haunting emptiness. I remember swimming in a giant cow trough with my cousins, playing hide-and-seek in deserted barns, swinging on a tire swing and helping collect eggs from the chicken coop before they too were gone. Both warm and sad, these memories always felt like nostalgic vapers, like promises of possibility too thin to grab onto or fully materialize.
Out at this farm, everything shifted.
Surrounded by familiarity, those dusty old feelings came back but this time there was so much life bursting everywhere! The difference was profound. As I watched my own kids play, just as I did with my cousins, the sadness from my own memories began to recede. I felt something I didn’t know was broken begin to heal. I felt a new connection to an ageless dream.
When we think about the early connection between a father and son, perhaps we imagine a nostalgic image of them fishing together. It’s a tradition deeply engrained in the American psyche. With good reason, it’s one of the few cultural rituals we offer children positive messages of masculinity.
For those who have had such an experience know fishing is more than the sum of its parts. For the rest of us, like those in the first Nintendo/MTV generation who grew up without much vision for positive outdoor experiences, here’s a little of what we’ve been missing.
- Fostering Conversations You Wouldn’t Have at Home
- Investing in Your Collective Emotional Future
- Teaching Environmental Stewardship
Thankfully it’s never too late to do something for the first time… and let the simple goodness of life surprise you. I learned this lesson over again when Grandpa took us all fishing for the first time.
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Watching my son’s face light up with pride as he reels in his first fish, in the presence of his grandfather, is a significant moment beyond the moment itself. It’s a healing alignment of generations, as one passes on wisdom to the next — an act of affirming positive identity of those who will and must someday become men.
When I was growing up, there was a drainage ditch down the street from a friend’s house. We called this place Crawdad Creek because another friend once found a crawdad there. I never caught one, but I remember spending hours trying. Looking back, those were the moments it felt like childhood was magical.
Exploring the natural world connects us to the awe and wonder of life itself.
As a grown up living in the largest city in the state, I lament how much of our life together is spent surrounded by concrete. It’s difficult to find natural spaces like lakes, creeks, or wooded areas for outdoor play — except they do make spaces like that.
They call them parks.
Now there is a Crawdad Creek at Platte River State Park, one of the eight other Nebraska State Parks easily accessible. Thanks to some new friends we made at a local unschooling group, who invited us out and freely shared fishing nets and buckets of all sizes, the kids had the best day of the summer so far!
Sometimes the more you work, the less you get.
If you’ve ever felt so exhausted you don’t have any energy left to do the things that would fill you back up, you wouldn’t be alone.
I often wonder how much of the nuclear family’s limited time, energy and resources are gobbled up making everything fit into individual bite-sized meals, grocery runs, laundry, errands, chores, educational events, and special activities leaving nothing left to nourish vital friendships because everybody else is now working harder for the same individual bite-sized slices of life. It’s easy to feel trapped in an endless cycle of diminishing returns. But what if — what if we could make a better investment with our daily sweat, blood, and tears?
For the last month, a family friend and I, with whom we have kids of similar ages, began a “crazy” experiment to address some of these issues. The idea was to see if there would be any mutual benefit in doing our school time together as two families working as one.
There’s Only One
The term priorities, with an ‘s’ on the end, is self-contradictory.
If something is a priority, it is the most important thing. When we have two or more items defined as the most important, it doesn’t elevate their importance. It does the opposite. We no longer know which one is more important and it’s confusing, overwhelming and wastes far too many resources. Like a top heavy Jenga puzzle, more stuff piled on top guarantees it’ll come crashing down.
When a priority competes with another priority, it loses all of its power — the power of clarity.
When you know what’s most important, you don’t have to ask needless questions. You reduce decision fatigue. You focus your energy. You can move forward in confidence giving your full attention to what’s in front of you. You already decided to focus on the most important.
But it only happens if we do the hard work of deciding the priority in life right now. If we had to choose only one, forsaking all others, what would endure and retain its value?