My son is connected to my wife through strong, natural bonds. Her body kept his alive for two years. For his first nine months, her voice was the soundtrack of his universe, and it will always be a melody of nurture for him. Aidan is fastened to his mother.
But that’s not enough. He needs something more. He needs a bond that with me that is equally strong.
We may live in a culture that questions the value of having a father in the home, but the value is not actually in question. Sons who fail to develop a bond with their fathers carry wounds. They struggle for years, sometimes their entire lives, to find the frequency of masculinity. Sons need their fathers, and yet fathers and sons are struggling to form solid relationships today. Part of the reason for this problem is that sons are hardly ever around their fathers. In ancient hunter-gatherer, or agrarian communities, sons often grew up watching their fathers work. Every day of the week. Every season of the year. Sons studied their fathers. And fathers gave their sons chances to do the work they were doing. For a son, this constant connection to his father-at-work helped him gain, not only a vision for his own work, but a sense of relationship with his father.
But what do you do when your son can’t go to work with you? That’s my situation, and my question. I know Aidan needs a vibrant relationship with me. Yet, for about 45 hours a week, I’m gone. As a pastor and author, I leave my son each morning at about 7:45. I see him for about 20 minutes over the lunch-hour, and then I go back to work until late afternoon. Most of what I do isn’t conducive for regular bring-your-son-to-work days, which means that Aidan doesn’t see me study, counsel, lead meetings, visit people in the hospital, or write. For a significant part of the week, my son is left to guess at what his dad is doing. What am I to do?
At this point, my best answer is to try to be as present as possible when I’m not at work. I’m trying to catch my second wind in the truck on the way home, and then find things to do with him in the evening, or on the weekend, that require extended amounts of shoulder-to-shoulder, sweat-on-brow, ask-a-lot-of-questions time together. Lately, we’ve been trying to fill our livewells with walleye and crappie, spotting each other in the weight room, playing catch, weeding the garden, and cutting and splitting wood for the winter. Oh, yeah, and wrestling… can’t forget the wrestling.
Aidan: “Frankly, I think the odds are slightly in your favor at hand fighting.”
Me: “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.”