Sunday, August 1, 2010


"My six-year-old is wheeled back into pre-op wiping fresh tears from his eyes with hands noticeably shaking. I was not expecting to see him nearly so soon. In fact I didn't expect to see him again for several hours yet. To the best of my knowledge, getting your tonsils out takes substantially longer than three or four minutes. Something has definately gone wrong.
'We had a melt-down', my wife says with forced calm that tells it's own story. 'When they tried to put the mask on, he just....' she doesn't say 'lost it' and she doesn't have to. I know what panic looks like....
'I just can't do it, Daddy'. Fresh tears threaten to spill onto his cheek. I nod in what I think is a fatherly way, but I don't understand and I'm terrified that he will see the horrible hint of disappointment that I am working so hard to hide.
I have always been worried about communicating with my sons. I worry because I have seen enough fathers and sons who go through agonizing decades of not understanding one another, both sides carrying shared responsibility for the insurmountable walls that are built across great landscapes of grief and guilt. I worry because of the relationship I had with my own father for so many years....
I do not want my own son and I to go through that long, potholed road to un derstanding, and yet I feel too often the seeds being sown. He is a challenging boy, just as I am certainly a challenging father, intensely energetic who struggles like no one I've ever seen to fight the impulses that seem to drive him, and when these impulses overtake him, he seems abandoned in a drowning sea of his own making. Worse, I am unequipped to deal with it. I too often interpret it as willful stubbornness, even as I can see in his eyes that he is begging for someone to give him the tools to overcome his impulses.
How can I tell him that I don't have the tools to understand much less help? And so we both become monumentally frustrated for different reasons....
I am holding in my hand a replica of an anesthesia mask that is the current source of my son's deep fear. It is a soft and harmless looking thing, but I catch him eyeing it suspiciously.
I should be doing something. If I were the father I wanted to be, what would I do?.....
In front of me is a scared six-year-old who is putting on a brave face because I showed him where to keep the mask, and it's my job to know how to help him overcome the fear that threatens to pull him under......
The fact that I don't understand that fear in the first place is irrelevant, that I don't understand why he didn't just put the mask on like we'd talked about is just not helpful.
And if my wife and I can't do it, then they are going to hold him down and force him to breath deep until chemical sleep overtakes his panicked mind.
'Let's practice', I say.
The medium for my son and I to reset (regain good communication) is video games. When we reach those impassable waters where you can imagine your relationship being run aground in a tempest of wind and rock, we pull back to the familiar waters of Lego games and Rock Band. Imaginary adventures give us comfort, and when he settles into the crook of my arm as we sit side-by-side on the floor playing games that others might dismiss as meaningless, I realize that gaming has become important in my life like I had never expected.....
My boy is wearing his practice mask, with his eyes closed. 'OK,' I say. 'You've got your scuba gear on and your're jumping off the boat. How many dolphins do you see? Count them out loud.' He counts out twenty dolphins with enthusiasm, pressing the mask to his face. 'Can you keep up with them? Can you swim as fast as them?' He giggles a yes.
The doctors and nurses gather to wheel him back to the OR. They smile at one another to see my son wearing the mask and swimming with the whales and dolphins. As they begin to roll him out of the room I kiss the top of his head, and remind him that the mask is his scuba gear, and he gives me a thumbs up. 'Rock on!' I call out as they wheel him through the double doors, and the best sound I hear before the doors close is his laughter.
I suppose it all can be explained by the sedative, but I hold on to the idea that I was able to connect with my son when no one else could, and that gives me hope.
They tell me that he happily and calmly counted two dolphins before he was under."

From "FATHERS AND SONS' by Sean Sands

What does a son need from his dad? PART 1.

In the mind of some men, to father a son is extremely daunting. Possibly it reflects on the traditions of the past, where children continued to be born until the male heir was produced. Or the idea of the need of a son to continue the family line, carry the family name into future generations.

I heard it said by one father, that he was so glad he only had daughters, by which I sensed that he thought himself relieved of some responsibility he connected to fathering sons. Some fathers feel a huge responsibility in being a dad to a son which they don't feel in fathering daughters.

It is a unique relationship, father and son. It was written that it is the strongest relationship of all, more so than that of lovers. Whether this is true or not, a father was once a boy and so has some understanding or sense of the needs of a son.

1. CONNECTION ~ Sons need to be connected to their fathers - as the story in the quote shows.

As I mentioned in the previous post - WEEK 17 QUOTE 17, a crucial time for boys to have connection with his parents, is in his preschool years. Don Elium in "Raising Sons", says that boys of preschool years seek involvement and the attention of their dad. They commonly copy dad's mannerisms and behaviour, wear his shoes and clothes. Dad is the son's hero, the one he wants to please and receive acceptance and approval from.

As a son becomes a boy he continues to want to follow and emulate his dad.

If there is little or no connection between father and son through the preschool and school years, the results will be clear by the time the son is a teenager. By this stage, after a decade of disconnection, both the father and the son do not perceive the other's opinions or approach to life. In his development toward independence, a teenage son can view his father's expectations and views on life as irrelevant. It follows then that they can disagree on what life for a teenager should consist of. The 'division' between father and son, which is due to their lack of connection, can be short-lived or carry on for a decade or more, depending on whether they choose to deal with is of live with it. If they work at a better connection a good relationship can grow between them even as they express different opinions.
Click on this link to to watch a 8:30 minute promotion film clip called "11Truths about Fathers and Sons". It is advertising a 1 hour documentary titled "Fathers and Sons" which speaks from different view points of being in the father - son relationship.

Statistics show that boys experience more difficulties from absent or non-involved fathers, than girls. The figures for boys from this background are far higher in all areas of delinquency, than they are for girls. So regular, good healthy connection with dad is CRUCIAL for a son.

HOW can dads successfully get close to or CONNECT with their sons?
The best way seems to be through doing things together, dad being available and interested in spending time with his son. Fathers and sons who regularly spend time in this way, build bonds or connections that cause their sons to be more open to talk with dad, and more likely to confide in dad about their problems.


Regular times together is important, even small amounts of time will build a strong connection for the future.

There are organizations in America specifically set up to help dad and sons to connect through challenging physical occupations - Father and Son Activity groups. They offer part day weekly activities and weekend-long ones. These organizations put boys along side their dads - a team, a couple.


The best way to do this is in the normal, everyday things of life.
~cleaning your teeth together - look at the photo at the top again!
~ cleaning up after a meal
~ doing a BBQ
~taking a trailer load of rubbish to the rubbish dump
~driving to collect the takeaways
~going for petrol for the lawnmower
These are all short jobs or trips, perfect occasions to involve a son so he can observe dad living life and being with him.

Dads could also choose to take their son along with them while they exercise.
~at the gym
~lifting weights in the garage
~walking the dog on the beach
Don't choose to always go on your own, dad, you're missing opportunities to demonstrate and live life before and with your son.
You may think your son would be bored
- well keep the time short at first and gradually increase it.
You may think your son couldn't behave properly
- well do something about his behaviour, teach him how to behave - you ARE the dad.
You may think your son is not 'wired', skilled or interested in these types of things
- well you may be completely wrong. If it IS true that sons want to be/need to be/desire to be with their dads, then what you do together doesn't really matter.
Sons want to know that their dad wants to be with them, that they are a high priority in dad's life.
You must lead the way, dad.


To connect, sons need to know about dad.
~what is important to him?
~his favourite colour, food, music...
~what he does for a job, where he works, visit where he works, understand
why dad does this job
~know about dad's childhood, where he grew up, what games he played,
funny stories, when he was afraid or uncertain of something as a child
~ what's close to dad's heart?
~what does dad think of his son?

2. DISCIPLINE, AFFECTION, LOVE AND FORGIVENESS ~ Sons need dad to be involved in disciplining them,clearly affectionate, genuinely loving and quick to forgive.

Discipline ~
Both mum and dad together need to decide what is acceptable and what is not, in a family - some people call it family rules. Once established they must be stuck to. This part is essential for boys. They need to see and know their parents will be consistent in keeping those rules.Boys need clarity about how the system works - Who is in charge? What the rules really mean? What the consequences are if they choose to not follow a rule? They will regularly be testing the system, which can become draining and exhausting, so help yourself by being clear and consistent from the start.

It is best that sons understand the way your family works from a young age, when they are eager to please dad. This is a most reachable time for boys to learn discipline and the job is far easier than in teenage years.

Dad needs to be involved in disciplining his son.


It's a balance, the two working together. As one writer said of the affection discipline combination, they "are vital, and help sons grow up to be men with good social skills." Another said, this combination is the determiner of a son's self esteem which then affects success in school and later in all of his life. He recommended "close, old-fashioned bear hugs".

[In a future post I hope to discuss "discipline" as a subject in itself as it is often misunderstood by people who fail to see it's importance]

Sons need dad to show physical affection. Play wrestling or rough and tumble are marvellous ways to do this. To a son, the game seems more important than the relationship, but although the son is unaware the fact is that through this play, dad is establishing a wonderful relationship with his son.
Play wrestling is an easy way for dad to teach his son several things - how to develop a relationship, how to actually fight without harm, how to control himself, how to love dad, a habit of having fun with dad, learning to loose, learning to win, learning his place in the big world with himself not being in the centre of it, laughter.... "Let him (the son) enjoy the long struggle - until the final giving in, 'calling it quits' and admitting he lost. Let your son win occasionally, but make sure you aren't a pushover."

Love is also important for sons, it gives them confidence and the feeling of belonging. Dad needs to tell his son how much he means to him - be specific, not "I think you are wonderful". They need to know particularly what you love about them. Give them a clear signal. It must be genuine as kids see through fake, put-on comments.
One dad I erad about remembered back to his father's written letters. They always ended with the same short phrases - a real sentiment of love -
"When I became a father of a son, I was so proud. I am so thankful that YOU were given to be MY son."


Ernest Hemingway in "The Capital of the World", wrote about a Spanish dad and his teenage son who got into difficulties in their relationship. The son left and his dad was unable to trace him. Finally the father put an advertisement in the newspaper.
"Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Hotel Montana tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven, Papa"
The following day the father found 800 Pacos outside the Hotel Montana. They all wanted their father's forgiveness.



THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS enjoy being with your son, dad, and start working on something with him that you know you have been putting off.


1 comment:

  1. What a great post! I really liked all the points you mad, especially about sons needing to be alongside their dad, and can't wait to read part two when its posted :)
    Indi xox