Yesterday in New York City was Dads Take Your Child to School Day. I think that’s a thoughtful initiative with very powerful and beneficial results. Even when I am sitting on my porch writing in the mornings, I normally see mothers walking their children to the elementary school around the corner from my house. Maybe it’s part of what would be considered a matronly role. Maybe it’s because a lot of the fathers around these parts do not live with their children. I’m sure it’s a mix of all of the above.
Because my mother was a teacher and my father mostly worked from home, he took my sister and I to school a lot. Looking back it was a bonding experience that set a precedent for our relationship later. To this day, most of my bonding time with my father (that doesn’t revolve around having a drink somewhere or watching sports) has been in the car. Whether it was driving from one part of Queens to another for school, driving from New York to Atlanta for college or riding back from a show of his is when he drops many of his gems of wisdom or the things we have in common open up doors for dialogue.
I wrote a post last year about my nephew after Dads Take Your Child to School Day. His father isn’t in his life, so my father and I do a lot to make up for that. On the day to day basis I’m around and a good once or twice a week he spends time with his grandfather. I know that we’re his role models and he looks up to us. I don’t take that lightly although he is in that age range where I cannot stand children. He’s a really smart kid and is incredibly clever; but he has a mouth on him like the rest of us…I know controlling that will be the difference as well as the inherited trait of being too smart for his own good.
This DTYCTSD started off with a conversation with my mother. As the two of them were getting ready for the day and I was preparing Cydney my mother told me that my nephew said the only two people that care about school is my mother and me. I looked at him like he was crazy and told him “Look, you need to change that. For the next twelve years, school is your job. It’ll make the difference between you and other people.” My mother said that was exactly what she told him and then made the message more kid friendly by saying “Many basketball players wind up making a lot of money and losing it because they can’t read contracts and don’t know what to do with their money.” I chimed in “They also have to go to college.” He looked back like he understood, but because he’s a kid he his still going to feel that way about school until he is no longer in it and will miss it like we all do longing for the days when life was less complicated.
I took him inside the school and he bolted off. I said “Have a good day!” and he said “Ok” mid-stride without even looking back. To myself I thought “I guess this is it.” As I walked towards the main building where my mother teaches I saw the slew of men walking their their children to school. Some were my age and many were a lot older. Some wore suits and others were dressed like as soon as they left they were going to stand on the block and do something illegal to keep the lights on. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to see.
After the kids were dropped off, the school’s parent coordinator had a “sit and chew” for the fathers. She gave out little book bags with school supplies and t-shirts to the fathers as they sipped coffee and ate muffins and such. She thanked them for coming out and began to stress the importance of influence and communication. She stated that as fathers our role is more influence than anything else. Fathers play a different role than moms do because their approach to raising is more hands on, nurturing, and is often full of communication on a daily basis. Children wonder what dads do all day because they come home from work, don’t say much, and are seemingly distant because they do not do all of the little things mothers do on a day to day basis to show interest. Many children feel like they must spend a good portion of their upbringing and adult lives living up to their fathers’ approval or trying to do something to get their attention. The thing is we are always paying attention, just what we do doesn’t make sense to a child until they are much older.
The parent coordinator spoke about how important communication is. How it is important to keep lines open enough that children feel comfortable with sharing just about anything with them. This made me think a lot about Cydney. As a man, I’d be okay with almost anything my nephew could or would share with me. When my daughter wants to talk about boys, peer pressure and all that will come along with being a girl I will keep a game face on allowing her to be okay with telling me just about anything she wants and when she goes to sleep I will cry tears and reminisce of the little girl who is currently sitting on my lap with Blue Bear and pulling on my shirt give me comfort.
The key to these is to continue on the path that I am currently on and do not let life get in the way. My nephew and my little girl have no problem telling me anything that is on their mind. I want to keep it that way. If they have questions about life I am an open book and will have no problem sharing my thoughts and experiences with them. I want and welcome they do the same. Doing so means keeping that in mind. In order to do so, I must continue doing the little things like playing video games, watching annoying children shows, and taking them to school.