A pervasive problem today seems to be that American men have little or no connection with their fathers. The reasons may be physical or structural – absentee fathers, divorced fathers who don’t share custody – or emotional, in that the fathers were around during their kids’ childhoods, but were emotional ghosts. But what to do about it?
A few days ago, while hiking the foothills of Mount Tamalpais – a mountain that rises to 2,571 feet and has so many canyons and vistas that it seems like the trunk of a massive rain forest tree with buttress roots that the wind and rain have dulled and flattened over centuries – I met a 90-year old man I’ll call Patrick, from Lagunitas, CA, who was hiking up the Dipsea Trail. He was about six-foot two and was walking with a consistent rhythm – quarter notes, about eighty beats per minute – and breathing calmly, both achievements since we were already fifteen flights of steps above the town. He told me he planned to hike to the summit and back. He had alert and warm eyes that welcomed my presence even as he kept to the hike before him. Silvery hair curled and spilled out from under a dark baseball cap, and the clear tube of a hearing aid wrapped over one helix and into the ear. He wore the outfit of a serious day hiker – black …
I’m excited to kick off a series of articles about fathers who generally feel good about life. Yes, they do exist! We’ll hear how they dance between their long-term relationships, being a parent, working, staying healthy, and other aspects of life. Bryan is a stay-at-home father in San Francisco. Today only 1% of husbands in married-couple families stay at home full-time (US Census 2012).
But many Dads face the same challenges as stay-at-home fathers when it comes to parenting young children, and they are touched on below: how to renew yourself, reflect, find parenting mentors, deal with social isolation, and find meaning. When I spoke with him in person, Bryan exuded self-confidence, poise, thoughtfulness, physical and mental strength, and what some psychologists have described as a “mature masculine” focus on nurturing and coaching. We hope you enjoy this interview.