Like Father, Like Son

In honor of the good fathers out there.

We don’t have a family night. It’s not because we are too busy or because we think it’s a bad idea. It’s because of our family culture. 

I want to share one way Dale changed our family culture.

Growing up as the oldest of four kids, my dad would take each of his kids out once a month. It was the only one-on-one we got with our dad and it was supposed to be good bonding time. We called them our “Wednesdays”. 

This was a band-aid fix to a cancer in our society: busyness. You know exactly what I mean: a president of a company, respected in his community may easily have a better relationship with his employees than with his children. This is normal to us: men who don’t know their children. COVID regulations showed many of us the enormous pleasure and vitality of having the menfolk around all day.*

Dale doesn’t do “Wednesdays” with our boys, and we don’t do family night. Dale offered a different culture early in our marriage.

Dale would finish work and I’d finish my grad classes and start making dinner. I didn’t want or expect Dale to hang out while I cooked. I expected his sphere to operate much like my dad’s, away from me. So when Dale announced that he’d rather go out to eat so that we could talk together, I was startled, bewildered.

I was in a strange place. Didn’t Dale know this was bizarre? To push so much of his important world aside to be with me, not for a date night, not when he wants to get me in bed, but whenever he and I are in the same room. Dale looked up when I walked into the room, he met my eyes in a crowded party, he wanted my company above anyone else. He let me interrupt his male sphere, even during his most important events. He wanted me as his companion.

That began a new family culture. We cultivated evenings and mornings together, from waking and breakfasting together to going to bed together. We continued building companionship even when I left to teach school and he travelled for an itinerant ministry. When our youngest came 7 weeks early, I stayed in the hospital for five weeks. He was home with our oldest. But at night, we timed it so we could watch Cheers re-runs at the same time, texting each other at our favorite funny moments.

We have incorporated our children into this existing space. The boys clean up with us, they talk with each other about bee-keeping or Sushi Go! We all sit around and talk—daily. No incident occurs in anyone’s life without someone wanting to share a bit of it. I may never defeat a boss in Super Mario but I know these games mean the world to my sons. I know the books my son reads by himself. I hear the favorite tracts from Snow White my youngest plays in his room. 

The together time is not required or scheduled. A favorite phrase around here still is, “Do you want to go on a walk?” And even though we have recently swapped White Woods for asphalt and suburbia, to me it still feels like an exclusively and queenly invitation. So does, 

“Will you sit with me while I play Nintendo?” that’s the five-year-old.

“You wanna have a snowball fight, mom?” that’s the eleven-year-old. 

They all mean the same thing. I have made space in my life for you. I want you near. Like father, like son.

In honor of the fathers who make room every night of the week for their children, I offer you this painting, Lobsterdad.  Be sure to read the backstory at “Artist’s Note” at my blog. Just click the title above to be linked there. In Lobsterdad you are seeing a real life father who brings his son to learn daily at his side, not in a classroom, not from the experts, but from his every day mistakes and hard-won skills. This is how culture changes. Bravo to the fathers who let their children accompany them!

I’ll close with this poem. The Pasture was written by a New Hampshire poet, Robert Frost, another devoted husband and father.

The Pasture

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long. —You come too. 

I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long. —You come too. 

 

* Some men do not bring pleasure and vitality. I know about this, as well. This is not a post about them. 

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I was painting on Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine when I saw a real life lobsterman walk past. I dropped my brushes and caught up with him at his truck tying down buoys. “Could I take your picture?” I asked.

He looked down from his truck and waited a beat. “Can I take yours?” And so I was introduced to Mr. Rick Dolliver, lobsterman, father, husband and owner of That Place restaurant. As we talked Rick told me about this son, who had pulled in dozens of lobsters that season. His son is five.

For dinner Dale and I and our boys walked into “That Place” where I was greeted by Rick’s wife, Boriana. She took my name and exclaimed “Oh, you’re the artist!” We were seated and enjoyed a delicious meal, complete with a cinnamon ringed pumpkin beer. By the end of the meal, Boriana and Rick had asked to purchase my plein air painting for their restaurant. Lobsterman now hangs in Ogunquit. They have since purchased Tying Down another version of this Lobsterdad.

For Father’s Day, I offer this painting, Lobsterdad, because this is how we know the good fathers. They let their children learn daily at their side, not in a classroom, not from the experts, but from their every day mistakes and hard-won skills. This is how culture changes. A toast to the dads who know their boys all the way to adulthood, Happy Father’s Day!

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This is my family culture as well! Except I play the video games, but not the snowball fights. 😉 My favorite evenings with my husband are when we sit and just be. No screens, just conversations. Sometimes, we’ll read take turns reading a book out loud together. My favorite times with my kids are the “do you want to go on a walk” ones. And we have no goals of how far or where to go. It’s aimless. The point is to be together and see what the other notices. This morning, I was doing laundry across the hall from the kids room and I peaked in. They were playing and asked me to sit in there. I sat on the floor and they showed me all their crazy gymnastics tricks. I had to pull myself hard away from saying, “Wow, you really need to vacuum your room.” 😉 Tucked it in my mind for later. I don’t want them to think, “Every time we invite her in here, she goes on a rampage!” I’m still learning the appropriate times for work vs just being…

It’s because of you introducing me to The Brave Learner that I feel totally free to rock the video games! I know a lot of families who ban them and it makes me so sad! We talk and play as a family. It’s way more interactive that watching movies.

Yay Julie Bogart! 🎉

Lovely…..Robert Frost is my favorite poet…..I can see all the Finchers having their all the time togetherness…..not planned, not scheduled, just being, together…nicely captured, Jonalyn.

What a great family culture you have built together! And cheers to marrying a culture-changer. I also married one and what a kind, patient Father he is to our boys to invite them into all the baking, cooking, gardening, fishing. It’s inefficient and other house chores get put on hold but the boys love learning and playing with him. Being together WHILE enjoying one another, is the sweet spot of family culture and one that I pray for the most. I love how you captured the Lobsterdad and how proud he was of his son. What a great memory to then dine at his restaurant.

This shows how forced learning/exploring/having fun/conversation/etc creates such an unnatural environment. Awareness that we can change our culture is difficult and accepting the challenge to do it AND having a partner who joins you (you are a culture changer too Jonalyn!) This is a huge step for us all but definitely something that I am trying to do in my life and show my kids but also their friends and other adults as well!

I just read this and shared it with my husband. We sat inspired with shiny eyes and talked about how this is a family culture that we both desire. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this paradigm shift.

Honestly…. I feel like we had this for so long and in the past few years have struggled to keep hold of it. I am praying to be observant on how to restore some of what was lost and not give up hope for a comfortable togetherness again.

The shift was not easy to miss. It has been dramatic and painful. But God has been restoring my hope in renewed connections.

He does seem slow a lot of the time, right?! Trusting slow work can be hard for me.

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