From Boys to Men
I, Peter Glenn Allan am the only son of my father, James Glenn Allan, who is the
only son of Marshall Glenn Allan. I am the father to Jackson Douglas Glenn Allan and Jesse Alexander Allan.
I am thinking of my dad today on Father’s Day of course. He just turned 92. I never knew my dad‘s dad who died before I was born. I don’t know a lot about Marshall really. And so it goes…
On Father’s Day, dads inevitably check in on how we are doing both as a father and as a son. I remember as a teenager that I consciously tried to be a dutiful son. In my early teens, so much of what I tried to accomplish was meant to garner my father’s approval. Personal history will show that this became of very little significance by the age of 15 or 16.
Life on the homefront was rather turbulent shall we say, and I left home at 17. There is of course a fated inevitability in all of this. This pivotal transition of my life was that of moving from boyhood to manhood. Our two sons are in this very stage now and all of it happened in the blink of an eye. And so it goes…
I had breakfast in a restaurant with my youngest son a few weeks ago, which I always enjoy. We talked about a lot of things including our relationship. I asked him whether he had noticed that my parenting had changed a little bit. Evolved. I shared that there was no manual for being a dad. For me it has definitely been a learn-as-you-go, on the job training experience and significantly, a real openness to absorb innate parenting wisdom from his mother. I remember my uncle Jack sharing that human evolution is based on the belief that the next generation will be “better” than the previous. The hope is that the male of our species becomes more emotionally intelligent, and more nurturing of our children and our planet. And so it goes…
I was thinking out loud in the pages of my journal. What if the great spirit commanded me to write this manual of fatherhood? What would be the simple truths found in its pages? I will turn 65 years of age shortly and in the blink of an eye become a senior citizen- perhaps the equivalent of an elder such as I am. Although age never does ensure wisdom maybe there are a few notions, a few pearls that I could summarize for my teenage sons.
Here are the journal entries for the recipe book “Simple truths for dads, an operator’s manual” …
Read to your children.
This was a nightly ritual for the first dozen years of their lives. It gave me so much pleasure and I think it has an overall positive effect.
Role model a loving relationship with your partner.
If you are fortunate enough in this life to be parenting with your soulmate, demonstrate love and respect daily. (If you are not with your partner, still, demonstrate love and respect daily.)
Be present and spend time with your children.
Life is busy. There are so many responsibilities and things to preoccupy and draw you away. I purposely designed my life to be a present dad, to change the diapers and make the meals, to attend every sporting event, to create adventures. I know this to be a privilege. Show up.
One of the greatest accomplishments of my life is to have learned how to listen. My wife Lynda has taught me much in this regard. Active listening is how we learn as individuals and also how we teach. I am not a father who pontificates or sermonizes, but I hope I am one who teaches by example and as a stalwart role model.
I have truly tried to be affirmative, positive and say yes to our sons. We do of course impart to our kids our version of what is right and wrong. We discipline and provide direction, a container of safety from a place of love. As our boys become men, the yes’s become more frequent and yet at the same time, less relevant in a way.
As a child I hold a vivid and visceral memory of playing on the living room floor with my father and being scratched on my tender skin by his weekend beard when we knocked together. This was shocking to me then.
It was one of the few times in my life when our faces came together. That was then and this is now. In this age of sensitive New Age men, most of us are demonstrable in our affection for our children. Hug. Hug again.
Share a meal together every day.
When I left home I enjoyed hosting people for dinner and quickly became dubbed “chef Pierre”. I appreciated early the enrichment found in breaking bread with others. I also intuitively understood how love could be transmitted through the cooking and sharing of a meal.
A candlelight dinner has been a sacrosanct element of our life together as a family every single day. We know this to be a privilege and we know that research shows that this practice leads to significant outcomes in child rearing. Powerful. It is easy to get tossed away but this we commit to irrevocably.
So, thanks for listening as I share some of my thoughts as an older dad. These simple truths would have stayed in the pages of my journal except I was called forth to reflect on Father’s Day as I have in years past.