Monday, May 21, 2012

Tribute to Dads - June Unschooling Blog Carnival

I worked on this off and on all month (May). I was trying to be thoughtful, introspective, meaningful, blah, blah, blah, but it just kept coming out as superficial, egotistical drivel. So I sent the whole thing to the bit bucket and started over.

So here's a tribute I wrote for my dad for Father's Day a couple of years ago. I love you, dad, and I still miss you terribly.

My first thought on this day is about my dad, who just died this past January [2009]. He set me on the path to where I am and set an example greatly to be admired and emulated. No, he wasn't an unschooler. He was a somewhat traditional 50s dad; but within that context, he practiced many of the principles which we embody as unschoolers. He always listened. He thought before he spoke and said meaningful things, for which he established reasoned arguments. He was always respectful to me and my beliefs, even when we disagreed. I loved him and love him still and miss him intensely, especially today.

Despite an untraumatic, even pleasant, family upbringing, I was a broken child and young adult. I still am to some extent but I've healed over the years and my wife, my kids, and my unschooling "tribe" have helped me immensely in that. Moreso than years of expensive shrinks, although they did get me to a reasonable starting point.

Deciding to be a father was a very difficult thing for me. I thought of myself as broken and inept and imagined, and feared, just how terrible I'd be as a parent. I was desperately intimidated; but we did it anyway, mostly because I had infinite faith in Ronnie's ability to be a fabulous mom and help me be a (hopefully) competent dad.

The early years were tough but I definitely had that instant gestalt the moment our eldest, MJ, popped out. Same with Chloe when she arrived. They were mine and I was theirs and that was infinite and eternal. We always leaned in the unschoolish direction with attachment parenting, family bed, etc.; but we were fumbling around a lot, too. As we discovered the principles of unschooling and waded deeper and deeper into that ocean, things improved more and more.

Just as unschooling is, for us, more of a weltanschauung than merely an educational philosophy, being a father is more than just having children. To me, it means being a husband and partner to my exquisite wife, Ronnie. We're a team. It certainly means being a father to my girls. We're a team. The four of us together comprise another variant on the team theme.

Being a father also means participating in, and belonging to, the world around me and not just sitting quietly, being an observer. I have learned from my family and blossomed within my own inner geography as much as the kids have blossomed and grown into the wide world around them. As with most kinds of growth, it's difficult to see the changes on a daily or short-term basis. It's when you look back over a longer period that you really see, and are amazed by, the amount of growth that has happened.

My critical observation in that context for this Father's Day is that it was just this year that I finally looked at myself and my place in our family and decided that I really was no longer a broken thing, limping through life, hoping to simply make it to death without fucking up incredibly badly. I had been that very thing once upon a time; but objectively, it had been a LONG time since I had actually been that sad creature. It was only inside my own self-image that that entity still existed. My wife and children had healed me and I didn't even realize it.

So, this Father's Day, I am thankful to be the husband of Ronnie, father of MJ and Chloe, and a functional member of a nonpareil family. They are the ones who made me a father, not only in the limited, dictionary-level meaning of the word but also in the broader context of being a fellow traveller with them on the Great Road of Life.

Like T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland, I began in the dolorous state of my birth month as "April is the cruellest month" and expected to become J. Alfred Prufrock but finally wound up back at the end of The Wasteland in the peace which surpasseth all understanding: "Shantih, shantih, shantih!" Who'd'a thunk it?


  1. This is a touching and lovely post. Thank you for sharing.

    "[H]oping to simply make it to death without fucking up incredibly badly." made me laugh OUT LOUD. Thank you!

  2. Kelly, darlin', that's been my life default. I think I'm maybe a bit more optimistic and far-reaching in my life goals nowadays.

  3. Frank, I love reading your posts because they move me emotionally and intellectually; I'm always opening windows to look up the latest German word, to recall poems I haven't touched on in a while. Thank you.

  4. Hi, Jen,

    Thanks for your lovely comments. Glad you liked it.

  5. OK, yarp, here's mine.

  6. Kelly, I just read yours. Very beautiful. A lovely tribute.

  7. Thank you. I look forward to reading the others!

  8. Nice post. It gives me hope to know there are Dads out there who really "get" being a Dad.

  9. Wonderful post Frank,, This is great glimpse into your life. Thanks so much for sharing with the Carnival!

  10. Cap'n, those are lovely, lovely words that made another Dad across the pond blub and rejoice in equal measures. Amen

  11. Glad you liked it, Anonymous. Do I know you, either directly or indirectly? Just curious.