I was at the new Melbourne Wholesale Markets in Epping last Thursday morning when I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen for a while. He has four children from his first marriage and his current partner has four children from her first marriage. He told me that they’re about to have a baby making it nine kids in all. I asked him, being the most fathered-up person I knew, what his approach to raising kids was. Stumped for an answer he said, “Gee I don’t know”. But he thought for a bit and told me that he was in his garden during the week fertilising his bulbs and said it was exactly the same with kids, “What you put in is what you get out.”
Hands-up if you had an emotionally distant father? It’s as standard a childhood experience as riding down to the pool with seven other kids in the back of a Kingswood station wagon. And instead of paddle pops and sunburn it manifests itself in all kinds of charming behaviours – the endless searches for meaning, the destructive attention seeking, various addictions, fear of attachments, fear of losing attachments and then all the trips to expensive therapists who have possibly only studied psychology to deal with their own “dad issues” in the first place. Sure this isn’t core Fair Food business (I’ll get back to that next week I promise) but before we take care of our food system we have to take care of our kids.
Father’s Day at our house usually involves getting woken up very early by eager gift bearers wanting to get stuck into the homemade rocky road they brought from the school Father’s Day stall. It usually extends to breakfast and that’s about it but lately it’s occurring to me that fathering goes beyond family, beyond Father’s Day. At CERES I see a stream of adults in their 20’s wanting/looking for a meaningful direction to point themselves in, I see lost kids in my community who’s families are really struggling to hold things together and a world where children are washing up on beaches while our leaders work their hardest to deny the fatherly instincts we know they have deep down.
There are opportunities in our community to be a father – small and large. We don’t need to be a blood relative or even a man – a friend of my mum’s took an interest in me as a teenager and looking back I realise for a couple of years she did a pretty good job of being my dad. And when I say fathering I’m not just talking about the kind of unfiltered boosterism that gets kids thinking they’re “the chosen one” (though a bit of praise can go a long way). No from time-to-time fathering means delivering a metaphorical kick in the pants when our “kid” is doing their best to fully embrace their inner dickhead. A friend of mine recently shared a saying – love is spelt t.i.m.e – a bit corny but true enough. (Cue – Whitney Houston, Greatest love of All)