Sometimes, hard as it is to believe, a mom is one parent too many. When a dad spends time alone with a son – especially during that small window when the boy is still forming his sense of self – the father gets a unique opportunity to pass down his values.
It’s not just old-fashioned wisdom that says dads and sons need time alone. Child-development experts agree one-on-one time has multiple benefits.
Dr. Luisa Lohner, a psychiatrist who treats both adults and children, said sons who spend time alone with their dads learn to establish trust, which leads to a deeper sense of security to explore and be curious.
“Moms tend to be more protective, while dads encourage kids to be more independent,” she said.
Now age 15, Marshall Mucasey said time spent with his dad, Mark, on their biking and camping excursions “has led to my respect of my dad not just as a parent, but also a friend.”
A state finalist in the “Letters about Literature” essay contest, Marshall wrote: “When I was little, my father would go to the bookshelf in my room, pick up one of the 15 volumes of [Charlie Brown’s] ‘Cyclopedia’ and lie down in bed next to me…. Those nights lying in bed next to my dad and reading what Charlie and his friends had to tell us were not only the start of my fascination with science, but were bonding experiences between us. These experiences would lead to years of enjoying life and its adventures alongside my dad, doing activities we both love, exploring the world and answering its questions.”
When Mark’s friend, John Loughran, invited the pair to accompany him and his son, Matt, 15, on their annual trip to Yellowstone National Park, the Mucaseys couldn’t pack quickly enough. They would be joining a deep-rooted tradition. John had been making the 3-day drive (“1,780 miles to be exact”) since Matt was about six.
“You learn a lot about your dad when you are driving that long in the car,” said Matt. His dad said the total of six days driving is worth it. “We have unhurried time to talk about where he wants to go to college one day, what type of jobs he’d like to have. We’ve also had opportunities to take in some amazing sights, such as the Grand Canyon and the craters in New Mexico,” John said.
Another man who has found ways to share his love of the outdoors with his sons is George More, father of seven-year-old twins, Chase and Mills.
“The first part of having these kids was fun, but really the easy part,” George said. “Growing them to be men is the part that is rewarding and my quest to insure that they take our family name and ethics, and make their place in the world.”
George admits that, like most dads, taking time for family is often a challenge. But then he reflects on his own special father-son time spent working with his dad on projects.
“The time spent with my dad in his shop gave me confidence that no task was insurmountable if we stayed focused. The skills I took away from our time included math solving, design work, mechanical work, and paint and varnish,” said George. “I also wanted to show the twins the satisfaction that accompanies time spent refurbishing something.”
Passionate about the sea, the three Mores spend weekends working on a 15-foot Boston Whaler that needs to be brought back to life.
Originally from Syria, Shahem Barazi wanted to share his Muslim and Arabic culture with his two older sons, Keenan, 14, and Zaid, 16. The three embarked on a whirlwind trip of the Middle East last summer, visiting eight cities in 20 days.
“The fact that they were with just me gave me the opportunity to answer their questions with my full attention,” said Shahem. “We spoke Arabic, and it was nice for them to meet my family and friends and see where I came from.”
An elaborate trip overseas is not always necessary to find one-on-one time. The youngest Barazi, Talal, 10, enjoyed camping with Shahem when his Boy Scout troop set up tents in a friend’s backyard. That one night, with his father beside him with no phone interruptions, was special.
In today’s short-attention-span society, with Blackberries buzzing and video games beckoning, it can be hard to slow down and spend time, one-on-one, with the people we care about the most. This Father’s Day, perhaps the best gift of all – for Dad or son – would be doing just that.