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Fathers And Sons

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This article was run a short time ago in the SEED. We are reprinting it in hopes that people will begin to view children for what they are - human beings. We must remember that 'kids are only newer psople. ' This article is also important in that it shows the roles that men are conditioneel for and that that role is oppressive in that men are limited, by society's role definition, in how they can relate to people. . . check it out. . . SUN Staff. I was a child dreams ago playing 4yr. old sex games behind couches fantas ies with pear trees wanting to work in the fields with my father feeling a certain security. Juan says, the problem with some pare:its is they forget they were ever children. We remember wrongly: remember the discipline as model for the care of our own children but dream som e happy sensual pleasure Mother's womb romanticism of carefrec days bclorc wc had to work study & kill. Rama is 3 12 years old. Already I romaiiticize his babyhood. wish to live again the swell in Evelyne'a belly. hold the litlle 7 lb. 3 oz. o.ic day old baby in the hospital, give iiim his toys in the crib, smile coo laugh and bubble. takc our first bath together again blue whale swimming in the tub with us small child resting and climbing o.i my bslly supported lightly in my crotch, read mornings while his mother is working and Rama plays contentedly on the carpeted floor, carry him on my back to the lake to take pictures, watch. listen, play, care. Taking care of kids is a drag doing it all the time. Rama cries to be fed, whines for attention, while 1 read, spills milk dirties diapers, always there small fragile helplcss. And I, as other pare its, begon lo resent him. feit keenly the rcspo.isibility of raising him, the constant demande lnsecuritiea, work. Rcsi'nted his needs (what I understood oí the.ii) when they impinged on my own. I'vc wanied to bc a teacher since highschool. Feit my identity in reading & being callcd intelligent, ego bolstcred by scholarships and a-.vards. independence froji my own parents secured by going awa to school when t was twenty (had lo oommute to college until then), power feit in informatio-i and in passing o.! information. Wanted to be a college teacher: organizo ideas, feel important, good money and .ïours. I liked kids. most people say that. likcd to play with my nephews. but I thoagnt I was too intelligent to waste my time taking care of them. Got books to read & faiitasics of books to write: Last November when 1 returned from i weeks in New York I realized Rama was fucked up. He was vcry insecure in being separated first for 3 months from his mother in the summer and thevi from me in the f all. He was the only child in a commune with 9 adulta. Demanded; whined: cried. My first respu.ise was fo put him in a good daycare center where he would be with othor kids & with adults who wanted to bc with kids. But I couldn't find a good daycare center. It was then that I began thinking about working with young children, began thinking about helping start a good daycare program. Most men are deprived in not relating to children regularly: many women are oppressed on the other hand by needing to be vvith their children all the time. by being defined as one who takes care oí children. We expect women to be tender, sensitivo, warm with children. Bat we have no similar expectations for men. We e:;pect fathers to be strong, providing, disciplined; mothers to be loving, accepting. receptive. Soldiers: nurses. Boys to play with cars and guns. Girls to play doll. It is no accident that men become callous, rough, inconsiderate. Mother respo.iding to a child: the child cries, she holds him closoly, caresses him, spoaks softly, cornforting. Father at work or in a meeting, frustrated with a machine, arguing, powerful or powerless. Erich FiOinm: "Mother is warmth, mother is food, mothor is the euphoric state of satisfaction and security. .Motherly love by its very aature is unconditional. Mother loves the newborn baby becauee it is her child, not because the child has fulfilled any specific condition, or lived up to any specific expectation. . . Father represents the world of thought, of man-made things, of law and order, of discipline, of travel, and adventure. Father is the one who teaches the child, who shows him the road into the world. . V_ Fathcrly love is conditional love. . . it has to be descrved. . . o'oedience becomes the inain virtue. " Society's bullshit. Men are deprived in not giving unqualified love to a child, loving someone without expectations. Men are deprived in not receiving the imqualified love of a child. Men are deprived of tenderness. Men are deprived of learning to respond to the needs of another human bcin,. Men are deprived by their own choice: it is a male society. Vho wants to take care of children? WTio wants to play doll? Excepl that the choice is no longer a real choice: we had no models when we were growing up of men who loved Utking care of cliildren. We have learncd to fear our fathers and to imitate them. Christmas day. Rama & I leave early in the morning for ten days at a farm in Wisconsin. Conversation before leaving with his niotiier makes it clear that she now expeets me to be the primary adult iii Rami's life. I am alone with a child: I am mother. The adults on the farm likc children: Ihey will read to him, play with him, but he is my responsibility. I enjoycd laking care of him most of the time at the farm, bul I resented his insecurity. He cricd when 1 left the house without him: lu crled violcntly when I rode the horse. But there were lovely times oL pitting him to bed, mak ing up fantasy stories. playing songs o.i the banjo, hugging him good-night, and later climbinj to bed with him. There were good times playing ojtsidc or when chopping wood he asked to help me struggling to carry the pieees I choppcd to the pile playing and being careful not to get in the way of the sharp oxe. But mostly I resented his dependency o.i me. Wake up one morning to the smell of shit. Rama has shit in his pajamas and the shit is smeared all over him and the blankets. It is early morning, cold. Rama is crying pathetically. He prooably shit in bed (something he hasn't done in nearly a y ear) because he wants me to takc care of him, he is sad that I resent him. We go to the kitchen, everyone elsc is sleeping, there is no water in the house, got to get dressed and go outside for water, got to light the kitchen fire to heat the water before I can clean him, he stands there shivering, sorry, afraid of my reactions, crying. Finaliy lic is cleaned and qulet. But I am so thoughtless that I relate the incident at break - fast and Rama feels very ashamed. Later in the morning when someone else is putting on his sweater to takc him along to town he says that his arm is hurí. For hours he cries anyümc anyone touches his arm. He refuses to move his arm. I am positive his arm isn't hurt physically but the pain is real. I am now vcry much afraid of what insecurity he musí fecl that he uses such despar ate ways to commiurcate. Will he ever use his arm again? Hours pass. I assure !iim that I know his arm hurts. I ask him if he is afraid I would break my arm if I rode Jie horse. (Who will take care of me if Dadily gets badly hurt riding a horse?) Wc go tobagonning; I give in to his whining, holding him and comforting him; I express concern for the pain hc feels and suggest going to the doctor. Finaliy in the evening while explaining what a circle is he moves his arm in a circle. Fifteen minutes later he says, Mark. my arm doesn't hurt anymore. I ara no lo-iger desparate, but committcd to relate to his needs in a better way tlian before . The next day I take some mescaline. For an hour we play in our bed a beaver fantasy; baby beaver. I am in touch with him, his face is real, I feel with him. Then later walk ing alone in the snow seeing my steps beidnd me feoling things no one wUl ever share with me hearing the delicate sound of young trees full of snow as ! shake and ride them. I hear a wild barking of hounds and am afraid, I feel alone with myself. I feel alone with Rama. And un swiftly home to be with him again climbing a steep cliff in front of the house heart bcating wildly grabbing trees sliding desparately to get home. I had decided to relate to Rama, not out of responsibility but out of the joy I feit with him. I realized that I would be taking care of him for rnany years to come; this coald be either a chore or a growing experience. I decided to listen to children. And to be the child within me.. . Now mid-April I work with. read about, caress, dream about, listen to, fantasize, enjoy children. In January I got a job at the Hyde Park Altérnate School where I now spend 4 days a week with 8 children ages 5 to 9. Sev'eral months later my nephew Jan carne to live at our commune till summer. And ccntly I'vc Ijceomc Invoivod with otlicrs in planning for a tice school in Linco'n Park for this fall. !'vc bccouic much more comforta'jlo being with children, more confidciU in my porceptions, more alert to Iheir noeds. My decisión to bc with childrcn has íiot worked magie for me, but it has made possiblc new undorstandings. John Holt. HOW CHILDREN LEARN: "My aim in writing this book is nol prirnarily lo persuade educators and psychologists to swap ncw doctrines for olcl. but to persuade them to look at children, patienüy, repeatedly, rcspectfully, and to hold off making theories and judgements about them uiitil thcy have in thcir minds what mos! of them do noi. ncw have - a reasonably accurate mode' of what children are like. " At school I am learning to listen to children. Instead of coming in the morning with plans for what I want them to do (leara), I try instead to be present as a real person who cares but does not manipúlate. Why should I have them perform a play T or someone else has written, when they enjoy much -nore working out their own fantasy plays, and when I can learn what they really are interested in by watching them? Why should I decide what level of reading they should be at, when they have a very clear idea of when they want to read and when they want to fight or hide or work with batteries r figure out a pulley? But I don't watch as an outsider; I watch either as a participant in their activities or while doing what I want to do. And they watch me, too. and sometimes join me in what I do. Holt: "What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and the classroom, give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest. " Last siunmcr aiid fall I was very co.nscious of the initiative I--and other men --take with women, realizing that an ho.icst rclationship is not possible when one person is always demanding, initiating, acting while the other is waiting, listening, yielding. Now I sec this also is true for honest adult-child relationships. How can an adult listen to a child's real needs when the adult is so eager to teach, correct and program a child's development? I am appaled at how eager adults are to correct children; they are eager to teil ns something someone has teached them, and we forget what they are telling us and say "taught"; they teil us how a car works and we forget the enthusiasm and correct some detail. It seems adults want the power of being fathers, the power of knowing everything, the power to counter the structures in childrea6' minds with our own superior structures, the power to make children quiet, stuttering, afraid of their powers, obedient, docile, bored with the world. It is no accident that children can learn a language quicker than we. For our own aliveness has been thwarted !jy pedantry. We resent the p'.easure children feel in learning about the world, and try to restrict them with our own "realities. " The two roles I most identified myself with last year--father and teacher--I aai trying to tree myself fraai now. I cannot be a mother, although I have feit many things that mothers feel, and though I have fantasized bearing and nursing a child. But I can love a child unco.iditionally, without expectations. Being a man with children does not mean being a father. And being a man can mean tenderness, warmth, receptiveness, listening, home, care, instead of strength, authority, work, information, and power.