Leaves have begun to slip into their brilliant autumn oranges, reds, and browns, and temperatures are dipping as low as the upper 30s at night.
We are coming off our first Father/Son Weekend of the Fall, and what a weekend it was. On Friday, program director Justin Bennett and I led a climbing trip to Table Rock in the Linville Gorge with a van full of boys and their fathers. An afternoon in such a beautiful setting marked a strong start to the weekend.
On Saturday morning, dressed in pants and our warmest sweatshirts, we shared a meal together on the porch of Eden Hall followed by songs and reflection during morning watch. I shared a story with the group of 200 fathers, sons, and staff about my own father and the way he chose to join me in pursuing my passions not because they were his passions too but simply because he wanted to spend time with me.
This story began when I was 11 years old and obsessed with whitewater kayaking. My dad decided to learn how to kayak with me so that we could share quality time together, though at the time I thought it was just because he also wanted to go kayaking. On a cool fall day in Tennessee, we found ourselves on class III rapid “Radio Tower” on the Nolichucky River. My dad’s kayak flipped over and he swam the rest of the rapid, bouncing off rocks as he went. By the time we got to the takeout, he had a bruise the size of a softball on his thigh, and I remember noticing that he looked a little shaken up. Nevertheless, he continued to kayak with me for years to come.
My Dad’s kayaking days are now behind him, though he still gets out on the river with my family and me in a raft or inflatable ducky.
This past week, I found myself working on a project that 11-year-old me would have hated, but that my dad would love: wiring up my truck topper lights. Unable to make headway, I gave my dad a call for help. In this beautiful moment, I realized that our interests had finally met in common.
My dad’s willingness to sacrifice his own interests for mine strengthened our bond in a way that will never be broken, and it now brings both of us joy to work on projects together.
I finished this morning watch talk with the following calls to action from the fathers and sons:
For sons: Listen to your dad: Even if it’s not interesting now, you will love the things he teaches you down the line. Dads are smart and will have answers for you long after you grow up.
For fathers: As a son, I implore you to listen to your own sons. Excite in what brings them joy, and let them lead. There will come a day when you and your son’s interests meet organically, and maybe even a day when he pretends to be interested in something just to spend time with you.