Per one of our Training Ground alumni, I just finished watching an episode of “Master of None” on Netflix. Aziz Ansari and one of his buddies walk through the process of understanding what their parents went through to get to this country. Aziz and his friend are first generation immigrants that live in relationships with fathers that are pretty tight lipped with them about the prices they paid to get them a better life in the States.
It’s not hard to think about my relationship with my dad. It made me think of some stories of my own. As I was growing up as a little boy my dad really never took me to the side and shared his story with me. I can remember I’d go fishing with him and his friends, we would be sitting around the fire and out of his mouth came all these stories of his youth, of adventure and friendships that I never heard. All I knew of my dad was he got up early, went to work, came home late. My dad as a teenager? Nope. I honestly thought my dad was born an adult. Maybe part of that was true as all I really knew was as a younger man he worked a lot on the naval dairy farms in Maryland with his family.
There is a scene in that episode where Aziz asks his parents what they did for fun, they responded by saying they worked. I heard that a lot. Really? That’s what you did for fun? Worked?
Part of the equation that wasn’t helpful was that my dad worked for “The Agency”, yes the CIA. So not only did he work at a job an hour away, the man was actually sworn to secrecy about what he did to put food on the table. Not helpful.
I can remember a time in college where some of my close friends would come over to my parents to hang. We would have a couple beers and my dad would stick around for a bit and drink a couple as well. It didn’t take long before my buddies would be asking him questions about his life, and out of his mouth would come these stories I never heard. My friends thought my dad was the best. I can remember sitting there with my mouth wide open, thinking, “I have wanted to know these stories my whole life”. It felt so weird, like my dad felt more comfortable telling those stories to my friends, not trusting them with me. But the stories were so good, all I could do was listen. They were full of risk and a process of maturing that I was unaware of.
Bottom line for me? We are in desperate need to hear our father's stories. We need to know what it was like for them to date our mothers. What was their first job like? What was their relationship with their dad like? Friendships? School? All of things we need to hear from our father’s mouth. As sons, they mean something; they encourage us in our own personal struggles. They help us continue to fight for good things.
The takeaway is this; sons, ask your fathers for their stories and be persistent about it. Fathers, don’t hold those stories back from your sons. They are life giving and will change your son's life.