Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

June 19, 2011

Fathers – Life’s Best Bungee Cords

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 3:09 pm
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For a recent family trip, with keen awareness that our children are no longer small enough to drive nine hours with suitcases at their feet, we needed to strap some bags to the roof of the van.  We managed it with the help of an assortment of bungee cords, those elasticized ropes of varying sizes and colors with hooks on either end.  Winding them around the roof rack and our luggage, stretching them well beyond what seemed possible, and marveling at their elegant simplicity would have been enough to inspire me for a father’s day reflection.  What clinched it, however, was how easily and naturally the bungee cords relaxed back to their shorter length when we were done with them.

Fathers are a unique and special breed.  They come in so many different sizes and types, but like bungee cords, they have remarkable strength when you need them.  With their power to pull or tie things together, fathers give us the great gift of security and comfort, just in knowing they are there.  And, just as bungee cords can wind and snake through small and large spaces, fathers wind themselves around and through so many areas of our lives – making their mark on all our experiences.  Recent research on father’s rough-housing with their children underscored the importance of what men bring to play in children’s lives.  Years ago, I heard the prominent pediatrician and author T. Berry Brazelton explain that mothers, tired of having the baby rough-house in their internal playground for 9 months, were more delicate with children; whereas fathers were happy to be human
slides, swings and trampolines!

On the outside, a bungee cord doesn’t seem like much.  No moving parts, no fancy motors.  Dads too, can be deceptively simple.  They don’t always wear their emotions on the outside, like Moms tend to do.  Their language may be free of  flowery sentiment.  Like the bungee cord, they may seem tightly wrapped and compact.  Test a dad’s love for his children, however, and you will see him stretch and grow in miraculous ways, and display a strength that rivals any mother lioness defending her cubs.

We arrived at our destination safe and sound, and removed the bags from the roof rack.  Despite a myriad of moths, bugs and other road dirt caked into their fabric, they, and we, were no worse for the wear.  And those bungee cords, that stretched strong and firm for hundreds of miles, immediately shrunk and were squirreled away in their pack for the next time.  Dads are so good at being there when we need them, and too often, they and we are too good at letting them blend into the background of our daily lives.

In the father department, I’ve been blessed with some amazing bungee cords.  My dad, the inspiration for this blog who taught me that everything in life in easier when you have the right tool, is himself, the best tool any child could ask for. His strength, wisdom, and flexibility means so much to our family.  If he were a bungee cord, he would be a brightly colored one, to match his outward snappy style, and to hint at the fun and funny man inside, who knows the value of a good laugh.  I worry that, as the years challenge him, and some strengths wane, that he will feel de-valued.  I hope he knows that having him woven through our lives is a gift beyond gifts, and that we see in him always, the strength and love that holds us firm.

We lost my father-in-law several years ago, but not a day goes by without my appreciating the gift he gave our family, through the father my husband is.  If my father in law was a bungee cord, he would be a sophisticated one, one that would deny bungee cord physical laws and stand proud and straight, just as the lawyer he was- forthright and beyond ethical.  But like all bungees, he would be flexible.  He could surprise you with his twinkling grin, or his fierce warmth.

The father most present in my life now is my husband, the man with whom I share my life and my parenting.  If he were a bungee cord he would be a chameleon, changing into whatever color our family needed him to be.  He is at once cheer-leader, critic, teacher, banker, strategic planner, spiritual advisor, and comedian.  He keeps us on the straight and narrow, and helps us to meander in all the right and meaningful ways.  He inserts love and laughter in our days, happily making jokes, and a bit less happily being joked about, as all fathers are. Nothing defines him more or better than being the father to our sons, his “boys” turned men, growing in ways that do him honor and bring him joy.

I hope everyone is as lucky to have had the wonderful examples of bungee cord fathers as I am and have been.  On this father’s day, while we let the dads of the world relax, let’s not let them shrink away after we make them breakfast in bed, or take them to dinner.  Like the ends of the bungee cords, fitted with curved hooks that keep them firmly attached, lets connect and reconnect to dads.  For all the times they keep us safe, facilitate our travels, and weave themselves in and out of our days, let’s hook our fathers into our lives, and hold on to them with strength and determination equal to theirs.

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