We never get over our fathers, and we’re not required to (Irish Proverb).1
The father son adventure is easy to define if it is simply about finding activities that you and your son can do together. Yet there must be a transcendent quality about those experiences if we are to admit that they have any value.
Mike Haddorff, director of Christ in the Rockies, defines the father son adventure as the relationship between a father and son over the course of a lifetime, including the pain, good times, and bad times. “It is called an adventure,” says Haddorff, “because it has an implied destination. It is hopefully going somewhere.” Where is it going? “The destination is becoming the men who we’re supposed to be,” he says, “It is done in a community and the primary relationship there is of the father and son.” The father and the son share an adventure. They share a story. The story is made from their individual stories and is woven together over time.
The Shared Story
The relationship between the father and son is a prevalent theme in much of our literature, ancient, classic, and contemporary. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for example, depicts a young man driven to extremes. Yet all of Hamlet’s actions can be linked to how his father’s murder has affected him.
Richard Ford’s “Calling” is a much more recent example. This piece is the story of a son (Buck) and his relationship to his father. At the time of the story’s events, Buck’s father affects him in ways that Buck is probably unaware. Buck observes his father and ultimately struggles to accept him but the impact Buck’s father has on Buck is undeniable.
The Impact of the Father
An absent father is an all too common problem in today’s culture. The National Fatherhood Initiative summarizes various studies that sought to measure the affects of what they call the “father factor.” According to these studies, children who had more involved fathers functioned better socially, emotionally, and academically. They had fewer behavior-related problems and apparently scored higher on reading achievement.2
If this is true, the opposite is probably also true. Children with less involved or absent fathers are probably disadvantaged in the same areas as above. Thus, the impact a father has on his son, whether for good or bad, is great.
A Linked Destiny
If the father is absent the impact that he has on his son’s life is not diminished, nor is the son’s curiosity about his father. To use and example from film, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars IV, V, and VI is a young man searching for his real destiny, a destiny that is cosmically linked to his father.
When Luke learns that Yoda once knew his father he can hardly contain himself and implores Yoda to tell him more. The more Luke discovers about his father throughout the films, the more Luke understands about his own adventure. Sons want to find out who their fathers really are because somehow they know it affects them in their adventure.
Haddorff says that he was always interested in the stories about his dad. “At first, it was about what my dad did,” he says, “later it became about who he was because I saw how that affected the man I was becoming.” He commented that he began to recognize the connection that his father’s story had to his own, that who his father was affected who he was.
The Longing of the Son
“Sons naturally desire to be recognized and validated by their dads,” says Haddorff, “and if they don’t get it, they look elsewhere. Haddorff goes on to say that nothing can compare to a father’s validation and that sons keep coming back to their dads if they don’t get his validation.
The link between the story of the father and the son exists even in the absence of the other. Fathers and sons are playing an active part in the father son adventure. They are writing a shared story. Each has a part to play. Every action and word further develops the plot. It may never be neat and tidy but it is always real and undeniably unique.
1. Taken from Martin Sheen’s Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son
2. The National Fatherhood Initiative. http://www.fatherhood.org/media/consequences-of-father-absence-statistics.