Workshops offer advice on how to be a dad

Many moons ago I was dating a single mom I will call “Carmen.” Carmen’s son “R.J.,” who aged 6 to 10 years while I was in the picture.

By Stu Salkfeld

Many moons ago I was dating a single mom I will call “Carmen.” Carmen’s son “R.J.,” who aged 6 to 10 years while I was in the picture, and I got along very well. R.J. and I became friends, and although I never considered myself a “kid” person, we probably clicked because I tend to behave in a juvenile manner.

R.J. had a problem. He didn’t know how to ride a bike, even though he really wanted to. I’m not sure why he didn’t have the skill; he had a father, mother and older sister, plus aunts, uncles and cousins who could all help him learn.

My girlfriend’s ex-husband, the Dad, told R.J. that he would reward his son with a Playstation video game console if R.J.learned how to ride a bike. This blew me away. I thought dads were supposed to do things with their kids, such as teach them to ride a bike and show a boy how to be a man. There are all kinds of things wrong with this “deal,” including the absence of a dad from a kid’s life, the fact that such an offer tells the kid Dad isn’t interested in the kid’s life and that bribes can take the place of parenting. I took it on myself to help R.J. learn how to ride a bike.

I was reminded of this episode of my life this past week when I saw a course promoted on a few websites in the area: the Kid’nection Workshop. It’s described as, “(a workshop that) will provide information for fathers about a dad’s role and their relationship with their kids.” Now, I’m not saying I have a problem with a class that teaches fathers that they should behave like fathers. What I have a problem with is that a workshop like this is needed in the first place. Are some Alberta fathers neglecting their responsibilities?

The workshop was offered in Leduc by the Alberta Father Involvement Initiative, an organization I’d never heard of.According to their website, “With the direction from the Alberta Network for Safe and Healthy Children, the Alberta Home Visitation Network and Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Father Involvement Initiative continues its plan. This plan works on increasing the awareness of the initiative and will assist fathers and service providers with resource and training development.” On the AFII website, a recent research project, the Alberta Men’s Survey, was mentioned. Then things started to make sense.

The men’s survey was conducted last year by some U of C folks, gathering input from men around Alberta. The AFII stated the survey has “the goal of better understanding what men need in order to develop and maintain healthy relationships free of violence and abuse, and healthy personal well-being.”

It’s no secret Alberta has a domestic violence problem that spans age, income, race religion or other demographics. On theEdmonton Police Service website it’s stated “As of December 31, 2014, there were approximately 7,849 events throughout the city that had a domestic violence component.” That’s just one year in one city.

Further, results of the survey are available online at albertamen.com. They are quite eye opening. The responses were tabulated from 2,425 Alberta men who responded to the survey. When asked “Do men sometimes need support for their own well-being and to have healthy relationships?,” 96 per cent said “Yes.” However, nearly three out of four who responded said they don’t know of available services and supports in their community that help men with personal well-being and relationship issues. Nearly one in three men said societal/cultural expectations about being a man would prevent them from accessing support anyway. There was also information about how finances, family conflict, addictions and unsatisfactory career were keep some men from personal well-being.

Kudos to those organizing the Kid’nection Workshop, and hopefully other programs like it to help fellows who need some advice. And if some guy down the street doesn’t like it, to hell with him.

Stu Salkeld is the editor of the Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.