A Father and a Fencepost
By Andrew Kneisler, Blue Valley Southwest High School Chapter Co-Chair
During a recent men’s retreat with a dozen men, I spent some quality time around a campfire sharing. I could hear fish flipping in the background, as I shared my story about my life with other fathers. The analogy that kept coming up was an image of a fence line marked by “fenceposts”. These symbolic fenceposts included people, events and places that held me and directed my life — making me into the man I am today. Looking back on each fencepost I noticed how faith was tying the fenceposts together to shore up all these moments and to bring me to where I am today.
I was honored to be known by these men, as we took turns sharing each independently about our own fencepost stories. I was excited and comforted to hear each man highlight their own father in their fencepost stories. Whether good or bad, “my dad…” was a consistent theme as men shared their stories that night.
My dad passed away in 2019. His lasting effects are still impacting the way I live today, as a father to my four kids and as a person in relationship with those kids — Some good and some bad.
I rarely wished I had a different dad, but I did at times become angry that he didn’t act differently. What I have discovered is that my dad was the classic “enabler”. In my teenage years, my mom was a severe alcoholic and her behavior was supported, re-enforced and allowed by my dad. That is why in the world of addiction, my dad’s behavior is called “enabling”. As a child, I saw it as loving and learned a version of what I thought is “love”. Today, I’m still affected by this “Dad’s perspective” and it continues to spread as it affects my relationships.
It affects all relationships, even the way I parent. Although I stopped my drinking in 2003, I thought I killed the disease, but the enabling continued to transcend into my behaviors, because it was what my dad had modeled for me.
I didn’t get to choose the father I have nor sometimes be the father I want to be.
I have found that being surrounded by men with similar failures and victories from their own fathers, coupled with sharing how those experiences impact our lives today, makes me want to father my kids differently.
My involvement with Father’s Club is an attempt to get involved in the lives of my kids and surround myself with other men who can help impact my kids in a greater way than I can on my own. Through doing so, I’ve experienced not just a great impact on my kids, but a great impact on my own life. My hope is that I can give back what this organization has given me.
I believe it’s easier for dads to live a life of quiet isolation and feel temporarily “safe” from having their weaknesses exposed. Instead, I’ve found living a life of integration with other like-minded men can help hold together “those moments” and help make a life worth living.
And maybe… just maybe, these fathers can be “a fencepost” in my kids’ stories someday.
I love this. It is a great example for a dad like me. It shows that it is ok to show and share our vulnerabilities with other dads. We are all in the same boat at the end of the day, the dad boat. Thank you Andrew.
The other day someone asked a group of us how do you raise a good kid. Simple question, but hard to answer. This article is a great representation of how complex that question can be. Agree it starts with being vulnerable with yourself and the ones you love most. Again no easy task, but this group gives me faith many of us are searching for a way to do just that….