Time for Some Father Son Bonding?
Calling all dads; how often do you spend time with your sons? I mean actual, one on one father son experiences, without the distractions of phones and work and the other half of the family? If you haven’t experienced father and son bonding yet, you might want to think about doing some. Because family time is fleeting and before you know it they will have grown up and departed and those tween and teen years will just be memories. In this post we explore adventures for men, the benefits of father son activities and why parent teen bonding experiences really matter….
One on one parent teen time sounds good, right?
Imagine you are lying on a beach as the sun sets. The only roof over your head is a constellation. The only company is your son. And you are talking. Really talking. No pointless chit chat. No arguments. No phones. No texts. No slamming doors. No siblings demanding attention or office colleagues demanding time and energy. Just calm, relaxed, one to one bonding. Does that sound good?
Of course it does. It’s how it is meant to be. It’s how it used to be; in the days when sons spent their leisure time with their fathers, worked with them on family businesses or, further back in time, accompanied them when they went hunter-gathering.
Why build father son bonds?
Deep connections happen when family members spend time together. Nature provides a space for father son bonding, something that gets lost in the flurry of modern living. If you have a son, you have probably heard of Steve Biddulph’s book ‘Raising Boys’, which encourages parents to let boys be boys, and indulge in physical play. He also has a theory that the later years are really important for male bonding, whereas up until the age of about seven, the mother is key to a child’s growth and security. From seven onwards it’s the Dad stage.
Increased respect and understanding
Charles Lyster runs Wild Journey sailing trips for families and has run several sailing trips specifically for lads and dads. He believes time together is essential and made sure he built it into his own family life, sharing childcare with his wife. He got to know his son properly in the outdoors on hiking, sailing and shooting trips. This strengthened their relationship immeasurably and they still do things together today. His desire to help foster father son relationships in others followed the death of his own father, who he’d have liked to know better. “I’d love to know more about his decisions and regrets, what he would have done differently and what he was pleased he did.”
He vividly recalls a day when he got his dad to himself, without his two brothers being present. “I was about ten and I loved collecting fossils and he took me off to a chalk quarry. It was the only place where there was some exposed rock, and there weren’t any fossils, but I could take you through that day hour by hour because it was so precious.”
A safe space without rivals
Charles believes the adventures or outdoor courses need to be one father and one son. If you have two sons then sorry Dads but you’ll need to go twice. “The whole one-to-one thing is so powerful, and there’s a potential for rivalry if two sons are present.”
Intense time together
Gareth Thomas runs Woodmatters, a Lake District company teaching green woodwork and bushcraft courses. He also remembers fondly the time spent with his own father, a biology teacher who grew up on a farm in Wales and cared deeply about the countryside and wildlife.
“Days spent out walking with Dad were really influential. He was a very gentle man and relatively quiet,” says Gareth, “but nevertheless I think the experiences I had with him had an intensity to them because he was always looking at what was going on, he was always spotting plants and insects and trees and he could name them. I think it was largely because of that I got such an interest in the natural world.”
In turn Gareth and his wife Ro passed this knowledge and love of the outdoors on to their own son and daughter almost accidentally. “We are doing what we enjoy doing and they come along. And because of who we are we tend to explain what we are doing and why we are doing it. I think the children have picked up a lot of that, and I think by default we’ve ended up having quite similar experiences. And sometimes I think ‘Ooh I remember doing this with Dad.’ I’ve become more aware of that in the last year. I’d say that there’s a duplication, a bit of an echo actually. That’s probably a good word for it- an echo to my own experiences. It feels like there’s a daily relevance to Dad.”
A golden circle
Gareth and his son Orin do a lot of wildlife photography together. “He’s really into it and that’s quite a nice circle because Dad was also a very keen photographer. It seems Orin is combining a part of me with a part of my dad who he never met. We are out a lot with the cameras, looking for trails where we can set up trail cameras and nest box cameras.”
Now Orin is 11 Gareth hopes to increase one on one time with his son. “We’re about to do three days cycling together just he and I. But that’s rare actually; usually it’s the four of us. I think as he’s getting a bit older it feels like we are going to start doing more of that, having slightly harder slightly tougher adventures that my daughter isn’t really up for. Because he is quite physical and he likes the challenge. We are often just in the woods, there’s a lot of exploring goes on really.”
One easy way to increase bonds and familiarity is to book onto the kind of courses Charles and Gareth run, where you are taught skills and challenged together in a controlled and safe environment. Gareth says fathers and sons often book onto his family camps together and have a positive experience. “They’ll be mixed in with other family groups. It gives space for fathers and sons to bond a wee bit and get time together without distractions. They are all in the same pot, having to make a shelter, eat around the campfire, explore the same woodlands and make their own stuff.” He says adults and children enjoy the level playing field of being equally out of their comfort zone.
Time out from lists and screens
Families often value the absence of ‘to do’ lists and screens when they adventure together on an outdoor course, says Gareth, who teaches an intriguing mix of Scandinavian shrink pot carving, spoon carving, shave horse making, bench stool and bowl carving as well as bushcraft family camps. It is pure time out, which many families don’t often get.
“Sometimes you have to got to make an effort to ring fence that time to make it happen. You can go day to day and week to week and before you know it months have gone by and actually you’ve just followed the same routine. But if you say “Right we are going to put a date to it, and give up a weekend or holiday or whatever to do something a bit different” then it happens.”
A shared memory bank
Both Charles and Gareth agree that a booking onto an outdoor course or simply spending time together in nature creates memories; shared family memories that everyone can relate to at different points in life’s journey. “Families have that in all sorts of ways,” says Gareth, “but we help families experience the natural world together. On the camps they talk about this idea of being in a bubble. They are only in the woods for two days and feel a bit shocked at coming out.”