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A father finds lost time, and more

March 17, 2015

A father finds lost time, and more

As published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Monday, March 16, 2015

(Published in print: Tuesday, March 17, 2015)

An hour lost, is an hour gained. So I recently experienced when daylight savings time abruptly returned.

The night we set our clocks forward, I bemoaned the loss of the precious hour of sleep that my body was expecting. Then, in an act of defiance, I stayed up three hours past my normal bedtime, chatting with a colleague in the lobby of a New York City hotel.

We were among 700 activists and researchers from 90 countries who gathered to share resources and create networks aimed at effectively engaging boys and men — as partners with girls and women — in a global mission to achieve gender equality.

While the hour grew late and my body weary, the conversation helped me gain insight about how the conference had affected me both professionally and personally.

As the coordinator of the Healthy Men and Boys Network of Western Massachusetts, I was humbled by worldwide efforts to promote healthy manhood and relations between men and women, and eliminate gender-based oppression and violence.

As a husband, I felt gratitude for the degree to which the values my wife, Lori, and I hold, and the choices we make for our family, are aligned with this global movement and the promise of a better world for our children, Zoe and Adam.

As a father, I was inspired by the ways other nations, communities and families have developed policies and practices that promote equal parenting, reduced rates of male violence toward girls and women, and better health for boys and men.

Despite my enthusiasm, the next morning’s wake-up call seemed particularly loud. I desperately wanted to reclaim the lost time — just one more hour of sleep, I thought. Then, with my departure fast approaching I began to think of other losses.

It was four days since my son, Adam, had grabbed my hand, and — in daily ritual — guided me with a sly grin into his room so that we could wrestle on his carpeted floor.

It was even longer since we dug tunnels in the unusually heavy snow that blanketed our yard. And, I had missed the last game of his first season playing basketball, unavailable to console him — in the moment — about missing all three of his attempted shots or to celebrate his particularly energetic defensive skills.

So, while I was gaining an appreciation for the global importance of engaging boys and men in making the world a better place, I was also missing opportunities to be with my own son.

When Lori and the kids met me at the train station, we all celebrated a return to family life. Lori’s eyes, not surprisingly, showed the fatigue of three days and nights of solo parenting. Eight-year-old Zoe asserted her silliness. Our kindergartner, Adam, was uncharacteristically quite, wrapped in a coat, hat and blanket in his car seat, feeling the effects of a fever.

My mind raced forward at the news. I quickly calculated that since Lori had been adjusting her work and personal schedule while I was away, and that Adam was too sick to attend school the next day, Lori would be going to work and I would be staying home.

Initially I felt angst, knowing that the full day of work I had carefully scheduled while coasting home on the train would have to be rescheduled. Could I find an extra hour – or two – for attending to the most pressing matters on my to-do list?

So, Monday morning, all of us still groggy from the time change, Lori departed early, I walked Zoe to the bus stop and returned for a day with Adam.

Like the days of years past, when Adam was younger and big sister was in school, we lay on the futon, propped up on pillows, his head resting on my shoulder as my arm wrapped around him and held a book. We worked our way through the full volume of Nursery Stories of the World and a collection of other favorites.

We enjoyed a brief snack, Lego play and then returned to the futon to listen to a CD of Magic Tree House stories. And, curled together, warmed under a blanket by each other, Adam listened to his treasured stories while I gave way to my tiredness and fell asleep — for about an hour.

John Engel is a father, husband, organizational consultant and the coordinator of the Healthy Men and Boys Network of western Massachusetts. He can be reached through his website, www.fatherhoodjourney.com.

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