Written by: Keith Cobell
Many years ago I was a mountain guide for Summit Adventure, leading a course of fathers and their children. The course was called “Adventure in Fatherhood” and it was one of my favorite courses to lead as I got to watch and be a part of an experience I never had with my father. My dad died when I was very young and so the Adventure in Fatherhood course was my chance to in some small way live vicariously through these fathers and their son or daughter.
One of the activities we did were called “initiatives.” These were situations where the duo - the father/child team - would be presented with a challenge and would have to work together to overcome it. The most insightful moment I ever had on a father/child course was during one of these initiatives.
The initiative is called the blindfold walk. The father is blindfolded and the child leads them through a section of the forest often holding the father’s hand and the child guiding (and in the better situations, encouraging) using their words. It is a way to show the child how difficult it really is to guide someone through difficult terrain - literally and figuratively. And the child begins to recognize just how important it is to really listen, and how difficult it is to parent sometimes.
The duo switches roles and then the real father/child relationship dynamic comes out. You can learn a lot about a relationship when you put them in a similar dynamic to their normal and then put them under stress in a completely new situation. Arguing, yelling, crying - it all comes out.
But with this one father/child duo, something happened I had never seen before that changed my perspective on fathering.
One of the fathers, with other fathers arguing with their kids all around him, gently led his blindfolded child to get behind him, and had his child wrap their arms around him. Then the father started walking and the child, holding on to his father, began, literally, walking in the same footsteps as his father.
Needless to say, this father/child duo was the most successful in getting through the difficult terrain. It wasn’t completely easy, as there were difficult obstacles to get over and around, but they did it as a team and the result of being so close, and so in sync because of that closeness, was very apparent.
At Extollo, we want our students and alumni - almost all being parents - to show their children a way to a better life through overcoming challenges and obstacles. The path to improving yourself and your professional skillset is not easy, let alone finding a job that uses those skills. By showing their children that ambition and hard work leads somewhere better, these bold parents give their children footsteps that are going in a good direction. That is part of how Extollo’s work to build the capacity of Haitian men and women has generational impact. For all of us had, or wished we had, a father whose footsteps we wanted to follow.
A very happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.