What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’d like to be a professional guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness leading paddle trips in the summer and cross country ski adventures in the winter.
What was your best experience training professionals?
Presenting Power of Play for the first time at the year 2000 annual MnSACA conference. It was a thrill to be able to share great ideas for helping children develop community and social skills through play, and I got connected with Rick Gravrok and Lisa Walker.
What was your best experience learning?
Starting the School Age Care B.A. program at Concordia University with the B015 cohort. I was so pumped-up that there were other professionals who shared my vision for the out-of-school time professions.
What is your best experience teaching children?
That’s difficult. Here are so many. The first thing that comes to mind was when I created a large, wall sized mural with the third-grade Friendship Connection group in Roseville, MN. They were my first group in School-Age Care, and the excitement, creativity, and fun the kids had with this project was euphoric.
What is your best experience teaching adults?
I’m taking teaching to mean in the classroom, rather than training in workshops. So, teaching, I think it was seeing the light bulbs and satisfaction on the faces of MCTC students as they got in touch with their Strengthsquest Signature Themes and then created final portfolios using those strengths.
Shifting gears a little bit now. Since you have such passion for helping boys understand themselves and grow up healthy, what was the first time you remember being proud of yourself as a boy?
Interesting question. I think it was when I learned to pump on a swing set and keep myself going. It was one of the first times that I remember doing something for myself that I used to have to depend on my parents to do for me.
What is the first time you remember being bullied or teased?
The high school boys on my first grade bus used to steal my hat every day. It was a blue hat with my elementary school’s name on it and a white tassel. They used to say that the tassel was a “lice” (I didn’t know what that meant) and toss it around like it was a hot potato. Then they would hit it and stomp on it. I would try to correct them and tell them it was a tassel, and they thought it was funny that I knew that word and would call me a “gay boy.” I thought gay meant happy, but I was pretty sure they meant something different by the way they were saying it. I don’t remember very many peaceful bus rides, although I wasn’t always the focus of their entertainment.
That’s a pretty vivid memory. Was it traumatic for you?
Honestly, it sounds a lot worse telling about it. I feel more angry about the idea of that happening to one of my own boys than I do about it happening to me. When it happened, I remember feeling sort of scared that I wouldn’t get my hat back because I thought it would have made my mom sad. But I didn’t really feel like I was in danger. I just figured that I’d be at school soon and the bus ride would be over and that I’d be all right. We always want to keep our kids safe, but I think that going through a few experiences like that helps boys become stronger and more secure in the long run, especially if they can return to a safe, caring family context to recharge and process.
You talk a lot about how important it is for dads to understand their emotional world in order to help their sons be emotionally healthy. When was the first time you ever felt angry at your children?
That’s a tough question to think about. I remember feeling frustrated with crying and some of the other things new parents deal with when their babies are really young, but I wouldn’t really call that feeling angry. I remember one time when Braden was about two. My wife and I were playing with him on the bed and he was feeling energetic. He threw his head backwards and smacked me right in the nose. It was a strange experience, because my first reaction was this angry feeling at him for hitting me in the nose, as if he knew what he was doing or tried to do it. It scared me a little that I could have such a visceral reaction to this little kid that I loved so much.
When you shared that story, it reminded me of some of your workshops about emotional intelligence for boys and men.
Yes. It’s absolutely critical for dads and all men to get in touch with where there emotions come from and what they can do with them. We’ve all got a shadow, and if we don’t get to know it and learn how to be friends with it, our emotions and reactions will get the best of us in all areas of our lives. When we develop emotional intelligence, we set ourselves up for success and are able to teach our boys to do the same thing for themselves. Our culture isn’t always a very boy-friendly place. Dads, moms, and caregivers need to help boys learn to understand, respect, and appreciate themselves, their biology, their feelings, and the gifts that come with being a male.