Father figures find their place at children's centre

Let’s go around in a circle and talk about our kids the moderator instructed.

After the eighth “father” related their “fathering” experience I was looking for the exit. I was number 10 so felt a bit sheepish about hitting the door. I decided to stick it out. This was not the father and me drop-in I had expected.

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It turned out the group was more geared toward the dysfunctional father and me, or should I say, the I-just-got-out-of-jail-and-my-parole-officer-made-me-go group.

In the circle of 15 men, I was one of two who had seen their child in the last two years (I had just put my son to bed one hour earlier.) It was my last father and me program I went to. I had at the time taken off six months to be with my son and wanted some time sharing experiences with fathers.

These guys did not fill the bill. Skip ahead 18 years and I’m giving it another shot. This time I call it uncle and me drop-in as I am now the uncle of an energetic niece, Pearl, who has two very busy parents.

What a better way to spend more time with my niece and at the same time give my brother and sister-in-law some time to themselves (though I suspect do more chores during that time, as is the life of busy parents).

The daddy/uncle and me program is run through the Children’s Centre by Qurban and Stewart every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

The drop-in began last summer as a nine-week run but after receiving funding, will continue for another two years.

On my first visit I was pleasantly surprised. None of us were sent by our parole officer (I think). We had all seen our little ones in the past two years, in fact, we all had a little one in tow. And we were not sitting around in a circle, always a good sign.

The room, which is shared in the evenings with the youth centre, is set up with wooden train sets, a painting station, a snack table, Play-Doh, and a sandbox, all those things you’d rather not have in your living room.

The conversations with the fathers were great. As one father pointed out, no talking about breast feeding techniques, cloth vs. disposable diapers or that irritating mother-in-law constantly offering child care advice. Most of the conversations revolved around whiskey, techniques on splitting wood, new carbon road bikes, American politics and cigars.

This was what I was looking for 18 years ago. The kids were also having a blast. They played so well together and in the five times I have been, I can’t recall one crying child. It was also great seeing some of the older kids helping and playing with the younger ones and the younger ones checking out what the older ones were up to.

On the last day I felt a bit guilty as this was way too relaxing. And with free coffee and freshly-baked cinnamon buns it was difficult to tell who was having more fun.

If you are a busy dad, uncle or granddad up for some dad (or uncle) talk, I can’t think of a better place to hang out.

The program is free, the kids pretty much take care of themselves, and the conversations are great. Add to that free coffee and pastries and I can’t imagine a better place to start the weekend. 

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