“It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.” Friedrich Schiller
The importance of a father’s role in his son’s, and daughter’s, life cannot be understated. This is why one of our most important and most favourite events at Robert Land Academy is Father Son Day.
Father Son Day, coming up this year on Saturday, February 2, is a day to simply be silly – but it didn’t start out that way.
When the school was founded 40 years ago, or shortly after, the day was actually more of a winter fair with all of the activities taking place outdoors and most of the competitions requiring serious strength and stamina – sawing wood and arm wrestling, for example. In the early days dads were not involved at all and it was simple a day of winter activities for students between semesters.
As with all outdoor events it was also heavily dependent on the weather. No snow, rain, or temperatures too low to spend any length of time outdoors could all derail the activities planned for the day.
Over the years the day has changed and adapted to overcome some of the challenges, to include dads, and become a day that is just about having a good time.
We plan activities that give our students and their dads (or grandpas or uncles as the case may be) an opportunity to have a positive and fun day with lots of laughing. The events usually include a crazy hat contest, a tricycle race (which can become a little aggressive), live action hungry-hungry-hippos, an egg toss, a pudding eating contest and a hot dog eating contest. We also have chili and hot chocolate on all day to keep everyone warm and a big dinner at the end of the day.
I’m not sure many people would allow someone to feed them pudding blindfolded, yet it’s as much fun to watch as it is to participate in.
One of the really great activities we plan is a drill contest. What this means is that the cadets need to take all of the lessons they have learned in drill while on campus and use them to teach their fathers.
I really enjoy this part of the day, and staff say it is one of their favourite activities as well, because it is a lot of fun watching the boys teach drill to their dads. It’s an important life moment as well, when a boy has the opportunity to teach his dad and show his own skills.
When it is all said and done there are trophies presented for best team, best father and best son so it is not all fun and games. There is a huge competitive component as well.
Everyone – students, dads and staff – are having so much fun on Father Son Day it might be hard to see how important this day is for both our students and the staff – myself included.
I say it’s a day simply to be silly but it’s also a day that gives us some real insight into our students. We often see the boys having fun and acting goofy, whether they’re shooting hoops for fun; playing in the snow; or enjoying one of the many fun activities we plan. And we see the boys with their families, on parent teacher days or during Annual Inspection. What we don’t often see is boys being silly and goofy with their families. We see the boys in a different way on Father Son Day and we usually learn something about the boys as well. The more we know about our students the better we can meet their needs and help them achieve success.
The day also gives fathers and sons an opportunity to interact in a positive environment, without worrying about grades or behaviour or any of the factors that contributed to the boy being enrolled at RLA. This time of silliness hopefully helps rebuild relationships that may have been strained in the past so for them it is a new chapter in their relationship.
The other aspect of Father Son Day is that not every student at RLA has a father involved in his life or a father who can travel to RLA for the day. Those boys aren’t left out – they’re “adopted” by other dads for the day and have just as much fun as the rest of the academy. To see the interaction of the fathers with not only their own son but also with the boys that don’t have a father present is very rewarding.
The day also gives dads some insight as to how things work at RLA and a chance to meet faculty and staff. When families are on campus it is usually for a more serious purpose – parent interviews for example. So seeing how the boys interact and how staff work with each other and with the students offers a new way of seeing the Academy.
It’s a meaningful day for fathers to connect with the staff at RLA who have so much positive influence in their sons’ life.