No Agendas Fathering: How to move from a rocky start to smooth sailing with your son

My name is Luke Rolph, I am in my mid-twenties and just starting to hit all the “fun” parts of being an adult – insurance, renting, bills, ect. I come from a family of 4 (mom, dad, brother, and myself). I graduated and work in the field of nonprofit organizations, and I do some landscape contracting on the side.  I am associated with Barren Heights, which you should check out!

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My father and I have had a rocky past. Our relationship has been strained for multiple reasons the largest however is because of my brother. He was diagnosed with Autism when I was still in elementary school. For those of you who don’t know one of the many traits of Autism is a tendency to fixate on certain activities to the point where anything else is distasteful. My brother fixated on activities my father couldn’t relate to and as a result he found himself unable to spend time with me without feeling guilty. I can’t say that I can blame him, as I mature more and more each day I find myself in awe of what my parents went through. How could you not feel guilty spending time with one son and enjoying it while the quality time with the other child often feels like a chore. Unable to be there for us in this role my dad poured himself into work. Focusing on care-taking as opposed to maintaining a healthy relationship with his children. Eventually from my perspective it felt like he was just throwing money at me and my brother to keep us pacified, but he had otherwise checked out of our lives.

At the time I never realized how much I was yearning for a relationship with my father. I sought to fill the void in my life with other things. The moment I realized just how much I was missing this relationship was when our family went to a place called Barren Heights Retreat Center. They seek to minister to families with a child(s) with a developmental or physical disability. At this three-day weekend we had dozens of volunteers loving on our family. For the first time in a long time my dad could spend time with me without feeling like his other child was being neglected. We flew his R/C plane I had got him for Christmas in yet another effort to spend time with him. Watching him fly this plane around, just bantering, and talking about life – it was incredibly healing. By the end of the weekend I felt like a little kid again. After that my father has been more intentional about spending time with me and we are closer than ever. It has allowed me to open up to him in areas that I had shut him out of. Now I feel comfortable talking to him about work and relationships – especially the latter that I never thought I would ever let him have any say about.

I guess the take-away is if you have a troubled relationship with your son… just get some time for you to get away. Don’t do anything too fancy – just go to a park and throw a frisbee or sit down and play a board game. No agendas – just investing your time into their life.