On Father’s Day, ask dads and grandpas for their boyhood stories

I’ve got a conversation starter for you today on Father’s Day. When you’re at a barbecue or on the phone wishing your dad salutations, ask him a couple of questions. Find out what recess was like when he was little. Then ask him what he ate for lunch in third grade.

I’ve had discussions like this with the men in my own life and their answers surprised me. Dirt fields, lots of running and the occasional broken arm; recess was a lot wilder back in the day. There weren’t $50,000 play structures and rules about no running. There was tag, kickball and parents who wouldn’t sue schools over a twisted ankle.

What intrigued me most was hearing about school cafeterias. One of my elders remembers food so good that he was willing to volunteer in the kitchen so that he could get second helpings for free.

My immediate reaction was “Your school had a full kitchen? Holy cow!” That’s something I can’t even imagine. Even now with all of the health reforms, when I think about school lunches I think of microwaves, not fresh meals prepared from scratch.

If you do question your dad or grandpa about his cafeteria memories, ask how much he paid for a school lunch. Then see whether he remembers how much a candy bar cost. Try translating that into today’s dollars.

Right now the national average for an elementary school lunch is $3.10. At the store you can buy a Snickers bar for $1. How does that ratio compare to the past? Are we spending the same amount of money we did 50 years ago to afford high-quality food for our children?

I pose these questions to you on Father’s Day because dads and grandpas have wisdom to share, but a lot of us forget to ask. Sure, we pester Dad to fix our washing machine or ask Grandpa for advice about refinancing the house, but seldom do we ask what boyhood was like when they were little.

This is a shame because we need help to remember a past when school lunches were yummy and boys could be boys without adults freaking out.

Modern-day tragedies have changed us. Nowadays, if we hear a boy scream, “Die you bloody bastards!” in the schoolyard we are fearful and might call the police. Our minds jump to terror instead of 10-year-old boys playing.

Did Dad own a BB gun? Did Grandpa make a slingshot?

The days of cops and robbers are gone. Play is carefully monitored. We see boys turn sticks into pretend guns and we worry.

I believe today’s society unfairly equates aggression with violence. We need voices of wisdom to weigh in.

So tell us, fathers. What do boys need to be well fed in body and spirit? Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.

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