OaklandSeen.com Interview with Paul Kivel and Son Ariel Luckey on the Meaning of Father’s Day

In an interview with now defunct OaklandSeen.com, Paul and his son Ariel Luckey talked to Aimee Allison about the meaning of Father’s Day. Below is an adapted version of the online article and transcript of the interview that published June 15, 2010.

This Sunday marks 100 years since Father’s Day began, and there’s evidence that new traditions and definitions of fatherhood are taking root….

Below is a father-son conversation about the true meaning of Fathers Day between activists Paul Kivel and his son, Ariel Lucky. These two fathers sat down with me to reflect on Father’s Day and their personal experiences as dads. They suggest that the meaning of this weekend’s holiday can evolve if, as men, they provide day-to-day care of their children, take time out of busy schedules to relax with their children and develop awareness of their own emotions.

Both men have made careers grappling with the tough issues of identity and roles. Violence prevention educator Paul Kivel (62), penned the classic, Boys Will be Men and founded the Oakland Men’s Project. He has three grown children, including Ariel Lucky. Ariel (30) is himself the father of two young sons – four-year-old Mateo and 10-month-old Miko. Ariel is a hip-hop theater artist and his performances tell of personal and political transformation.


What does being a father mean for you right now?

Paul Kivel: It was a tremendous challenge for me to redefine what it means to be a father. I grew up in a white suburban neighborhood where fatherhood was defined narrowly. I came of age in the feminist movement and started the Oakland Men’s Project in 1979. I had to figure out day by day what the new ways of thinking meant for me. It turned out that I was the one at home most of the time doing the nitty-gritty work of raising the kids. I was forced to find out who I was – because in my mind I was “just” taking care of the kids.

Ariel Lucky: The time that I spend with my boys is the best part of my day. The primary way they relate to the world is through playing. If I want to connect, that’s what I have to do. By playing with them, I get to experience the world through the lens of playing. Since much of my work deals with the harder parts of humanity, it’s such a pleasure to let it all go and just play.

What’s your ideal way to celebrate Father’s Day?

Paul: I like to be around my kids and my grandkids. I don’t want cards or presents, I want time with folks. It was transformative to see my son and his partner have their children. I felt I was passing on the mantle of being a father and that I didn’t have to play that role anymore.

Ariel: Quality time with my family, outdoors in nature, just hanging out. At this point, the less structured and formal, the better, ’cause the rest of our lives is go, go, go.

Do you have any advice for other fathers?

Paul: Realize our role in the ultimate web of life is the everyday caring that we give for each other. It is devalued, and often causes men to be disconnected from their children and the natural world. My advice is to relax and enjoy the caretaking and the nurturing. That’s hard for parents in general, and there’s so little support for families. But kids grow up too quickly.

Ariel: I don’t feel like I’m super evolved and have all the answers. To me, fatherhood is a practice, as opposed to a destination. Practice creates reflective action. In our daily lives, it’s too easy to get caught up. Ask yourself, “What are my children’s needs?” Fatherhood includes discipline. It requires identifying how we talk to our children about the world. Fatherhood is putting our kids needs first and it is a source of love.

How are you a different father than your own dad?

Paul: My father worked hard as a professional, came home, took off his shoes and had dinner served to him. I was a stay at home dad. But that’s not the only difference. He was completely in his mind and not in his body. That’s what I had to learn; feeding kids, playing with them, etc. There are challenging physical demands all the time. Also, I was trying to be in control of my feelings like my dad, but needed to develop an outlet for strong feelings of love and affection. I learned to recognize, acknowledge, and express a range of emotions and to communicate my feelings in caring ways. That made all the difference for me as a father.

Ariel: I modeled my fatherhood after my father. My father modeled his fatherhood in contradiction. He broke a lot of patterns. But I didn’t have to because I was blessed with a caring, supportive, present father. But the world has changed – and technology has a major impact on my parenting. I’m engaging with my four-year-old with levels of technology that I didn’t see until high school.

Why are Fathers uniquely important?

Paul: What kids needs are loving adults around them all the time. In our society, we are gender focused so it’s importance that men step up into parenting. Boys are looking for healthy models as they become men, partners and fathers. Girls are looking for models for the partners in their lives. Still today, we have so few men that are outside the traditional model of fatherhood. Men can be good models by being gentle and caring – and also playing with their kids. But in an ideal society, we wouldn’t need to gender this at all.

Ariel: On one hand there are so many models of families – two moms, two dads, grandparents, etc. But, fathers have a unique energy that is different than mothers – and that energy plays a special role in a child’s life. Also, there is a tension in fathers’ lives who feel called to transform the world and at the same time meet the never-ending demands of raising children. There are many fathers in the movement that are not present at home. For me, I’m figuring out a way to put family first and not sacrifice health and well-being of my children. I feel that I am more important to my children than to anyone in the world.

Please send comments, feedback, resources, and suggestions for distribution to paul@paulkivel.com. Further resources are available at www.paulkivel.com.

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