This week I attended a seminar at HMAS Penguin, and it was great to be reminded of the rich naval traditions of the senior service. Of course this means remembering that you do not sleep in a room, it is a cabin, the Officer’s Mess is really the Ward room and if you are looking for the toilets they will direct you to the heads! But as we move towards father’s day I was reminded that sometimes we fathers are like submarines!
Submarines are great inventions, able to choose at what depth they want to travel, moving with stealth, untroubled by the storms above, so strong and watertight. Have you noticed that many men who are fathers also model that behaviour, they travel in secret, avoid storms, choose how deep they want to go, always show great strength and are rarely seen to leak tears. But they have a problem. To survive, submarines have to be very strong, but every sub has a limit to how deep they can go, because past that depth, even the heavy steel bulkheads will be crushed by the water pressure resulting in catastrophic failure.
Yet, if we compare submarines to fish, you will find that they can survive at great depths without that heavy steel armour, with skin and scales only millimetres thick. What makes the difference? They have the ability to equalise the pressure on the inside with the pressure on the outside.
The message? All too many fathers try to insulate themselves from home and family pressures, rationalising that this is not part of their job description, so they go home, retreat into their shells, adopt stealth mode and if leaks appear increase the armour plating! The trouble with this approach is that the pressure continues to build till there is a catastrophic event with dire consequences.
The fact is Father’s day is not just a time to get, to receive things from our children, it is also a great opportunity for us to reflect on how well we are doing as fathers. Are you truly involved on the home front, actively dealing with the pressures and not just avoiding them? Are you setting a good example for your sons and daughters on how to deal with depression and frustrations in life? Don’t wait till it all collapses, take some time out to reassess how you are travelling. Maybe it is time to surface, go back to port and get some help. I wonder if they have chaplains on submarines? Either way, my job is to support you through that process, no matter which service you are part of.
Chaplain Ian Whitley