By Allan Shedlin
Founder, DADvocacy Consulting Group
Hands Against Train Windows
A cold glass pane prevents the warmth of Daddy’s hand pressed against the train window from the outside to be felt by his child’s hand pressed against the same windowpane from inside – their felt touch denied. Tears roll down daddy's and child's cheeks oblivious to the mayhem surrounding them at the station. Their fate unknown.
A Mother’s hand writes on her toddler’s back. Her child enjoys the body drawing “game” unaware of her mother’s tears as her trembling mother hand scrawls her child’s name and age and her and her husband’s mobile numbers in case they become separated or her child becomes orphaned due to the unrelenting bombing. Their fate unknown.
These images from within a besieged Ukraine trigger wonderment whether I have tears enough to weep for their pain. I remember my grandmother once saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” And so, I think of my children, now grown, and my grandchildren. Sometimes it hurts to be hyper-empathic.
I wonder what moves some of us from humanity to inhumanity. I wonder if “never again” might ever mean “never again.” And I wonder if we will ever learn.
I think of the trauma that will echo through generations and I wonder if the painfulness of these images can move more of us to reflect upon and appreciate the importance of parents to children and children to parents. I wonder if such images can move more of us to savor the parenting opportunities we too often take for granted. Whether more of us can be prompted to hold our children closer and hug them more often. And how our children can be encouraged to let their parents and parental figures know how important they are in their presence and in their absence.
My thoughts return to that father and his child at the train station anywhere and everywhere, in every and any country ravaged by inhumanity; places where touch cannot be felt; words cannot be heard; and the loving look in our eyes is clouded by tears from our souls.
Our fate unknown.
If you find the images of destruction and family suffering in Ukraine as disturbing as we do, we hope you will be moved to take action through one of the humanitarian organizations listed below or one of your own choosing:
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, and five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons/daughters and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019 he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D the most important “degree” of all.