Fatherhood: Life, love and labor

Rob Waldron bought his farm on San Juan Island in the early 70s with the express hope farming together would bring his family, particularly his sons Ben and Noah Waldron tightly together.

“One of the reasons I wanted the farm was so there would be family bonding, and I think that worked,” Rob said, noting that farming, logging and fishing families all once toiled together in tight units. The three Waldrons have remained close even as the boys grew into adulthood raising families of their own. Both Ben and Noah attribute working on the farm as a major factor for the close bond.

“When you are working as a team together toward a common goal, sweating and working together dealing with tough situations in a cool-headed way, you end up with mutual respect and admiration for one another,” Ben said, adding that the best fatherly advice he received what from discussions they had while toiling as a team on the farm.

Ben and his wife Michelle, who also has family on the island, made a conscious decision to return to the island and raise children. They now have four, ranging in ages from 17 to five.

Ben said he strives to teach the same lessons his father brought him up with; the importance of family and community, and a good work ethic.

“That was the biggest reason we wanted to move back. You can still achieve that here, without all of the noise larger metropolises have,” Ben said.

At the end of the day, Ben and Noah both agreed, that raising their children to be good people is the primary goal.

“I want the kids to be good people, and I hope when they go out into the big world they don’t become callous. That they can do good no matter what situations they are in,” Ben said.

Noah also hopes to raise his two children, one and seven, with a hard work ethic.

“I want to pass down a good work ethic. [Our father] is still out there farming and working on a daily basis which I respect. Both my brother and I worked with him throughout our childhood and it had a big impact on our lives,” Noah said.

Rob knows it wasn’t always easy.

“Sometimes we would just be sitting down to dinner and we would look out the window to realize the cows were out, or some other emergency,” Rob said. Dinner would be put on hold while the task at hand was dealt with. “I feel bad, but I don’t think anyone resents me for it. I hope no one begrudges me.”

Ben and Noah followed in their mother’s footsteps as emergency responders, Ben as a firefighter, Noah as a paramedic. Rob said, however, those urgent situations may have helped them in their career paths. They learned the ability to drop everything and respond from an early age. Rob said that his grandchildren are learning the same lessons. “Noah’s first grader simply gets up when dad suddenly has to leave, hugs him and says ‘I love you Dad.”

Rob loves being a grandfather, he said, telling the story of when he was recently asked to watch his one-year-old grandchild for a couple of hours. “I said yes, on one condition, she would be awake.” It turned out she was, at least for half the time, according to Rob, though she ended up falling asleep in his lap. “So I guess it all worked out,” he said wryly.

The three families do live on the same property, but, Rob said, he never wants to interfere with their lives.

“I live up on a hill so if anyone wants me they have to climb up the hill to get me,” he laughed.

Noah said while working brought them closer, the three men are also fairly easing going people.

“We aren’t really ones to hold grudges, and are pretty accepting of people’s faults,” Noah said, adding “we live close together by choice, and I like them both as people.”

When asked if he would give young fathers any advice, Ben said, “you expect you will have some sort of knowledge from the start, but the amount you learn from your experiences and having to change your perspectives during parenting makes a big difference.”

One of the biggest challenges of fatherhood today is dealing with new technology. Accessibility to information has been amazing, he explained, but the tradeoffs are the safety issues that go along with the technology.

“To be honest, things were a lot simpler during my dad’s time period,” Ben said.

Noah also brought up the difficulties of raising children in the digital age. “Being present with electronics is difficult,” he said.

Rob noted that with all the gadgets and activities available in the modern world fathers are required to be proactive with their children. With so much competition for a child’s attention, If a father isn’t careful, there is no time left for him to be with his kids, Rob explained.

“Being a father isn’t that complicated,” Noah said. “It’s being there, making the honest decisions, which can be hard, but doing the right thing as much as you can.”