Two uninvolved fathers taught Marcallus Sunday the most valuable lesson in parenthood: how not to be a father.
Now, Sunday, a social work assistant in the Warrior Transition Brigade, has bundled his passion for fatherhood and life lessons into a classroom-based resource for fathers and soon-to-be fathers within the brigade.
For Capt. Randy Venswencey, a single father of two boys, ages 10 and 6, the eight-week class is a “long time in coming.”
“To me, this class kind of opened up the door and helped me realize that I’m not alone,” said Venswencey, adding that the class has been helpful for networking with other fathers in similar situations. “We’re all dealing with the same things, and that’s giving us an opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other. I bring what I know, and they bring what they know.”
Sunday realized the need for a peer-to-peer networking class for fathers via the soldier’s comprehensive transition plan, which is a goal-setting interdisciplinary program centered on six domains: physical, emotional, family, spiritual, social and career. It’s the soldier’s blueprint for successful transitioning, with the outcome solely dependent on the soldier’s participation and commitment.
“When soldiers were coming into (the brigade’s intake company), we found out ‘family’ wasn’t fine,” Sunday said. Key issues were separation, divorce, family reintegration and coping with being a single parent.
He also met a lot of young men who, like himself, didn’t have a father figure in their lives.
“That’s what they know,” he said, “but I tell them being ‘scarred’ by their father’s neglect is not an excuse, but a lesson on how not to be.”
Sunday’s passion for fatherhood grew from his experiences with an absent biological father and a man he thought was his father but he saw only on weekends.
“Neither saw me grow up in life,” the father of five said, adding that he holds no animosity toward either of them since he learned from them how to be a better father. “I just think every man should be involved with their children and be able to connect and to communicate with them.”
To kick-start the resource class, Sunday asked the group what they would think if they all had a daughter, and she brought home the man she was about to marry.
“He thinks like you; he acts like you; he’s every bit like you,” Sunday said. “Would you give your daughter your blessing to marry a man just like you? If you answered ‘no’ than it’s time you made some changes in your life.
“You’re saying right there that you aren’t the kind of father you should be to your children, so you’d better check the kind of man you are. You have to be a father to become a father.”
The retired Army reservist admits juggling the duties of parenthood and serving in the Army often create struggles and conflicts, a theme fathers in Sunday’s class validated during ongoing discussions on how to blend the two.
“It’s a big challenge being in the Army and managing my responsibilities here and then having to meet my children’s needs,” said Venswencey, of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion. “This class allows us to speak frankly about what’s going on in our families and get ideas from the other dads. Having other dads there in class going through the same thing that you are experiencing is also calming and reassuring,” adding that “rank” is left at the door at the start of the Thursday afternoon classes.
Sunday said another key stressor for his male pupils was reintegrating back into the family following extended deployments.
“The family ran just fine without them,” he said, “and now they are having a hard time adjusting to becoming the husband-father again and getting that leadership role back.”
“The Army teaches you to go away,” said Lt. Col. Chris Cook, commander of 1st Battalion. “You are not thinking of your family when you are downrange. Then you come home and you find out your family doesn’t ‘jump’ when you address them like soldiers in your unit.”
For Sgt. Sherwood Robinson, also of Bravo Company, the class taught him the importance of spending more time with his family.
“I have learned how to become a better father,” said the father of seven, which includes 21-year-old twin girls who are out on their own and five children age 20 to 7. “Before the class, I thought being home was enough, but I learned I had to do more.”
He now incorporates weekend dinner and movie nights with his twin girls into his schedule.
“Look, there is no book written that can ever tell you how to raise a child,” Sunday said. “But I just tell everybody that your children are going to make mistakes and do things parents do not like. As a father, you have to love your child. It doesn’t mean you have to love what they do, but if you love that child and are able to forgive, you will have a better understanding of what that child is going through.”
The brigade’s next fatherhood group runs from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m., through June 20.
Classes are in Building 3502, Rough Rider Village.
For more information, contact Sunday at (254) 287-8913 or e-mail him at Marcallus.Sunday1.firstname.lastname@example.org.