Kiss me on my bald head

Ian Murray

I am interested in spirituality and more specifically in male spirituality. My own first and foremost, which is why I dabble in my form of poetry. An exploration. My reading, while general mostly, leans towards the human condition. Understanding behaviour. Professionally I'm aware of an imbalance especially on Awards Nights in male performance in academic subjects (might say something about the curriculum). The need for role models exists and yet in a world of litigation we are less likely to risk the outdoor education adventures that we were attempting in the 1980's with eg 24 hour solos on Moreton Island - these things are rapidly disappearing from the map, wrapped up in paperwork and cottonwool'.

I'm not sure I have any answers/solutions but intuitively seem to connect with some of the students in a positive way. Whether this is something to do with them or me is another question. I imagine we are all on a simple journey and influence each other to some degree. I use storytelling and humour that I'm sure might sometimes seem irreverent or trivial to "grown-ups", but helps in the classroom.

One of my more serious stories is "kiss me on the bald head". My best friend Brian (long time bald) always told our kids to kiss him on his bald head. Before my dad passed away, he went bald from the chemo. His big sons at my instigation began a tradition of kissing him on his bald head (even after his hair grew back), something that mum said he loved, but from an era of men not showing much emotion, he would never tell us. When our son Chris was dabbling with marijuana, he grew distant from me. I took he and Nick surfing one day and could only get adolescent grunts as answers to simple questions from Chris. I threw a "wobbly", turned the truck back for home. After a cool off I talked in depth with Chris about his Grandad. Asking that he doesn't wait til some time in the future to "kiss me on my bald head". "We are all bald under our hair!" (Emotional blackmail perhaps), but since that day my big son takes the initiative to kiss me hello, goodnight etc. This is a story I share with kids (15 year old year 10's) and I find it still resonates, if you pick the place and time. Last year on the Retreat at the Mapleton Centre I shared that with a small group (about 8) and a boy (now the captain of the 1st XV) came to me later to thank me and told me that he was going to make a difference in the relationship he had with his dad. Sometimes the rewards are there. My brother, now a teacher of film and TV, met someone I'd taught in the 1978-9s. "Tell Ian he changed me from being someone who hated maths to someone who is now an engineer"... Teachers, parents, we all need to hear this, although it doesn't come that often. Then of course we have to remember in these busy days to make the effort to kiss a bald head or two ourselves...