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Dads opt for simple, sand-filled Father’s Day

News Photo by Julie Riddle Chris Noronha smiles with, from left, his children Sawyer, 8, Gianna, 3, and Liam, 6, at Starlite Beach in Alpena on Sunday.

ALPENA ― For some dads, Father’s Day meant sand in between their toes, sunlight on gentle waves, and hours of slow-paced, family-focused time, with nary a screen in sight.

At Starlite Beach in Alpena, several fathers whiled away the afternoon, perfectly content to set aside the business of life and, at least for a while, just be dads.

The splash pad and playground near the beach were busy with laughing youngsters and watching grown-ups. On the sand, Tom Clark, of Alpena, relaxed with his son, Kai, who recently turned 6.

The day was to be full of sandcastles and slushies, kayaking, and a rousing game of catch with Kai’s new baseball glove, Clark said.

Fathers, he said, need to be gardeners, rather than builders, as they guide and encourage their children. He’ll support the dreams of young Kai ― once determined to become a firefighter, and now intrigued by the possibility of a future as a YouTuber ― wherever they may lead, Clark said ― “but he still has to play catch and ride bikes. Normal stuff.”

News Photo by Julie Riddle Dad Tom Clark, of Alpena, enjoys Starlite Beach in Alpena with his son, Kai, 6, on Sunday.

COVID-19, with all its trials, offered Clark and some other dads and dads-to-be extra time to be fathers, with layoffs and working from home giving fathers more time with their kids during some of 2020.

On this June day, Clark just wanted to hang out with his 6-year-old, finding joint pleasure in the outdoors, the sunshine, and each other.

Parents need to remember simplicity and “get back to their parenting roots,” Clark said, Kai perched on his back. “He’s amazing. A little mini-me, huh, bud?”

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For Chris Noronha and his family, of Lake Orion, Father’s Day meant camping in Ossineke, picnicking, and beach time.

“Oh, and playing,” said daughter Gianna, 3, as Noronha, his wife, and their three children enjoyed the sand at Starlite Beach on Sunday.

As teachers, Noronha and his wife get to spend a little extra time with their kids in the summer and treasure the parks, picnics, sports, and other family fun those months offer.

“Time is essential,” Noronha said. “Hugs, snuggles, kisses, reading . . . all they want is time and attention.”

Children only stay young for a short while, and dads have to capitalize on family moments before their kids don’t want that together-time, he said.

Besides, he said, smiling at his wife, days of play tire the kids out, making for pleasant evenings together for their mom and dad.

For the Noronha kids ― including Gianna, sporty Liam, 6, and devoted reader Sawyer, 8 ― Father’s Day meant no cell phones and no distractions, only soaking in sunshine, relaxing, and digging in the sand.

“And finding gold,” Gianna added.

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