Two Saturdays ago, Dana and I had the good fortune to meet dad Kevin Knussman and his family in Easton, Maryland. Kevin, a retired State trooper, sued the state of Maryland in the early 1990’s, upon their refusal to grant him leave to provide care for his ailing, pregnant wife Kim and, later for their newborn daughter, as Kim recovered. Kevin and his family slowly and steadily persevered through a ten year legal battle that ultimately awarded them minimal financial gain but became the landmark case for fathers in the US seeking leave under the FMLA and being met with employer opposition.
Kevin Knussman says that he just had to take a stand for what was right and what was right for him was and is, that, family needs come first. You may think what I was thinking- that ten years is an incredibly long time to maintain focus on any goal, particularly one that carries with it an element of discomfort. It takes a person of incredible resolve to continue employment with an organization that he or she is in conflict with and that is exactly what Kevin Knussman did. Not to mention the razing by his fellow troopers to be endured, as you can imagine.
He remained employed by the State, as the court battle progressed, until he had accrued 23 years of service and was able to retire. He now works part time as a volunteer firefighter and is the primary caregiver for his two daughters, while his wife Kim works full time outside of their home. The societal consensus seems to be that, if a man prioritizes family over work, then he is somehow less of a man. Kevin’s wife Kim; however, contends that her husband is the “manliest of men,” for putting his family first, for stepping, with open arms, into an opportunity to be an involved, engaged father and for creating and maintaining a true partnership with her, in not only the raising of their children but; also, in the maintenance of their home.
As I sat there listening to Kevin and Kim speak about their life together, something became as gorgeously clear to me as the weather that day in Maryland- something having to do with commitment, something about how truly and fully committing yourself to- a cause, a partner, your children, or any goal really; insures, that no matter how tough the fight, no matter how gargantuan the demons, no matter how many hurdles or how long it takes, you can do it.