The Honor of Fatherhood Post 1
I remember sitting with a group of men. We had just watched a video about the men’s consciousness movement. We were to discuss our thoughts and feelings about being men in this society. Many of us did not know what to say. We had never really questioned it.
Sure we were the brunt of everybody’s jokes. We look like idiots in most of the advertisements and certainly in the television situation comedies. It is hard to even find a movie where men are portrayed as having any redeeming graces. One of the gentlemen at this meeting turned to me with obvious anger. He said he was so frustrated. It was his job to heal the wounds of all men for all time. He had to somehow get a better relationship with his own father while at the same time making sure he had a positive relationship with his sons. He wanted to know if I agreed with his frustration and his resentment. I had buried my father only a few days before this meeting. I must admit I did not get the message the video was trying to convey. I did not get the meaning of the poetry that had won awards. What I did know was that I had been given a point of honor. I was to be the first conscious turning point for my gender within my family. I would not get it right, but at least I could get it started. It is an honor to accept the role of father. Like all honors, it requires commitment, discipline, participation, compassion and love.
Men and women are different. I never can figure just which planet we as fathers come from, but I do know it is not the same one. We raise children differently in our society. It is a dance we all enter into and play a part. We are taught to value and be valued for different qualities. Women are sex objects and men are successful objects. Women value what is in the home and men value what is outside of it. Perhaps that is why fathers receive so little acceptance or appreciation for their uniqueness in the home as a parent.
Since being a man is different from being a woman, than being a father is different from being a mother. Yet, if most fathers do not do things exactly as the mother would, they are told it is wrong. It is as if they can have no original contributions to the family child-rearing practices. I must admit, women as mothers often have better ideas since their lives have had a greater focus on family life and relationships than men. Men need to be able to contribute what is uniquely theirs in order to feel like they are participating. Too often, the father is asked to participate but only as an extension, like a babysitter, to following out the orders of the mother.
Men learn to be fathers through identification and imitation of their own fathers. Unfortunately, seldom have our fathers sat us down and told us all about our role. Then again, no one sat them down either. I guess I am just from a long line of rather ignorant but well-meaning fathers. What I do know is that my father gave me everything he had, even the things that did not work for him. Whatever he did not give me, he didn’t have. How can I blame or resent? I did not know I had not gotten things until I was old enough to start reading self-help books to give me an ideal comparison to make my childhood seem less-than. My dad was who he was.
He did his best with who he was. No excuses given, needed or accepted. Just because I did not get does not mean I cannot give. I cannot blame any lack of mine as a father on anybody but myself. I too, like my father, will give all I have; even the stuff that does not work for me, because I don’t know it doesn’t work. I just love my children too much to withhold anything.
Fathering takes on many roles. Fathers are teachers, coaches, police officers, playmates, caregivers not caretakers, role models, mentors and friends. Our children will have hundreds of each of these in their lifetimes. They will only have one father. Why would any of us give up that uniqueness to be one of many? For that reason, it is always father first.