“Any man can be a father. That simply requires DNA. But it takes a real man to be a dad.” ~Anonymous
It’s just so messed up, this idea that fathers aren’t as necessary to a child’s development and sense of security as mothers. I honestly have no idea where it came from. Maybe some psychologist somewhere in the late 1800’s or something decided this was true, and the thought just floated down the timeline. But it’s false, patently false, this thought that kids who grow up without a father are getting just as much.
They just aren’t.
I don’t say this to try and discredit single mothers. Quite the opposite. Single mothers are the backbone of love, of support, and of teaching their children to be quality members of society. Because they have all the responsibility single mothers often take it as a challenge they do their best to meet, because they love their children and give them the absolute best of themselves. All I’m saying is that kids need both, that they need two committed parents, two committed guardians, to care for them.
Because that’s how it was designed.
Sure, we aren’t in a Polyanna world where there are silver linings in every cloud, where every day turns into a musical, where every child gets what he/she needs. That’s just the way of the world. But having that solid understanding growing up that two people wanted you so much and still want you now is huge to a child’s sense of security and to the way a child views relationships overall.
I’m no psychiatrist, but even I can see that. And to me, while it matters whether or not the mother and father stay together, it matters more that both are involved heavily in rearing their children. I’ve always thought, if you don’t want to be a father then don’t have sex. There’s a possible side-effect, a huge side-effect, that cannot be overlooked, and yet so many men do it. It’s like they have some kind of amnesia when it comes to their progeny. And it’s so sad to see.
Luckily for some, a biological father isn’t the only option. I’ve met so many people who tell me all about how amazing their fathers were, and they use the air quotes, but I tell them not to use the air quotes. These men who step up, who care for them and for their mothers, who do everything a father should, they’re FATHERS. They’re the best part of humanity, because their care is separated from the DNA connection. It’s authentic in a way you can’t test for in any environment. Having a father like this can be so empowering for children who grow up in that home.
I guess I just think about these realities all the time. Every time I look at my children I thank god for them, for the ability to be there for them. I hold them close until they tell me to back off. I spend time with them so they can see I’m not just one of those fathers who talks the talk. I give them all I can of me because I love and cherish them. And it’s sad to admit, but very true, I always think in the back of my head that I’m giving them what my father never gave me.
For some children who grow up with absentee fathers, with a man who was simply DNA but not a dad as a shadow over their lives, never concrete, they end up as absentee parents themselves. They internalize what happened to them and they pass it along, like Junior Mints, to their own children, holding them at arm’s length because that’s all they know. But for so many others, what happened to them is a rallying call, a flashing beacon not to go down that same path, that nurture can defeat nature.
I’m so glad I fit into that latter category.
4 thoughts on “The Uneasy Truth of Fatherhood”
Unfortunately some of us are much better off without that male dna donor in our lives. But females can be just as awful. I’ve know at least 3 wonderful dads who are raising their children with an absentee mother. I strongly cast my vote for good parents only. Gender does not determine parenting ability
Gender certainly doesn’t determine parenting ability.
What matters most is that a child is nurtured – that can be done by either parent as long as there is love, but the damage of a broken home/relationship can be long term and deeply wounding.