The View from My Section – A Father’s Perspective

A Father’s Commitment

As I attended the wedding of my niece not long ago, I took special notice of how her dad was doing. Being the father of two sons myself, the wedding experience is a unique one, notwithstanding which side you’re initially on. I watched as his emotions appeared to run the gamut from nervous to happy, sad, excited and, eventually, exhausted at the end of the evening. His daughter was older and had gone away to college, so he had already experienced the empty nest cycle. One could tell this was different for him. This was a sense of letting go of the little girl he had and essentially gaining another family into the fold. But, there was another part of him that was – at least – partially going away, and that’s his role. 

From the birth of your children, you’re their ultimate safety net. The variations in the role are numerous and somewhat customized to individual families. Yet, the cumulative effect is the same – to be the key source of everything that child needs to grow up healthy, safe, educated and with the skills necessary to succeed, ultimately, on their own. 

How these roles organically divide up is impacted by societal influences, family traditions, upbringing and more. For decades, the mother had been the caretaker and the father had been the provider. That process had its faults and weaknesses (mainly for the women), to go along with its unique benefits for the children. Historically, women haven’t always received the respect to which they were entitled. The men’s role is undeniably different. He’s expected to take on the physically demanding jobs, regardless of their nature. He’s the problem solver or is supposed to be, and the gatekeeper to ward off enemies and any harm that can come to the family. Sigmund Freud said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Often, he’s also saddled with the unfortunate task of being the key disciplinarian, a role with many diminishing returns. Yet, Confucius advised, “The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them.” 

Today, more often a woman’s role is represented respectfully and positively in books, entertainment, media and handmade signs and shout-outs (“Thanks Mom!”) at college sporting events. Yet, frequently, the man’s role is underappreciated. There’s almost an unwritten rule whereby the father is not recognized to the same extent, often treated as acceptable behavior in our society. This, by no means, implies everyone today is like this. However, it does seem to be a prevalent human response, as in the words of Charles Wadsworth, “By the time a man realizes maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.”

Obviously, that undermines the truth, yet, many fathers still feel “less than” about themselves. You can insert the particulars about why, but the defining result is the same. It doesn’t mean those around fathers truly feel apathetic towards them, nevertheless, we do tend to hold back on the praise for dads more often than not. One unknown quote says, “A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us there; but, a guiding light whose love shows us the way.”

Today, and going forward, families are reshaping, adapting and growing into lots of different versions that challenge traditional roles. This is a good thing, as it provides more opportunities for the individuals in those families, regardless of gender. For example, “More than 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family,” and 49% contribute at least half. “Almost one in five stay-at-home parents in the U.S. are dads.” ( Roles, rules and longstanding cultural traditions are evolving as we become more educated, compassionate and empathetic to what it takes to make a family whole. Each family has its own version, as it should be. The point is, though traditional family structures are adapting differently, the burden the father carries is the same, regardless of where he lands. 

I wrote the following poem after witnessing my brother-in-law’s “full circle” emotional, hourglass moment in time, on his daughter’s wedding day. 

“The Arc of Existence”  

I crawl, I stand, I walk, I run. 

I walk, I stand, I fall, I’m done. 

In between, I live, I love, I lose, I won.

We all do each of these things over a lifetime, but on this day, my brother-in-law, the father of the bride, did the last four simultaneously. 

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and a special Happy Father’s Day to my dad. I’m one of the guilty ones, thinking dads don’t need to hear it as much. That’s simply not true. Appreciation and love are universal gifts; the giver and the receiver equally benefit. 

Music Selection (language): Dax – “To Be A Man” Remix (Feat. Darius Rucker) [Official Video]

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