On Being a Dad
It’s not that I see myself as an authority on being a Father…. I have never been a Father of a 5 year old and a two year old before… This is my first time!! So I’m fairly confident in one thing – I don’t know a lot more than I do know about raising kids – let alone raising girls. (I was never a girl myself, you see!)
But with Father’s Day in Australia coming up this week, and a few different bits of information / inspiration about fatherhood having floated through my conscience over the last couple of weeks, it seems like a good time to offer up some Dad-related musings to the world.
First up – an answer to my own apparent lack of confidence in all things Dad-related: I don’t have to figure it out by myself. I have a very wise wife – which truly makes a difference. I am soooo flipping glad that my girls have a mum – and not just any mum, but this mum. Every now and again, when I have a short spell of being the sole carer, I realise just how hard my wife works just to keep the wheels from falling off – and making sure they eat something other than McDonalds…
Also, even more significantly, we (mum and dad) don’t have to figure it all out by ourselves either. Knowing and believing that God a) is real, b) loves us, and c) is actively involved in guiding us, leading us, protecting us and comforting us changes everything. This is the God of course, who was a Father, and is a Father – who gave himself to us and to the world, in his son Jesus, to say, ‘Look, I AM real, I DO love you, and I DO want to be involved in your life with you.’ And who then taught us all to pray to him as ‘Abba’, as father, as daddy.
Secondly, I read recently a transcript of a fascinating and inspiring talk on ‘The Importance of Fatherhood,’ (Vitz, Paul; ‘The Importance of Fatherhood’, in Metaxas, Eric ed. ‘Socrates in the City’, London: Collins 2011). Vitz’s main point is that there is a strong correlation between good fathering and healthy spiritual development of children, and likewise between bad / absent fathering and atheism, not to mention criminal behaviour. He believes it is in this sense true, that Father’s pass their sins on to their sons and daughters.
However, there were a couple of other passages in the talk which grabbed me to:
“The crisis of our culture today is in important respects a crisis in the family. But at the centre of the crisis in the family is a crisis in what it is to be a father. We’ve lost this understanding of the capstone… of what it means to be a man, because I think all men are called to be fathers. Now, I don’t necessarily mean they are called to be biological fathers. I mean they’re called to be fathers to at least some of the younger people in their life.”
“What is the father’s major function?… The Father is a kind of Mr. Outside, while the mother is Mrs. Inside. She forms the basic character, the emotional life, the interpersonal responsiveness of the child, much more than the father. But the father introduces the child much more often to the outside world. The father symbolises the structure of that world, of law and order, of the activities, of the things that you get involved in when you leave the home.
“What happens when the child is functioning okay because of having a good enough mother but has a bad father? Very often, the child will get out into that world and cause a lot of trouble, because the father hasn’t been there. In fact, in social science, probably the most reliably documented piece of evidence is the effect of bad fathering on children we can see it in various pathological indices. It’s unbelievable that this information has been around for over fifty years in extremely substantial ways, but it continues to get little attention.”
“We’re moving into a new historical period in which we will rediscover the validity of a lot of our traditional understanding, but we’re going to discover it intellectually. We’re going to discover it in the language of today, which is science, and in the present, social science. We’re going to understand the sensible reasons why many of these traditions evolved. In the past, people couldn’t speak about traditions, it was just what your people always did. But now I propose that we will learn why so many traditions were sound, and, in particular, we are learning why fatherhood is so important for the health of children, families, and society – indeed why being a father is good for each man. I think it’s very important for individual men to have this understanding, because fatherhood is the way a man fulfills his manhood. If you think you’re fulfilled because you’re living like James Bond, you’re out of your mind. He’s the guy without any bonds with anyone.”
The rest of the transcript is well worth reading too.
Thirdly and finally, on a different level entirely, the clever media monkeys at Volkswagen in the UK made a moving video (intended to move you to buy a car – but moving in other ways too…) about the evolving relationship between a Dad and a daughter…. which was a good reminder to me, and to all Dads, about making the most of the present and being well involved in our kids’ lives…. Enjoy… (Sob!..)