Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Dads & Life

Hmm... sounds like a fine thing to ramble about.

Parenting v., childrearing, see also mothering; fathering.

Funny, isn't it, how fathering means the same thing as breeding, pretty much, whereas mothering means the same as rearing. We’ve left dads out for too long, particularly in the West. Dads are important parents.

I have a soft spot in my heart for dads, here in our society. It’s akin to the soft spot I have for men, growing up where (for some reason) the way you stand declares your sexuality, and being ‘sissy’ is the worst possible insult a boy can receive. There’s a lot wrong with that... but it’s about dads, today.

I like my dad, as a person and as his ‘role’ in my life. I admire much of his character, and he is one of the most generous people I have ever known. There was that weird period when he was going from Exalted Human to A Person in my head, when he became a whole person, from infancy to old age, within and outside the realm of our small family. My head expanded that day, and I saw a wholeness in him. What had been stereotype became whole, complex human.

a little bit of gardening by bareknuckleyellow
I like dads, and I think they have a hard row to hoe these days. There is a lot expected of them, and they expect a lot of themselves. They hide from some of these expectations (usually behind other expectations as powerful!) I understand their avoidance. 

It isn’t fun to feel incompetent at something important. It is hard to acknowledge our ignorance.

There are a lot of professionals and people who will excuse dads from adapting to the reality of the role particularly when the child is damaged or ill, because men take it personally, a strike against their manliness. I don’t excuse dads from their role, however easy it might be for them to escape under the ‘the mom knows better than me’ or ‘I am busy supporting the family, I can’t do both’ clauses. 

I don’t excuse dads from their role because of how much it damages them to be excused.
The damage is caused by excusing themselves, and me excusing them too just makes it worse. It is almost peer pressure for them to keep excusing themselves when they know better, and wish to be stronger.

When there is trouble or strife in childrearing, too often dad feels incompetent and impotent and the pressure to escape feels tremendous. 

Escaping into work is virtuous, important, probably vital, in fact. 

Escaping into childhood (go play with the boys at the bar, out fishing, paintball... whatever) is popular.

The Escape by Max Meir Mroz
Both are difficult for sane adults to justify, even to themselves... which pushes them to escape their lives even further... and on and on the cycle goes, feeling unbreakable.

Sadly, what these escapes does to men is destroy their sense of themselves as competent and courageous, both at once. For many men, feeling competent is 9/10s of who they think they are, and I haven’t met a man yet who doesn’t want to be courageous, even if he’s never managed it. Being ‘yellow’ is up there with being ‘sissy.’ And escaping from dealing with reality is both.

Funny, now in this situation, it’s the mom who gets to be courageous and strong by default (with a few exceptions), when being called feminine is the worst insult to a man.

Bonds so strong by Sau Hee
I don’t know what the magic words or thoughts or beliefs are, for dads who find the courage and strength to hang in, be there, and deal with the reality of the situation. I’d sure like to know what those men think they are. I suspect they might be something like ‘I just had to’ or ‘I had no choice.’ I’d like to know how to install it in the rest of them, so they can feel better about their fathering... and themselves.

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