The Fallacy of Fatherhood
In my role at Positive Options as the Director of Fatherhood and Family Engagement, I spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a father. We all have different definitions, right? There is plenty of overlap in ideas, but we all tend to have a few things that are either passed on generationally or picked up through culture and media. In my own reflection of what it looks like to be a father, I started wondering... Do fathers need to be funny and crack good dad jokes? Do they need to be able to teach their children how to change the oil on their car? What about taking them fishing or camping? What must one do to be a successful father?
My brain kept going to the word “fallacy” and then I began to wonder, how many misconceptions do I actually have about fatherhood? Here is what I know to be true: being a “great father” isn’t a black and white target for men to aim at. It takes more than attending a few seminars, or reading a few books. Being a father is a constant dance of learning, calibrating, correcting, understanding, and adjusting. Here is an analogy to think about… We have been blessed by the previous homeowners of our current home because they installed an in-ground sprinkler system. When the summer ends, there is a process of turning off the system, draining the pipes, opening valves, and so on, to ensure that the sprinklers will make it through the Michigan winters. When the spring weather rolls around and we are out of the frost window, the reverse of that process happens. Our property is covered by four sprinkler zones and our system allows us to choose the duration and frequency that each zone runs. In order to care properly for the lawn, there is a dance that takes place. I usually start each zone running for 10 minutes, once per day in the early morning. But as the summer progresses, what happens? Tinkering. Adjusting. Calibrating. Why? There are so many variables to our yard! Some areas are covered with generous shade from trees, while others sit in the blazing sun for 12 hours each day. Some areas are closer to the sprinkler head locations, and others are a bit tougher to reach. The dance is not something that only takes place in the beginning of the summer, but constantly throughout the summer. Adjust the distance on this sprinkler… change the time on that sprinkler… now we are seeing a dry spell in the forecast, so the sprinklers need to run twice a day… and now twice a day for ten minutes is maybe a tad much, so let’s change the time to seven minutes twice a day… the weather is changing again and this shaded area is being overwatered… I am hoping you are following along!
And guess what? Every summer is different. Isn’t that amazing? There are so many variables to growing grass. And the same is also true when it comes to fathering children. There are no duplicate children! Every one is a gift and unique in their own way. So how must we father? It’s a dance! Maybe you have multiple children… Are they equally talkative? Is one more introverted than the other? Maybe one asks great questions and maybe another gives great answers. Isn’t it amazing to see the different creations that come in the form of children? Just like the different regions of a lawn, children are affected in a variety of ways by the factors around them. As a father, it is crucial to observe, to learn, to calibrate, and to take action… again and again and again. There may be seasons of life when your child is being cooked by the sun all day long and they need the extra attention, care, and comfort. At other times, your child may be in the shade and being overwatered. Pay attention, dads! This takes time and effort, but it is necessary!
I will leave you with this challenge: Spend the next 7 days meticulously observing your children. Find a journal and take notes at the end of each day. What is their mood? How did they react to your compliment? How did they react to your critique? Did they accept your compliment or brush it off? Spend a week observing and you will find that you are getting to know your child better each day simply by watching them closely and taking note of their methods, actions, and rhythms. You will be amazed to see how this can help to understand how your teen (or anyone) operates and how you can love them so much more effectively out of this. Someone once said to me, “The more fully you know someone, the easier it is to fully love that someone”. Now go begin the dance of learning, knowing, loving, and understanding your teen!
Director of Fatherhood & Family Engagement