Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Fatherhood

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to hear Ronald Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative speak about the critical role of fathers. The facts and figures about children living in father-absent homes are astounding.

Although, thank goodness, I am not raising my son in a father-absent home, but rather with a fully involved and committed husband and father, many of Warren's points really hit home.

My father's father died when my father was six and my grandmother never remarried. She raised four young children on her own. I remember clearly, sometime during college, when it first dawned on me that my dad--the most amazing dad ever--hadn't grown up with a dad himself. I mean, I always knew that his dad died when he was young, but I never really understood what that meant. That realization made me even more appreciative of my father, my dad. The man who did does all the grocery shopping, made endless peanut butter sandwiches for my school lunches, took my friends and me on awesome camping trips, taught me how to drive with maximum teeth clenching but minimal yelling (even when I ran a red light or scrapped up the side of the car!), welcomed my boyfriend turned fiance turned husband into the family despite an intense football rivalry, is an amazing grandfather and who I know I can count on for anything. How did he learn to be a father like that when he, himself, did not have a father to learn from?

I also thought of my husband, truly an amazing dad. I remember vividly, when our son was just a few days old, thinking to myself that seeing Abel hold, care for and love Lucas, made me fall even more deeply in love with him. How often have I left for a few hours (often!) or even an entire weekend (rarely!) without leaving a single instruction behind? Although Abel gets Lucas to bed at least 30 minutes later than I would, or lets him eat a popsicle before dinner or doesn't dress him in the outfit I would prefer, he's a pretty amazing dad who can handle things on his own, without a single instruction from me. All this despite the fact that my mother-in-law tells me that my father-in-law never changed a single diaper!

Warren challenged the audience to consider the role of mother: gateway or gatekeeper? He defined gateway as an opening, a facilitator, someone who cares about relationships. As opposed to gatekeeper: a person who controls access, a referee, someone who cares about rules.

And, he told us that research has shown that "a mother's view of a father's role is a better predictor of the father's involvement than his own view of his role."

I think that my mom and I have tried our best to be gateways for our husbands' and our children. I am grateful to my mom for her view of my father's role in my life and that of my siblings. Sure, the ponytails he put in my hair tended to fall right out. But he put them in nonetheless.

And, I hope that I can continue to be a gateway for Abel and Lucas, even if it means holding my tongue because that outfit simply does not match!

Original post to DC Metro Moms. Aimee writes about life with a toddler, some of her favorite things, and anything else that crosses her mind at Smiling Mama.


KC said...
Your dad sounds like an amazing person. The thought of your dad putting in ponytails in your hair is so, so sweet.

I'm amazed you don't have to leave instructions for your husband. I at least have to leave a couple to make sure all meals and nap times are observed - but he's otherwise a wonderful father too.

Sounds like a great talk.

ilinap said...
Your dad sounds awesome, just like the dad I always wished for. I grew up with my dad when my parents divorced (unheard of in 1978!), but it was hardly a happy Cleaver household. We pretty much coexisted because he had no idea what to do with us. What breaks my heart is that he's the same way with my kids, as unengaged as ever, even when the universe has given him a second chance. My husband, however, rocks. Seeing him as a parent melts my heart.

amy m said...
Great post, Aimee! Gives me something to think about, that's for sure!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

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