Today is Father’s Day.
For many, it is a celebration. It is a day to say “Thanks Dad for being there when I needed you.” It is a day to appreciate your father’s presence and impact in your life.
This week’s blog was a hard one for me. Contrary to what you might be thinking with that first line, I have a great father. He continues to be a permanent presence in our family’s lives, whether it is his daughters, son-in-laws or grandchildren. He has coached our teams, cheered from the sidelines, given us advice, listened when we needed an ear, helped us move, given us rides to schools, games, airports, etc. And lastly, loved us unconditionally.
So, why should this subject be difficult? I wanted something different. It would be easy for me to write about an involved father from a daughter’s point of view. However, writing about the relationship between a father and son fascinated me even more. What does a son seek from his father? Does that feeling ever go away as you age? What does a son learn from his father? What did he learn from his father that he couldn’t learn from his mother?
I decided to explore these questions through conversations with some men in my family. Their responses were interesting to me, in that they were more similar than different, considering that each of their fathers had different characteristics. The overall consensus was that a son always seeks validation from his father. Whether young or old, the questions in a son’s head may be: Did I do the right thing? Did I make the right decision? Did I make you proud?
It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was. ~Anne Sexton
On to my next inquiry, “What did you learn from your father or what did you learn from your father that you could not have learned from your mother?” Hard work and a strong work ethic were high on the list for everyone. Love of family was also included. The obvious answer of “how to be a man” came with some responses that I hadn’t thought of before. A son often looks for the attributes that he shares with his father and observes how he uses those successfully in his everyday life. A son looks to his father on how a man would handle certain situations that arise. A son looks to his father to be a model of what a man needs to be or what a man does. Simply stated, a son looks to his father for acceptance of his actions and guidance in a man’s world.
You want to see someone in your life that reflects you. Your mother can’t be your father. ~Oprah Winfrey
The term “single mother” can vary in definition. Being a single mother doesn’t necessarily mean that the child’s father is out of the picture. It could be a mother who is no longer in an intimate relationship with the father and shares custody of the child. These children still get to celebrate Father’s Day because their fathers stayed in their life, despite any relationship breakups.
Unfortunately, today is a day denied to too many children. Father’s Day, to some, is just another day. I don’t think that I need to provide any statistics, just look around. How many times do you see the mother in a child’s life, but have never met or heard of the child’s father? I have seen it often in my own classroom and saw it with my son’s classmates and teammates through the years. For these children, today is reminder of what’s missing. The mothers do their very best to perform double duties, but it’s not the same.
Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear a woman say, “I am/was both mother and father.” This can be difficult because, in the end, boys need their fathers to show them the ins and outs about how to be a man. A mother can give her son all of the knowledge that she has about life and love, but it is still from a female point of view. A mother can raise her son to be the type of man she would like to see in this world, but the role of a man and woman are vastly different in today’s society. I’m sure that I have angered some single moms, but deep down, they know that a boy needs a man in his life too.
Grown men [are] still crying over their daddy. ~Iyanla Vanzant
Before the single mothers unite and send the firing squad my way, let me say that your dual job is commendable and I’m sure that you are doing an awesome job! The focus here is why a father is important in a son’s life. The same could be said for a single father trying to raise daughters and attempting to emulate the role of a mother. This topic could show up in later posts.
In my observations and experiences, I have found that when relationships break up, the father’s role and/or influence are the first things to go. Most often mothers assume that her role is more important than the father’s. As a result, she attempts to either decrease or remove the father’s time with the child. Depending on the circumstances, she might be trying to “save” her child from pain or heartache. This may sound good at the time. However, even though, relationships between a man and woman may break up, it should never be that way for a child. Life Coach Iyanla Vanzant stated, “Men can leave her, but not them [kids].”
Mothers want to be the protector, but realistically they cannot prevent the hurt. Roland Warren, from the National Fatherhood Initiative said, “Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad,” when describing adults who grew up without fathers.
Confession—When my son’s father and I divorced 20 years ago, I was angry with the family court judge for granting 60/40 custody. It’s not that my ex-husband was a bad father, I just felt that ‘every other weekend’ was sufficient. My son was young and he was always by my side, so I thought, “Why change it now?” Watching my son grow up, I realize that the judge knew best. There was absolutely no reason that his father shouldn’t be there on a consistent basis. He needed his father in his life as much as he needed me. (There will be another blog post about what I learned in a divorce, but today is not the day.)
I realize that not every boy has the opportunity to grow up with a father in his daily life. In the case of an absent father, many uncles, grandfathers, cousins, friends, and mentors have stepped in to be great father figures. In my opinion, anyone who takes the time to show a boy what integrity, responsibility, accountability and love looks like from a male point of view is a good example.
I was watching a show recently about fatherless sons and a man in the audience talked about taking custody of his 17-year-old nephew. He stated that recently they were watching a game, and he looked at his nephew and thought, Am I doing enough? Am I doing it right? Am I guiding him right? I loved the response from Iyanla Vanzant and Oprah Winfrey. They said “You’re doing it right because you let him in…and you’re sitting watching the game with him.”
Isn’t that a form of validation? A grown man loves you enough to want to spend time with you. That may sound too simple, but a fatherless son may not have gotten that opportunity before. Fatherless son or not, time is precious.
To all of the men: Find time in your day or week to make a difference in the life of your son, grandson, nephew, younger brother, cousin or child’s friend. Be that positive role model. There can never be too many examples to emulate or learn from.
My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. ~Clarence Budington Kelland