Phone calls with intention inevitably reveal other issues. One such call recently featured a beaut diversion — the revelation of a father off camping with his three boys, spending time with them, teaching them the ages-old ‘trade’ of manhood.
I mentioned how fortunate these boys were to have a father so engaged.
The response from the mother was interesting. She said, “I don’t understand why some women clip the wings of their husbands.” She’d watched many men, who’d tried to do things with their kids, nagged and belittled by their wives — their efforts wasted.
Her theory was simple: get out of the way; be careful not to ‘clip his wings’ with damaging putdowns and unnecessary interventions.
It’s a refreshing, loving attitude when we consider society’s predilection with “the doofus dad” as highlighted by John Tierney of the New York Times (2005).
An Unfortunate Reality - Scarcity of Fathers
Many, many children grow up with insufficient or inappropriate fatherly example. Most of these situations mothers feel trapped — they acknowledge the need but often can’t do much about it. They’re doing all they can.
Grandfathers can certainly fill the gap. Indeed, grandparents are playing a more crucial role by the year.
Single mothers are especially vulnerable; frantic if they sense the truth; their child’s need of a father-figure who’s not there or not engaged.
Men Are Key Players in the Formation of Growing Children
Whilst there is a strong maternal role in the infant years, the importance of fathers grows as children begin toddling and beyond, into the teen years.
Men have an important role in parenting, a fact not always recognised.
One salient example:
The male of the species teach children how to approach risk; how to deal with it. It’s not that women don’t; men just accept risk and danger better. Given that our world is full of potential for risk and danger it’s a critical life-skill. Where women finesse well, men often present the macro-picture. Men provide parental balance.
Wives & What to Do
For women blessed enough to have an active father for their children, there is always the temptation to claw back on the reins, to control what can — let’s be frank about it — be controlled.
But it comes at a potentially hefty price: for him and the kids.
Unless he’s especially passionate or courageous or innovative, he gets shut-down and becomes disinterested; the risk’s not worth it. Nothing the kids can do now will spark him. No wonder they’ll possibly develop ineffective anger-coping problems — disengaged, ambivalent dads are inciting quiet exasperation in their children.
If we want stimulated and emotionally healthy kids, and dad is about, we have to engage him. We do this by freeing him to spread his paternal wings. We let him fail. We encourage him by knowing when and how to step out of the way.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
Graphic Credit: Australian Museum.