Friday, September 16, 2005

The Importance of Being Daddy

Last night was "Date night with Daddy" for my second son. (And, if I've failed to mention it, I'll inform everyone now. I have four kids. A seven-year-old boy, six-year-old boy, three-year-old boy, and a twenty-one-month-old girl.) After the family had dinner, we headed out together with the goal to find him his first tying shoes.

We hit our first (but only) snag before we got out the door. Son number three had presumed that "Date night with Daddy" included him. So, as I'm heading out the door, he is right there with me.

"No, no. Not this time."

I would find out much later from my wife that shutting the door on him resulted in about twenty minutes of crying. I'm not sure if that should be a source of pride that he wanted to spend time with me that much, or a source of empathy that he was so disappointed.

Anyhow, it took all of one shoe store and three pairs of shoes before we finalized on the white and black Spider-Man shoes. Mission accomplished. Now, how to fill the next two hours?

Next stop was Dunkin' Donuts. After attempting to order a doughnut three times, I finally had to give in the the peer pressures of the linguistics of high-fat foods, and order a donut. My son decided he wanted to be like me and get the Boston Kreme, too.

Anyhow, an interesting thing happened. Apparently, the sight of a father with his young son out on the town is the ultimate "babe magnet", as a friend of mine would put it. Well, in this case, it was the cashier. She kept eyeing me and then my son with this smirk on her face. You know the one...the look that says, "Oh, how cute! Isn't that the cutest thing you've ever seen? A dad having donuts and chocolate milk with his son! Are you married still? Do you want to have kids with me?"

Okay. Maybe not the last part. Still, I can't help but marvel how such a simple act of parenthood can draw so much attention. This is not a first-time occurance. Anytime I have any of the kids, either alone or all together, sans mother, you'd think I was the greatest man on the face of the earth.

Which makes me realize how uncommon this really must be. I've often found it difficult to step outside my role as "man of the house" and "provider" and all that to just spend quality...and quantity...time with my kids. But each time I do, I have reaped benefits far beyond the scoldings for misbehaviour or heart-to-heart talks about doing the right thing.

Fathers seem not to recognize that they are the most important person in their child's life. Sorry mothers...but it's true. (Not to downplay the role of mothers. They are of infinite importance as well, which I'll discuss tomorrow.) But fathers ultimately shape who their child will become. It has been proven over and over again that children who grow up with absent (either physically or emotionally) fathers suffer severe consequences into adulthood. Eating disorders in girls, and criminal behaviour in boys are high up there, plus a multitude of other issues. Heartburn, upset stomach, headache, chest pain, sexual dysfunction, stroke, and sometimes death. (Oh, wait...sorry...that was an ad for a heart medication.)

The point is, fathers...take time not just to be the father of your kids. But to be daddy. They'll love you for it.


Keith Cronin said...

I agree with you about the "babe magnet" factor - during my many years as a single dad, I ran into that a lot. HOWEVER, while women may find that initially appealing, the first time you cancel a date because your parental responsibilities get in the way, they sour on the idea pretty fast. It's like they like the image of single fatherhood better than the reality.

Regarding your claim - and supposed logical support - that fathers are somehow more important, I think you're WAY offbase, and think such remarks are very insulting to women. To back it up with stats about kids with missing fathers ignores the fact that those stats exist because there are so many fathers who bailed out. Do you honestly think kids who grow up without mothers fare any better? And do you honestly think mothers - who, in households such as your own, spend FAR more time around the kids than the father does - have LESS influence on the kids than the father?

Sorry to disagree, but that's so wrong I can't help but comment. If you want to delete my comment, that's fine - it's your blog. But I think you need to take a hard look at that attitude. And maybe ask your wife if she agrees.


RyanBruner said...

It's okay. I understand. I was actually shocked to learn this myself.

But, there were several studies done comparing the "social outcome" (for lack of a better term) of kids who were raised with both parents, those raised with just a mother, and those raised with just a father.

By far, the greatest number of problems resulted from kids raised without a father. Statistically, children raised by both parents and those raised by just a father were quite similar.

The point isn't to downplay the importance of mothers. Mothers are far more important than even mothers realize! The point is, the role of fathers has been downplayed without realizing any of this.

It is a wake-up call for fathers to step up to the plate, and not anything to suggest mothers don't serve a significant purpose in many other ways.

Keith Cronin said...

One question:

Has your wife, who raises and home-schools your kids, read this blog entry?

Kate said...

I've got to disagree with you too, Ryan. I have no memory of my parents being married, and have only seen my father a handful of times since. I've never had an eating disorder. And my brother isn't a criminal. But he is a cop, and I've read studies where they say the two are the same thing...

Sociology isn't physics. Input A does not lead to output B. There are all sorts of variables involved that there is no way to control for. Just one for instance: I would imagine that a single dad gets a lot more offers for help than a single mother, which would lead to the better outcomes.