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The Virtue Of Fathers


It seems apropos, if ironically so, that Father’s Day follows Mother’s day in the calendar of fabricated Hallmark holidays. In our culture, dads seem second to moms in the importance, accomplishments, and fanfare surrounding them. Compare the number of mommy blogs to daddy ones—grant it, women are hardwired to be more communicative—and you’ll get a glimpse of the gap.

Rarely does a dad proclaim: Do I have to do everything? Why can’t I have it all? While they don’t do everything, they certainly don’t do nothing and it’s for occupying this sweet territory we love them, are baffled by them, and desperately need more of them.

But Dads Are Dumb, Aren’t They?

How many times have you seen a commercial of a dad changing a diaper with a smile on his face and joyous orchestration as the soundtrack? Usually dads are portrayed as idiots who barely keep their children alive, let alone foster innate needs for love and security. Remember that fantastic commercial P & G produced during the last winter Olympics, demonstrating fathers are so vital? It brought everyone to tears, right? No. It’s actually about moms (and it does move me to tears).

Remember this Verizon one that makes dad look oh-so-pathetic? But wait, aren’t these the same dads who, you know, risked their livelihoods crossing the Atlantic in 1620, founded an experimental government based on liberty, have fought countless wars to ensure said liberty remains intact, and continue to bolster this nation’s economy through pioneering, inventive ways to communicate, medicate, do business and more? All while being dads?

Feminists will say men—dads—seem influential in history because women didn’t have equal footing for most of it. In some cases, that’s probably the case. But most dads are not actually sitting around being as stupid as modern media portrays them to be.

But Dads Are Unimportant, Aren’t They?

The importance of fathers has actually been waning since the inception of modern society. Clinical psychologist Dr. Ditta M. Oliker said, “Research studies did not place much importance on the role of the father, and his influence on the development and growth of his child was reported as ‘insignificant’. Parent was often the same as mother — and father, if mentioned, was equivalent to other influences. Only a small number of parent-child studies investigated the father’s role, and the few studies that were done at that time focused on the father’s involvement as reported by the mother (emphasis hers).”

‘Children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement.’

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, 1 of 3 kids live in a home without their biological father. In the Journal of Family Psychology, “researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement.” The U.S. Census Bureau found kids without dads are four times more likely to be poor. The Journal of Research on Adolescence found “youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.”

It’s clear dads are needed. The natural bond between them and their biological children is difficult to replace or replicate.

Dads Do It Wrong, Don’t They?

My dad represents the Holy Grail of fatherhood. He attended every sporting event, spoke affirmingly to me all the time, and we spent hours on a bike, boat, or in the backyard. Dad taught me how to shoot a rifle, how to engage my mind before I engage my emotions, and what to expect of a man who expects to spend his life with me. We wrangled science and faith, politics and government, boys and my brother.

It was through the lens of my relationship with my dad I gauged every single relationship I had with a male.

It was through the lens of my relationship with him I gauged every single relationship I had with a male. Few made the cut as friends or otherwise. If I thought a man couldn’t live up to the kind of man my Dad was—or, let’s be honest, maybe half that—he might as well hit the road. Up until I left for college, when my dad returned from work, I always greeted him at the door with a hug.

I think many girls feel this way about their fathers. For those who don’t, and with good reason, I offer my empathy. Not all men are good men; not all fathers are good fathers. Funny though, how when my husband and I became parents, I felt less starry-eyed at first, and much more judgmental about the kind of dad my husband could be. My husband is no dummy, but I’ve rolled my eyes at the outfits he puts our kids in, instead of just being thankful he’s clothing their naked bodies. Or I’ve prepared a speech in my head when I overhear the way he plays, or disciplines, or speaks to one of our four children, ages 8 to 18 months.

Yet I’ve come to realize that, while my husband parents differently than I do, it’s no worse, and probably no better. My husband is one of the most engaged fathers I know. Whereas I tend to be more serious, analytical, and task-driven, he brings levity, adventure, and a joke when one is needed. He regularly engages our children in spiritual discussions, takes them on day-trips around Virginia (bentures, my three-year-old calls them) and throws pillows across the room at their heads. For this, they squeal when they hear him walk through the door and they run to greet him, just like I did with my dad.

Dads, We Need You, Don’t We?

It must be hard for men in today’s feminist-soaked society, or even just living with a really opinionated woman (err, sorry, honey), to show up at the workplace of fatherhood every day, when the media thinks he’s dumb, society thinks he’s replaceable, and the mother of his children doesn’t think he’s “doing it the right way.” But that doesn’t mean we as a collective society of women, children, and grandchildren don’t need and won’t try to appreciate them.

Good, strong, wise men inherently possess so many valuable traits that even the most accomplished, intelligent, intentional women would struggle to model them. In a father’s ability to focus on his vocational calling, he shows his sons and daughters the value of hard work and responsibility. In a father’s sometimes-unemotional and no-nonsense way, he models the power of the calm mind over fluctuating emotions.

This is the design. Why do we fight it? Do fathers shrink from it because they don’t believe in the virtue of fatherhood, or because they—or loved ones—think they can’t demonstrate it? It’s time we correct the portrayal of dads, boost their importance, and encourage their natural, God-given traits. They might even show moms a thing or two about parenting.