Wednesday, May 27, 2009

27) Fatherhood

"Fathers bring an unique presence, a special strength to raising children."
Ray Guarendi, Clinical Psychologist

Popular perception is that mothers are care-givers and fathers providers; that mothers are nurturing and that fathers are discipline-enforcing. Of late there is a shift in the traditional perception. Now, there is an increased merging of roles and sharing of tasks. With more mothers working full or part time, outside the home, this change becomes necessary. Flexi-work-schedules help, but mothers still have to balance professional and home responsibilities. To help such mothers, a new breed of super-involved, diaper-changing fathers is putting up willing hands. Some say that fathers can be as capable as mothers, if taught properly. Cases are not uncommon, of fathers opting to be stay-at-home-dads, allowing their spouses to take up rewarding careers.

Taking note of these changes, in a report published by Briton's Equal Opportunity Commission, the MORI Social Research Institute described four types of dads:
1) Enforcer Dad: He is not involved in day-to-day care of his children and sees the most important aspect of being a father as providing a role model and setting clear rules.
2) Entertainer Dad: He often entertains the children while the mother does the household work(cooking, cleaning and allied tasks); but he does not get involved in household tasks.
3) Useful Dad: He entertains the children and also helps out with childcare and some household tasks. But he still takes the lead from his wife about what needs doing and when.
4) Fully-involved Dad: He is equally involved with the running of the home and the family, as his partner, at least some of the time, and parental roles are virtually interchanged.

Most often, rightly, mothers corner the glory of child rearing. Sometimes fathers come up trumps. "I would be hard-pressed to find another father as dedicated as he is", is the warm tribute paid by a grateful child. "My dad was always there for me and my elder sister, no matter how busy he was. I grew up feeling very much loved and secure", are the words of an admiring daughter. And a little boy, near death, told his mother in no uncertain terms that he wanted his father by his bedside. He loved his mother very much, but now he insisted on having his father with him.
Memories of my noble father come back to me. He would never harm even those who harmed him, preferring to forgive them; and in many ways he gave to those in need, even when it hurt. He died long ago, but memories linger and there is an ache that will not go away.

Despite the occasional praise a father receives, he is asked searching questions:
Does he tune into the real needs of his children? Can they count on him at all times?
In a conflict-situation, is he understanding and fair? Does he create magic moments for his children? Does he bring his work-problems home and expend his frustration on his wife and children? Does he back his wife? And so on. Mothers seldom have to answer such questions, but fathers are not spared.

Since fathers play the disciplinarian-role(with many mothers dumping the disciplining
function on them), they appear stern and rather remote. Sadly, they are a misunderstood tribe. Some fathers choose not to explain themselves, preferring to be silent, and their families interpret their actions in a way that suits them. But fathers soldier on, marching to a beat in their hearts. That is why Wilhem Busch's voice strikes a familiar chord: "To become a father is not hard; but to be a father is, however".

A certain dad buys an Accordion for his son, who start music lessons, though he hates practicing. One day he challenges his father:"Why must I learn to play the Accordion?" Patiently, the father explains: "Because you can bring joy to people. You can touch their hearts.Someday you will have a chance to play beautiful music for your family. Then you will understand why you worked so hard at it". As the boy grows he plays less. When he is a grown young man, he decides to pack the Accordion and store it in the attic. Thirty years later,his children discover the Accordion in the attic and beg their father to play. He does play as his wife and children laugh, clap and dance to the music. Then his dead father's words come back to him and he woefully acknowledges that his father was right.

This story is true of what happens between fathers and children. There are four stages in their relationship:
1) When children are very young, it is:'only daddy knows'.
2) As they grow, it is:'daddy also knows'.
3) Into their teens and early adulthood, it is:'Really, what does daddy know?'
4) As they begin to grey at the temple, it is:'Yes, daddy knew'.
To this post, Charles Wadsworth's words are a fitting conclusion:"By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he is wrong".

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