What a Difference a Father Makes

Happy Belated Father’s Day y’all. I happen to be from the southern part of Rhode Island which explains my use of southern “y’all” greeting.

I appreciate the fact that we take a day each year to honor mothers and fathers. I know it’s pretty much a commercially motivated day, but the point remains that we should take time now and then to reflect on these incredibly important human roles.

There seems to be well accepted unanimity that mothers are vital to the welfare of their children. What’s been largely ignored in the past, however, is just how important fathers are to their children and to us as a society.

For one thing, fathers are the main factor in determining if we will feel accepted or not by others. We come into this world having known mom intimately for nine months (and already behind nine months room and board).  Mothers are normally well gifted at nurturing and loving us so we typically feel accepted by them.

Fathers, on the other hand, are obviously different from us and from our mother with whom we so closely relate. If father rejects us we begin to believe we are unacceptable as people. Unfortunately this is an all-too-common development in our society.

You’ve likely heard of surveys done in prisons when the inmates are asked to describe their relationship with their father. In one Florida penitentiary there was not a single inmate who reported having a positive relationship with a positive role model father.

I think we can all agree that mothers and fathers parent differently from each other. By the way it’s often the case that each parent does what they do in response to what they see the other doing. In other words, if a mother thinks father is being too strict she might tend to be more lenient. If a father believes a mother is being too assertive with their children, he might take a more passive tone. So if you have concerns about how your mate is parenting you might want to discuss with him or her how you might both change, not just the other one.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the genders parent differently. These differences are pretty much within us from birth. As you may have noticed, little boys are dramatically different from little girls. Back in the 60’s social scientists tried to get us to believe this was not true. They theorized that males and females are virtually identical and it’s simply how they are raised and socialized that explains gender differences. Fortunately, they put this hogwash theory to the test and they found out how ridiculous is was.

They gave little girls guns and soldiers to play with while little boys were to play with dolls. In short order the girls were making frilly clothes to put on the soldiers and painting the guns with dainty designs. The boys were playing with the dolls alright – by drop kicking them, throwing them to each other, etc.

Little girls are often seen playing house and pretending to have a family. They often spend countless hours dreaming of their wedding and their fortunate groom who gets to marry them.

Little boys, however, are often engaged in activities wherein they imagine what their occupation or profession will be. They play at how they will be able to make a living to provide for their family.

This helps to explain, but not excuse, the fact that so many men become workaholics to the neglect and disappointment of their wife and children. Many feel they are doing what a man is supposed to do – “put food on the table and clothes on their backs”. While this certainly important, too many men have gotten their responsibilities way out of balance.

Some years back I came across a blog written by Jon Brancheau, Vice President of Nissan Marketing, found at the web site for the National Fatherhood Initiative (www.fatherhood.org).  Concerning balance Mr Brancheau writes:

“A balanced obligation between the kids and the workplace is a good start. Prioritizing the time for my kids’ sporting events and recitals has proved important. I want to be visible for them at these events and will go out of my way to attend some during inconvenient business hours. Trust me, they get it and appreciate it. In the end, I try not to let my kids come up short on the “balance of work-life” scale.”

He goes on to say: “Staying with the idea of balance… How about the simple balance between trying to teach your kids vs. listening to them? Listening has worked for me so far and the kids continue to teach me something new every single day.”

It is certainly not my intention here to in any way minimize or downplay the importance of mothers. That they are vital to a person’s growth and development should go without saying. My intention is to point out the enormity of the role and importance which men have as dads to the overall health and well-being of their children. This factor, I’m afraid is often not given the significance it deserves.

So happy father’s day dads and please do stay in balance and be what your children really need you to be. I’ll just about guarantee you’ll be glad you did.


Ron Price is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-C-3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners Area. He can be reached at ronp@fccmf.org or 505 327-7870.