I’d like to preface this entry by saying I believe people from all walks of life can be marvelous parents. A man and a woman, two men, two women, grandparents, a single mother, a single father, and so forth. The most integral element to nurturing any child is love, and after love I’d have to say stability. I do have strong feelings however that children should be raised in a two-person household. I use the term ‘household’ loosely. Single parents need reinforcements, be that Grandpa or Abuela, Uncle, cousin, Tia or best friends. I also think children need long term role models of both sexes. If you’re raised in a loving home with two fathers, a friend, grandmother or aunt can slip into that female role.
This entry might seem divisive to some, and if you feel that way you should immediately stop reading. This entry is about the notion of a nuclear family and a father’s position in it, but really can be applied to numerous familial scenarios.
Good ole’ dads. This might sound terse, but before I had children I really didn’t believe fathers were immensely vital creatures. My father is a wonderful man, but in terms of fathering he is very old fashioned and tended to let my mother and grandparents do most of the rearing.
I’m so thrilled that I live in an era where so many fathers were raised by single mothers, and seem to be letting loose of conventional gender roles. They can wash dishes, do the laundry, cook, clean and especially in this current economy there are more and more stay at home fathers. But as women, we have to allow them to do these things. Most young fathers I know are incredibly hands on. They change diapers, they comb their daughters’ hair, they rough house and they read bedtime stories. That is, if you’re lucky. And I have to admit I’m lucky. I married an amazing man to whom fathering seems to be a sixth sense. I know innately that my husband Victor works each day for his family, and I never stop reminding our children of that. Does it make me nervous when my husband likes to carry our children upside down like ragdolls? Yes! However he’s playing with them, and I’m grateful they’re spending quality time with their father.
To throw some gravitas my way though, I let my husband parent. I’ve seen many mothers who complain their spouses aren’t taking an active role in parenting, my question is, are you letting him? As a mother, we can tend to hover, and micromanage. Now I’m not saying all mothers, but in general the Moms I know (and I’m including myself at times) we posture as Gaea, the all-knowing mother. It’s not really something that’s done to distance fathers, but let’s face it, many mothers go back to the argument of “I carried this child in my body…”
Every parent has his or her own unique way of childrearing, and whenever I think incredulously, “Really?” I remind myself that the world would be a boring, monotonous place if we were all alike. Which is what I tell myself as Victor tickles our toddler right after eating (although after our oldest son laughed hysterically and then vomited in the car my husband learned his lesson about tickling). Do I get nervous when Victor lets our older boys who are six and four years old walk in front of him in stores without holding hands? Undoubtedly, but I need to trust his parental instincts just as he trusts mine. Truthfully, if it were up to me my boys would be 12 and still holding my hand.
The most important thing my husband and I agreed about early on was that we wouldn’t undermine each other in front of the children. If Victor is disciplining one of our children, I don’t interrupt. He does the same for me. If we have issues about how that parent has disciplined, we talk about it later behind closed doors. To be fair, having four small children means they outnumber us and threat of a mutiny is ever present, let them see a split in the ranks and it’s all downhill.
Within the last 10 to 15 years the courts have taken a much more evenly balanced position when it comes to custody. Courts are rewarding fathers 50/50 custody in large numbers and there are currently several groups devoted to the rights of fathers. There is a societal sea change underway, not asking, but demanding fathers be seen as equal parents. This is exhilarating, it’s what so many mothers have been clamoring about for generations, but I’m going to admit what many mother will not. It is slightly intimidating for us. For some it is even maddening. There are many women who still feel as mothers, we are the more deserving parent, the ‘rightful owner’ if you will. To them I say, your child is every bit as much their father’s as they are yours. Unless the person you have chosen to have children with is unhinged or unsafe, both parents should be given the same rights.
And to those mothers out there who will read this and undeniably think, “My child’s father isn’t even around to pay child support, let alone play with him” I go back to my earlier statement. A father doesn’t necessarily mean the man who helped conceive, it can be a grandfather, an uncle, a loved one. I believe love, consistency and understanding are the main tenets of life, if every child in this world had that, I think it’d be a different place.
My brother and me with our most pivotal father figure, our Grandaddy.