In my first Father post I discussed the myths surrounding fathers. I also mentioned the great need that we have for fathers; that children cannot be raised properly without fathers. Proof of that is simple – find a man who never knew his father. He will explain.
Much more can be said about fathers though, beyond the myths about them, and beyond their invalidation and alienation in society.
Fathers are crucial to raising boys into men. They offer boys things that women cannot offer and usually do not understand.
For a man, your father is your first idea, your initial and always-core idea of what a man is. The word ur springs to mind – a German word meaning ‘original’ or ‘extremely old’, as in Urwald (ancient forest). Your father is your ur-man. He is your reference point as what a man is. In the hands of a poor father, this power is corrupted or simply wasted, but in the hands of loving, nuturing father this power is liquid gold.
A father has hardwired what a boy needs, but the problem often arises that the father himself was not properly raised. What if he himself is not a fully realised man? How good are his chances then of raising his own boy well?
As much as many people would have you believe that gender roles are the problem, they are naive. A boy cannot grow to be a man in a vacuum. Of course every man has his own path in life, but a good father will teach what is important in life, and the things a boy needs; how to love, how to work, how be be rational and control your emotions – in short what a man needs to live well.
Acknowledging fathers are important if you understand that living well is not automatic, even with age. It is a craft that is learnt and not possible to short cut by drugs or short term pleasures.
A father teaches a boy – with help from older men too – that being a man is something learnt and earned, it not automatically conferred at age 18.
Fathers can have much more resonance with their sons, because they have lived through similar experiences. Male wisdom is gold for a young man understanding how to navigate through the world; it is essential.
More than we really understand, fathers also need us. Society has denied the ability of fathers to love and nurture, it has also denied the vulnerability that fathers feel. Many fathers feel vulnerable – feel that they have failed at many things in life – and deeply need to be accepted, if not loved, by their children. They need to feel understood and that at least their life was worth something. This is the unspoken tragedy of modern fathers today.