With Father’s Day just around the corner, I thought it fitting to devote this issue of Inner Sense to them. To talk about dads is risky because they don’t always fit the idealised images the Greeting Card Companies portray. Yet this is often the topic of conversation in my work, with men about their role in their children’s lives and both men and women regarding their relationship with their dads. While I know our fathers don’t always get it right, if we scratch the surface and look into their lives, it’s not hard to see what has shaped them.
What I would like to do is honour that which is the best in the men who take on the job of being a father, for we are fortunate to be living in a world where our fathers are now so much freer to express the love and devotion they have for their children; love that is so great it hurts. In a manner which differs from their love for their partners, there is a pride that goes along with the responsibility of being a father, like it awakens some primeval programming to nurture and protect and provide for those who depend on them. When I ask men why they do what they do, without hesitation their answer is “For my family”. There was a time, rightly or otherwise, when this was something we respected and one of the ways in which a man measured his success in life. A man ‘torn’ from his kids is like a wild beast that has lost its pride. Surprisingly, those same men don’t always recognise just how important they are to their children!
In the best-case scenario being a father is a joyous and fulfilling experience for both father and child. We need dads – to rough and tumble and play with when we’re little, to help teach us about right and wrong, to offer us another, usually simpler, perspective on life, and to help us grow into productive members of society. In an ideal world, it’s our dads who help a teenage boy learn his limits, who teaches him how to show respect to women and among men. And it’s our dads who, through their respect toward their daughters, help a teenage girl to respect herself and be treated with respect by others.
Obviously … just like our mums … the success with which they carry out that job depends to a large degree on the fathering they received themselves. Just as there are many models of parenting, we find ourselves with many different kinds of dads. Along with birth fathers, I would like to acknowledge those men who take on the guardianship of children, whether through blended families, or adoption, or fostering. There are men who, never having known their own fathers, are nonetheless doing their best to parent their children. Then there are men in relationships which do not nurture them personally but who choose to stay to care for and protect the children. And finally … to the absent fathers whose current inability to give a child the love and respect they need, or whose own unhealed wounds predispose a child to risk, may you find a way out of your pain to be safely reunited with your children.
When I think of my own dad, and of the men who loved me like a daughter, what stands out as common among them is that each in their own way is/was a gentle-man. To them and to my father-in-law whom I never met, I give thanks and honour their part in helping me to become who I am today.
Inner Sense No. 16 | August 2009
‘Thank you Diane, you really did help me to pluck up the courage to tell my dad I loved him and that I was proud of him. Thank you, because this opened the door for him to express his love verbally as well. Surely the tears will stop flowing soon!’
Gold Coast QLD
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Thanks for sharing!