I’m hesitant because I am keenly aware of my friends, by no fault of their own, raising children alone. Reading the dreary statistics tied to fatherlessness, only adds to their burden. I consulted with my dear friend Kel– an extraordinary woman and gifted writer– who recently wrote about her dual role of father and mother to her two boys. Kel said, “I’d suggest to include: that fatherhood is watched, not only by your own kids– my boyos watch men to see how to become a great man and father. And I admit to using Erik as an example for myself.”
Perhaps Kel’s words illustrate exactly why writing about fatherhood, writing about the ideal, remains important. We need great examples. Sometimes I feel a bit jealous when my friends talk about their wonderful, devoted fathers, but even more so, I am grateful to hear there are good fathers; there are men who cherish and protect their children and grandchildren.
Kel added, “Make sure to say it’s hard work, no matter who is actually ‘being Dad.’ I learned what not to do as a father from my own history and fight to be the best dad/mum amalgam I can be.”
I think her words are key. WORK. I loved the comic who said (paraphrasing here), “When you look at women’s sacrifices going through pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and daily care, men’s contribution to giving life is pretty pathetic.” Almost any man can contribute to a child’s genetics, but true fatherhood, acting as an example and a mentor and a ‘daddy,’ comes only with effort and sacrifice. The rewards of those sacrifices are tremendous. When I look at Kel’s magnificent sons– their wit and laughter, their beauty and intelligence, their goodness, I know their father truly traded his birthright, his posterity, for a mess of pottage.
“Spelling Father” outlines the failings of men who fail to care and provide for their children (watch it; you’ll love it) just as The Proclamation to the Family illustrates their responsibilities, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”
While many fathers do abandon their children, some of the blame for fatherlessness can be placed on women; a generation declaring, “We don’t need your help.” I’ll admit to a bit of that myself. At times, especially when Erik works and travels extensively, I start to think, “I’m the parent here; he barely contributes.” And then I see the way my children adore Erik, listen to his counsel, emulate his actions and I know I am so very, very wrong.
A recent article in the Deseret News fascinated me: Forget income inequality — ‘marriage inequality’ is the real issue. While most of the article discusses economics (and it’s well worth a read), I was most interested in this paragraph, “The wealthy and well educated still abide by the rules of the old moral order, even if they scoff at the ideas behind those rules, because they recognize that these rules define the path to success. The poor and ignorant, having no experience of success, disdain the old rules — often with the encouragement of elite leaders in the fields of education, information and entertainment. And they suffer for it.”
So very true. Movie stars and celebrities can afford (on a financial level) to have children born out of wedlock and their happy stories are splashed across the tabloids (I stand in line at the grocery store; I keep up.). But the old moral standard of education, marriage, children, and staying married still holds true for the protection of children.
A few words about marriage: I’m a history junkie, and in my reading, I find it fascinating that for millennia, men and women married, not for romance, but for posterity. They married and they stayed married for the protection of their children. MARRIAGE IS HARD. Erik and I have a strong, happy marriage (23 years as of last week), but we still misunderstand, hurt each other’s feelings and hold different views on many subjects. I believe it’s important to acknowledge the challenges of marriage. Otherwise, couples facing very ordinary disagreements begin to believe their marriage is doomed. My talented friend Tracy wrote beautifully and honestly in the Huffington Post about her marriage. My favorite line: “We are checking our egos at the door this year. We have to if we expect this marriage to last a lifetime.” Tracy’s dedication to her children and her reverence for her husband’s role in her daughter’s lives have helped her preserve her marriage.
What can we do? Young women, the best gift you can offer your future children is marriage to a good man. Don’t share a bed until you and your future children are protected by marriage. Mothers– raise good sons, honor your husband’s role as a father, encourage his efforts. For Erik and I the keys to a great marriage have been:
3. Forgive quickly and fully. We never drudge up old hurts and we’re very patient with each other.
2. When we’re mad we stop talking. We’re both extremely good at biting our tongue. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can cut me deeply. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of something mean to say, decided to just be quiet, and five minutes later I’m so grateful I squelched my stupid and untrue words.
1. We remember we are building something far greater than ourselves. The silly annoyances of everyday life melt away when we keep sight of our vision for our family. We want loving relationships, we want to emulate kindness, we want to help and support each other, we want to raise extraordinary fathers and one sweet little mother.
I’ve written plenty and too much and not enough. And I didn’t even get started quoting Erik’s favorite authors and columnists. Perhaps these words from Stefan tie it all together:
… he spoke with his solid judgment and boundless humility to apologize. He never ceases to amaze me and every day I try to somehow reach that level: to be so kind and humble and good. As I watch him, I know that someday, as I struggle through this life, I want to be just like him. Just like my dad.
and from Ben:
You don’t know my Dad. You might have heard his jokes or watched him steal a baby away but you don’t know my Dad. And for a long time I hardly did either.