Yes, they’re very cute and sometimes amusing, but, no, your life does not revolve around them. And no, you don’t need to know much more about parenting than your grandmother did a couple generations ago. When adolescents discover sex, they seem to believe that no one before them has ever known the true depth of lust. And this generation seems to feel the same way about kids – isn’t it miraculous that we’ve created progeny and can devote ourselves to becoming experts so we know exactly how to raise them!
In his excellent article, Game Dad, Andrew Santella contrasts his life as a father, and the very different way his father, and men of his father’s generation, did the dad thing.
“Of all the blessings of fatherhood, this may be the greatest: the license to act like a 5 year old. I always believed that fatherhood would transform me in some profound way – make me wiser, more loving, more of a man. What it has really done is given me an excuse to play with toy cars. In fact, now that I am a father, I act more like a child than I ever did when I was an actual child. And that makes me a fitting representative of the most immature society in the history of civilization…We may look like grown ups, but we act like a bunch of kids.”
“My father and the fathers of my boyhood friends were men of gravitas, authority figures. Even as we loved them, my friends and I were a little afraid of and in awe of our fathers. They were not childish men … (they were) restrained by some old world code of sober masculinity, he would never have been caught dead running around the bases with uncontrolled glee the way I do. Hell, I can’t remember him ever taking a turn at bat. He was the batting practice pitcher, the instructor, the coach. The grownup.” (“Game Dad” by Andrew Santella, GQ, July 2004)
One of the greatest columns that has been written about fatherhood is by Hugh O’Neill in the February 2007 edition of Men’s Life, subtitled: “You don’t have to enjoy playing with your kids to be a great dad.” “Each guy had his own grim testimony of being pressed to play board games or hide and seek, to climb through monkey bars, or to portray a wicked stepsister in a backyard production of Cinderella.” One guy summed up the ambiguity thusly: “I’d race into a burning building to rescue my kids, but please, don’t make me take them to the park!”
“It’s not enough these days to be a responsible, dedicated father. You’re supposed to be somehow re-enchanted by your love for your kids.
For every father who is smitten with his kids, there are five of us who find the next generation, at least in the early years, boring.
Don’t be his playmate. Be his father.”
“Don’t apologize. Women will act as though any man who doesn’t cherish each moment with his kid is a reprobate…don’t buy into it. Don’t let them get you on the defensive. Bridling at being with children doesn’t make you a bad father. It merely makes you a man.”
“Rather than cramming your swaggering self into your kids little world, sweep them into your roomier one. Take fewer trips to the playground and more to the hardware store. Include them in the things you enjoy. Let them be part of your man’s world, rather than shrinking yourself to their size.
“I still remember the impression my father made on me. He was warm and affectionate and plenty willing to toss the football around. But my father didn’t do games and he didn’t do pretend., and he had no patience for the goofiness of kids, and he didn’t apologize for wanting to be left alone from time to time. He was a man. He had a man’s concerns, a man’s plans, a man’s demons. He took us camping and bought us dogs and filled our youth with his energy. But he had no interest in childish things. And yet nobody in our family ever doubted, not for a moment, his love for them. His passion for his kids was man-size.”
“In my memory, his self-possession was a come-hither to adulthood. He was fully engaged in his life, enthused about its pleasures and challenges. It wasn’t so much that he enjoyed being a dad as it was that he enjoyed being a man. My father was full of promise, and he invited his kids to be intrigued by their futures.”
“Sometimes the best thing a man can do for his children is to live his own life with honor and vigor and let them watch. Having a front row seat to a loving man in full may be all a child needs.”