“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.” ~ Antoine François Prévost
The word “father” may conjure varying images and degrees of reference. A father is not a perfect vessel sailing alone on the seas, but is rather a small dinghy dependent upon larger vessels to cross the larger bodies of water.
Fatherhood is a privilege, it is a gift, and it is a sacrifice. As a father, you are unofficially sworn to protect, to educate, and to defend the honor of your children. Fatherhood may feel at times as a thankless job, but remember, fatherhood is your choice, not the choice of your children. Children have no choice to embark in this game called life, rather we subject them to this life and hope that they too will succeed. As fathers, we are not called upon to be perfect, but to strive to be the best that we are equipped to be.
“To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase ‘terrible beauty.’ Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened: it’s a solid lesson in the limitations of self to realize that your heart is running around inside someone else’s body. It also makes me quite astonishingly calm at the thought of death: I know whom I would die to protect and I also understand that nobody but a lugubrious serf can possibly wish for a father who never goes away.” ~ Christopher Hitchens
FATHERHOOD IS A GIFT…
The gift of fatherhood is the receiving of an unconditional spirit, acceptance and love from our children. If we offer our children unconditional love, approval and acceptance, then they too will have an inherent desire to reflect such attributes. Fatherhood’s gift is as much for the father as it is for the children. A father who is seeking to be and do his best will undoubtedly teach his children to seek nothing less.
A good father, is not a perfect father, rather a father always striving to be his ultimate best. A good father recognizes his weakness and limitations and strives for improvement, but does not worry of failure, rather sees it as an opportunity for personal growth and maturation.
As a clinician, I am always amazed by fathers who have egregious personas. Despite the senseless abuse of some fathers; children frequently and unapologetically offer an unconditional spirit of love, acceptance, and approval. It dumbfounds me that children are geared to forgive and simply forget the wrongdoings of such negative behaviors, but there is something biosocial engrained in the human subconscious that excuses away such behaviors, attitudes, and percepts. For fathers it should be a wakeup call to straighten up, but unfortunately, this is not always the case and the egregious persona carries onward throughout the rearing of the life of the child.
Why is fatherhood’s gift unrecognizable to so many? Do fathers simply overlook the complete scientific marvel of life? Do fathers forget the beauty of the life that they have created? What if , the father is an adoptive and/or step-father? Should he be restricted to only loving his biological children? If so, then why allow a man the right to adopt or embark on fatherhood at all? Whether a father adopts or is simply a “step” father, he too holds the honor of fatherhood. Fatherhood should not be considered a drudgery or a curse. If a child feels rejected, they will ultimately feel unworthy and unacceptable, struggling with a lifetime of hard feelings and loneliness.
FATHERHOOD IS A MIRACLE
In an age of taboos, the word “miracle” will undoubtedly conjure up a spiritual ideological perspective. Arguable, if we consider the word miracle; it is something beyond the complete understanding or capability. While scientists have had the fortunate of replicating life, through a variety of scientific processes; we have yet to design life in “our own image”. Thus, life is a miracle; “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws…” If you considered such events as a miracle, then fatherhood is the greatest gift of life. We should all be appreciative of the simple gift of life, but the hardships, trials and tribulations do brings us down. Moreover, being down is not a sin or crime, rather is it an indication that we are human. Being a father is about being human. Being human is not about making excuses or excusing our wrongdoings, rather it is about living to the best of our capability. It is about accepting ourselves for our mistakes and our successes. It is about accepting ourselves for our gains and our losses. At the end of the day, it is about trying to be our best.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”~ Albert Einstein
FATHERHOOD IS FLEETING
As a child, I heard a many of folks say; “don’t blink or life will pass you by.” It is unremarkable, how true those words would prove to be. As soon as I blinked, life had passed me by. Where did it go? Was I waiting to live? Unfortunately, it was not until adulthood that I learned that we must live in the virtual moment. We must live from day-to-day. We must live life to it’s fullest potential. We must seek to cherish every waking moment with our children, our families, and our friends.
FATHERHOOD IS ABOUT SETTING AN EXAMPLE
“The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”~ John Wooden
As children, we are taught by the examples our parents set. Whether or not we are raised in a “traditional” home, should not matter. How parents behave unto one another does. Parents should be shining examples of compassion, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. As parents, we need to be deliberate in our pursuit of parenting. There are few absolutes in parenting, but the following: love your children and teach them to love; forgive your children and teach them to forgive; accept and approve of your children and teach them to accept and approve of others; and finally, show an abundance of compassion and teach them to show authentic compassion.
FATHERHOOD IS ABOUT STANDING FIRM
“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” ~ Attributed to Malcolm X
As children, we learn to stand our ground and to stand up for ourselves through the examples of our peers, our teachers and our parents. It is prudent that children learn the strengths in being steadfast. Being steadfast means to be resolute, dutifully firm, and unwavering. In an age of wishy washiness, being steadfast show’s conviction and loyalty. As parents, a child who has strong personality is frequently considered stubborn, but in an adult is considered admirable. Perhaps we should take a second glance, it maybe that, the child is being diligent in his or her pursuits. Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss children who have combative or oppositional personality types, and do not dismiss the fact that they may be reflecting strengths rather than weakness.
FATHERHOOD SHOULD HAVE NO CONDITIONS
“Love is not an act based on conditions. Love is the conditions all other acts are based on. Love for our Creator. Love for others. Love for ourselves.”~ Barbara Boyer
As a father, if I place conditions on my love, then I limit the amount of love that I am willing to dispense. Moreover, if I authentically have unconditional love for my children, then there are no limits to my love. My love is a sacrificial item without deed, promise, or design. It is the only true perfect aspect of this life. Likewise, if I say that I have unconditional love for my children, then I too must have a relationship to unconditional love. Thus, I must love myself unconditionally. The very term “unconditional” means to be without subject or conditions. Thus, implying that the state of my relationship to love has no barriers or obstacles. It is merely an unconditional state of being.
As a clinician, I have heard a many parents utter, “I love my children. I love my children unconditional, but…” I have been known to emphasis the but, bringing an awareness to the statement. It is interesting how we may utter words, but have very little loyalty unto them. While I may love unconditionally, I am not bound to like every deed, action or behavior of my children Please do not forget, all human beings are certain to make errors in this game called life. As children, we yearn for unconditional love, acceptance and approval. We should teach our children mistakes and errors in life happen, but our love is without void.
AS FATHERS WE SHOULD TEACH RESPONSIBILITY
“When you’re feeling overwhelmed, make a deliberate effort to calm yourself.”~ John Gottman
Avoiding responsibility will create barriers and build up walls of rejection. Always accept that with which you are responsible for, and never accept responsibility for someone else’s mistakes. You are ultimately the master and commander of your life. Therefore be in charge and willing to accept the rights and wrongs that occur in your life. Accept both your own and your partner’s strengths and weaknesses.
“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” ~ William Shakespeare
Active listening is another essential ingredient to any relationship. Active listening is the ability, the skill, technique, or an inherent trait whereby, a person is purposefully and intentionally focusing on the communications being sent by another person or persons. An active listener not only listens and receives an intended message, but is capable of paraphrasing what messages he or she has received back to the communicator. An active listener recognizes that not all communication is verbally spoken, but is often communicated through verbal and nonverbal transmissions. It entails good physical posture, gestures, and purposeful eye contact.
As an active listener, you will align your body towards the intended recipient. You may lean towards the sender or receiver, maintain active eye contact, posture your body in an open form, and be relaxed while nonverbally communicating. Active Listening is also, being capable of reflecting any verbal or nonverbal communication that is communicated.
As a parent, an active listener is purposeful in his or her actions, reflections, and all forms of communications. Active listening shows that you care, have empathy, and are completely interested in another person.
“In addition, listening or speaking without being defensive helps to counter several destructive habits. (If you are a) non-defensive listener, chances are it will make the cycle of negativity much less likely… Letting your spouse (or child) know that you understand him or her is the most powerful tools for healing your relationship.” (Gottman & Silver, 2012, Online)
BE A FATHER
“Where there is love, there is life” ~Mahatma Gandhi
As a father, I have much to learn. Fortunately, my teachers are accepting of my mistakes and they offer an abundance of love. My teachers are my children and my wife. I am so very blessed, but I am not writing to this to gloat, rather to remind you to look at your own lives for the precious gifts placed immediately in front of you. Whether they are “literally” in front of you or not, remember if you have the gift of a child, then you are blessed. You are blessed to have this precious gift; your mini-me. You are the ultimate educator, provider, and life advocate. You provide shelter and comfort. You provide love and support. As a parent, you may not prove perfect, but strive for the best that you are capable of being. Be your best.
“When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.” ~ Fred Rogers
A father’s love is not limited, rather it is limitless. A father may place many conditions on a child’s life, but love should not be one of them. We should love a child despite themselves at times, and a child will offer us the same.
A father’s love is protective, it is warm, caring and paternal. A father should embrace his role not reject it out of fear of inadequacy or incapability. We are all undeserving of these precious little gifts, but the gifts appear and we should be proud to represent them. You are blessed by the gifts that you have received.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” ~ Carl R. Rogers
A father should emphasize daily his love, acceptance, approval, and belief in his children. In fact, if he does this, the same statements will begin to have a positive effect on his own life. Even if, he had a difficult time saying them unto himself, in time, the words will have a positive impact on his life.
A father’s gift is a miraculous event. As a father, I cannot tell you how many times that I have sat by watching my children sleep. Life is a miracle. As fathers we must relish the good times with the bad ones. We must cherish every opportunity we have to be in the presence of our children. The life of a child is fleeting indeed. Be certain to make the most of every moment with the life of your child.
Authors: Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M.
Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (2012) What makes marriage work? Retrieved April 20, 2014 from http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200910/what-makes-marriage-work
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA