This last month for me was pretty interesting. As most of you probably know, around the time the Upper Left guys came on, I lost another member of my family and then the next morning discovered that my wife and I were having a baby. This dissent, even though we announced the new style, for me won’t yet be a well-done, research piece but the next one definitely will be. For now I just want to talk about what I think fatherhood is.
First off, I’m terrified. Regardless of the reality I couldn’t feel any less prepared to be a father. I have no idea what it takes. My parents were divorced when I was two, and my dad wasn’t solidly in my life after the age of six. I grew up in a house with my mom, my sister – who is seven years older than me – and my grandmother. The home I was raised in was incredibly loving and I’m not sure I could have asked for a better one but it wasn’t filled with what could be considered “standard masculine energy”.
My mother loves football, but learns from me now. She had me open her radiator once RIGHT after she drove, we didn’t know any better. My grandma taught me how to shave by describing to me how my grandfather did it when he was alive. I learned everything I could from every boyfriend my sister ever had, no matter if it was good or bad. I’ve always had a hard time fitting in with males and making strong male friendships, even to this day in my current place of work. I don’t say these things to try and get some type of strange sympathy, because I am by no means unique in the case of not having a present father in this country, but simply to highlight some of the things that I had to teach myself and continue to learn today.
I am not concerned about what some might tell me are “socially constructed” ideals of what a man is. These are some qualities that I would also attribute to what I think is a strong and well-rounded male; qualities that I wanted for myself when I was younger and hoped desperately for someone to teach me. As simple as auto mechanics, the fine details of football of base, how to put the chain back on my bike when it falls off or even how to talk to a girl I liked. Some times I did learn things from other men but a lot of these things I had to teach myself. I have fully considered and feel comfortable with the possibility that my child might not identify with the same qualities that I do when it comes to being a male, but the qualities I considered to be strong were identified the same way with my wife, which was the goal in the long run even if I didn’t know it.
I don’t think I’m afraid of not knowing these things when my child arrives, I feel totally comfortable learning things WITH my child. I am still learning much for myself, for example, everything I know how to do on a vehicle are things that have broken on my cars and I have had to repair on my own. My fear, I think, is not in the skills I feel I may lack but in my deep concern that without HAVING a solid and strong father figure in my life how could I possibly be one to my child? And I think I’m starting to come up with an answer. To borrow a phrase from the far left, fatherhood is not linear. That’s why people can grow up with two moms or two dads and still be normal functioning members of society.
I think that with that, there are only a few things that a child needs in that non-linear definition of fatherhood that are vital, and the rest I theorize could be played by ear, for lack of a better term. I could not by any means provide a list of those vital characteristics, but a few could be love from a masculine force to help the child understand that won’t only come from a mother, the feeling of obligation and responsibility to protect your family and those around you and to respect women and their choices and feelings in this world. The rest, as I said, I think are easier to choose for yourself.
By these “non-vital” aspects I mean having an opinion on your child sexual preference of choice of career, caring what sports they play even if they don’t, the college they want to go to if they want to go at all, or even the hobbies that they choose to occupy their time. And by non-vital what I really mean is if you take an objective look at these possible aspect of the child’s life, what do they matter? Sure there are outliers like your child COULD choose to occupy their time by taking copious amounts of acid or torturing your dog, but chances are they won’t. It’s much more likely that difference I speak of is that I love football and my kid might hate it.
Ultimately I think it’s these things that cause men to buy books on how to be a father. As most of you probably know I’m not innocent of that judgement, but the book I chose was chosen for a reason. It was written by a PNW native that mostly discusses how to help support your partner while they are going through pregnancy, because being a man, I have NO idea what that is like. He also explores how to act independently in order to make choices that you feel as a couple are best and to not be pressured into making the decisions others think you should, because everyone has an opinion on how to raise your baby.
As terrified as I am I also feel confident – confident that I will do my absolute best to teach my child all of the vital pieces of existence that I can, and that I will also do my best to not let the non-vital aspects of my child affect my life, because I don’t think they should. I feel comfortable and confident saying that I will love my child to the fullest extent possible until the end of my life, with no exceptions. I also believe this is what will get me through, and has gotten every great father through, since the beginning of time. Confidence. Confidence will allow me to follow my heart, and always do what I think is best for my child and my family. And from the eyes of a man without a father figure that is doing his best, that’s what I think fatherhood is about.
– Written by Donavan Phillips