On a day-to-day basis, only the provider role comes into play at first. Since Julie was born, I’ve been getting to work earlier and working harder–spending less time as “Bonald” for example. If I can get tenure, my provider role will be pretty secure. When I come home, I’m “daddy”. Daddies have a special magic; they do things differently than mommies. They toss babies, give them shoulder rides, and do more outrageous stunts to get giggles. For their toddlers, daddies are better at chasing and roughhousing games, and they make better ponies (that is, our knees will take more punishment). Let’s face it: mommies may be better comforters, but we’re more fun. Who wouldn’t want to be a daddy? It’s the best job in the world.
As they grow older and approach the age of reason, other sides of the role come to prominence–“daddy” gives way to “father”. A father realizes that he has a tremendous power over his child’s soul, for good or for evil. He is the high priest of the family, whether he wants to be or not. In his child’s eyes, he stands as a representative of God and the moral order. If he will not speak for the moral order, his children will presume this order has nothing to say to them. He must judge, and they must know he will judge them. My father gave me all the affection I could have wanted, but he also let me know in no uncertain terms when I had done something wrong, and today I’m a much better man for it. Many men don’t want this role. They’d rather just be their child’s friend, an equal. But the role is ours whether we would have it or not. If we truly love our children, we will let them know what God expects of them.
The father has another role, more daunting than this. As father, his children must revere him as piety demands; the father in turn must be a fit object to receive filial piety. The import of our sins is magnified by the scandal they cause. I saw this recently in Touchstone Magazine:
A friend of mine mentioned the disappointment he felt as a teenager when he saw out of the corner of his eye his father “check out” a woman walking by on the street. I never saw my dad do that, and can’t even imagine it.