A father’s duty to fatherhood

The traditional duties of a father are to provide, to protect, and to rule.

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.
My God, this frightened me.  It’s true that I never saw or imagined my father checking out women, but it requires no great effort to imagine me checking out women (consulting my recent memory will suffice).  I always considered myself a decent chap, not a saint by any means but the sort of person one wouldn’t mind having as a friend.  That’s not good enough anymore.  To be a father, to meet the bare minimum of not marring one’s children’s souls, one must be holy.  Suddenly the rigors of Christian morality make sense–I really am going to have to be Christ in the world.  I wish I had thought of this during my “scorched-ass Catholic” days, when my prayer was “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet!”  I should have always been saying to myself, “will you be able to explain this to your children someday?”  The past, unfortunately, is fixed, but at least I have some time now while Julie is a baby to rectify my soul.
 
Fathers understandably fear the grandeur of our office.  How much easier it would be to cast off any claims to our children’s reverance.  We know our hearts, and we know we really don’t deserve their piety.  Our tendency towards self-deprecating humor, of not taking ourselves seriously, encourages us in this temptation.  Nevertheless, it must be resisted for our children’s sake.  They need fathers, men on whom they can bestow piety, more than they need mere older friends.  We are the representatives of order now.  However much hell we raised in our youths, the revolutionaries have their guns set on us now; they and we are mortal enemies.  And not only outright revolutionaries are our enemies, but any entertainers, comedians, or children’s books authors who denigrate fatherhood, who make it the butt of their jokes, who portray fathers as foolish, selfish, or ineffectual.  If it were only our own egos, we might laugh off The Berenstain Bears (where Papa Bear always comes off as the fool) or The Simpsons.  But it is not ourselves that we need to defend, but the institution of fatherhood.  And we defend fatherhood not only (or even primarily) for our sake, but for our children, for our own fathers, and above all for our Father in heaven.  Therefore, we must be humorless when fathers are made the subject of jokes.  We must see the ridicule of fathers that pervades the world today as the Satanic movement that it is.  We must demand that fatherhood be restored to its rightful place of honor in the church, in the schools, in children’s literature, and on the television.
 
After decades of uncontested denigration of fathers in our culture, both popular and elite, there is beginning to arise a men’s rights movement on the internet.  Many of their goals are worthy, but I doubt men will ever demean themselves to become yet another self-seeking interest group.  Some clarification of language is in order.  What we want is not men’s rights but fathers’ authority, not rights for individuals but due recognition of a sacred office.  The demand is justice itself; God Himself set fathers over their families, to provide, to protect, and to rule.

8 Responses

  1. Beautiful post.

    Another aspect arises from the fact that virtues and vices are strengthened by practice. So, I wish today that society had punished me more (or at all) for vices I exercised before fatherhood. Breaking bad habits for the sake of my children is harder the more ingrained the habit. And they are plenty ingrained.

  2. Very good thoughts here. Thanks.

  3. Is that Julie in your photo? She’s adorable. And very lucky to have so dutiful a father.

  4. Thanks. That’s her and me four months ago.

  5. Touching post, one I can deeply identify with as a father and son, but … why the oversensitivity about dad “checking out” a hot chick? Sorry, that’s pussy logic. If you saw dad leaving the no-tell-motel with his skank of a mistress – total agreement. But dad merely being a biological male with urges – presumably not acted on – why be such a girl about it?

    My beloved father, sadly of blessed memory, was an upstanding husband and father, a faithful church-goer who, despite his charm and good looks, never ran around. Once in a while, when I was 12-14, ie awkward in my budding sexuality, he made the occasional comment, just between us guys, about a pretty woman walking by (“wow, nice cans, eh?”) – all in good humor; it always made me laugh.

    It reminded me that, behind the sweet, middle-aged dad who napped on the couch to make up for the long hours he worked to provide for us, was a man – a real man, the guy who served three tours in Vietnam, a total stud in his day, with the heart of a lion. And I’m sure he noticed hot chicks with big tits, never doing a thing about it, till the day he died. I certainly hope he did.

  6. Hi Kiewlak,

    I suppose one must distinguish disinterested appreciation of feminine beauty with lust. Unfortunately, the two are usually mixed in my own soul.

  7. And probably most men.

    My larger point is that if a man’s worst sin is noting – for a second, feeling the wolfish desire and letting it go then and there – a hot chick with big cans … wow, I’d love to be that good a husband, father, and Christian.

  8. This is a really good post on fatherhood and although it’s very old I wanted to point out what Kiewlek seems to be missing re: his father checking out a hot chick. It is that the child doesn’t just have a connection to his father but also to his mother and the strength of their marriage bond is a huge part of the child’s sense of security in the family. When dear old dad is caught checking out other chicks, the child, even if they can’t articulate it, senses this as a disloyalty to their mother. It plants a small seed of insecurity in their minds of whether dad may someday act on his “wolfish” desires even if he gives no sign of it now or it makes them wonder if they have acted on it in the past.

    If mom was checking out some guy’s behind in tight jeans and commenting on it, would it not be seen as a disloyalty to dad?

    The next sentences in the quote you shared from Touchstone, conveyed this sense of why it would have been disappointing to the author to have seen dad check out another woman like his friend’s dad.

    “I never saw my mother wonder where he was at the end of the day. She knew. He was managing a car dealership so he could come home and collapse in exhaustion, to start the whole thing over the next day.”

    Read more: http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=19-08-014-v#ixzz4bJ9CIDuO

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