My Child’s Father
By her hand he guides her,
every step she makes.
Holds her, offers up his shoulder
when she’s upset or in pain.
His arms never falter,
though his back sometimes breaks;
his love only grows stronger
though his will it sometimes takes…
Sierra Kummings © 2015
What makes a father?
In my recently completed first novel (yes I’m smiling when I type that), Morrow’s Horizon, the leading man, Jacob Ramírez, has a fear of becoming a father. Without delving into specifics, suffice it to say, it goes way beyond the typical “I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m going to fuck up majorly” kind of anxiety. Or even the stereotypical “I’m afraid of commitment” guy reaction. Something that through a set of circumstances consumes him. In a way, his story centers around that. Because that fear underlies his very real struggle. For him, there is only one thing that makes a father, and he’s already proven he’s failed at that.
For me, I think I adapt my definition at each stage of my life. Growing up didn’t see much positivity in the way of shining examples of fatherhood. Though as I’ve aged I’ve come to terms with the fact that sometimes life precludes any ability to follow expectations. My own father, I think, chose the path of least resistance. For him. Though it didn’t always turn out that way for our family as a whole—or ever—he did the best he knew how. As a parent now, I’m finding my ability to judge that fading with each passing year.
I know the limitation my life has put on me: Mom to a child with special needs; never, ever getting the sleep I need (like ever); being unable to work outside the home (which makes the crazy in me even crazier); bad back + having to lift 40+growing pounds, and the 70 pound equipment that comes with her…those just but a few. And I know I fall short of the mother I want to be—the mother I once promised I would be.
So what then of fathers? Do I lower my expectations based on my own experiences? Do I raise them for the same reason? Or do I shift to a more balanced view?
I’d like to think I take the third option at this point in my life.
So here it is…my list of what makes a good father…are you ready for it?
Grace to accept the fact that you will fail. Multiple times over. That your child will hate you, curse you, scream at you before it’s all done. Regardless of whether you’re doing it right or wrong.
Grace to accept the fact that they will fail. That sometimes they’ll be unlikable, cause you to drink (or at least fantasize about it), and will still throw tantrums at the wise old age of 38.
The ability to forgive –
Both yourself and your child. For being human.
Being humble enough to change –
Though everyone makes mistakes, some can only be made right by change. Most often in the midst of the strongest adversity. Fighting for that change, instead of against it, not only determines its success, but the success of the family as a whole.
Treat your children with dignity –
No matter what their circumstance, abilities, or motivations. Treat their situation with dignity. Always.
Unconditional. Unequivocal. Especially on the days the kids are at their worst.
And it looks suspiciously like the one I keep for myself as a mother.
So what about you? What defines fatherhood for you? As fathers, what do you strive for? As co-parents, what do you look for in your partner? As adult children, what do you admire or wish you’d had in your own parent?