Everybody Needs a Dad
In a recent column, Julia Steiny ran through various ways in which fathers are, in general, distinguishable from mothers. Here’s a sample:
… dads bring other huge contributions. For one thing, they play. That fatherly roughhousing that most kids love actually aids brain development. Play has been proven to enhance learning, and dads usually play with their kids more than moms. This play “promotes confidence in motor skills, courage, risk-taking and autonomy. It puts the kid on the path of healthy development and gives the child strong self-esteem,” Glantz said. Even as they’re wrestling with one another, the child can feel the love. And, “Dad’s love is valuable like nothing else.”
What all of the differences come down to, it seems to me, is that a father has unconditional love, like a mother, but without the sense of unity. As Steiny quotes from researcher Tonya Glantz:
“… think of how dads talk. It feels like: ‘You are here with me’ as opposed to ‘You are a part of me.'”
That somewhat different relationship is not only something learned by the experience of being an actual parent, but also something that has been woven into our personalities and culture, in conformance with out biological natures. Whether you want to believe it’s purely evolutionary or admit a Maker, fatherhood is expansive in the subtlety of its inherent effects on our society. (Which, of course, ties into the theological discussions that we’ve had around here, from time to time.)
What I’ve written above will have broad currency, in our culture, when the topic is education, parental responsibility, social work, and so on. However, much as fatherhood is broader than, say, an economic relationship, the concept of fatherhood and its importance ought to have implications for how we conceive of such things as marriage.