A few years ago I read a great article about why and how fathers are important. It was a long and kind of boring treatise, so I won’t go into all of it, especially since I don’t remember but a couple of points that captured my attention. Why? Because I knew that from my perspective and experience, they were true.
According to the article, children fare better with two parents because each offers something unique and vital to the child’s development. While mothers, generally speaking, are nurturant and supportive, fathers tend to have more of a “step up to the plate” sort of mentality. When a child whines or complains that something is unfair, a mom (at least this mom) is tempted to soothe the little one and try to make things “all better.” Sure, she might agree that yes, things are tough, but she (again, generally speaking) will perhaps try to help the child to see the big picture or actually help him or her with whatever the “unfair” situation is. Dads, on the other hand, are more likely to say something like, “Who says life is fair? Stop whining and get moving.”
Furthermore, while both parents might see the world and the future as fraught with danger and pitfalls, their remarks and reactions to it are different. Mothers look for safety and are more likely to say things like, “Be careful,” or “Call me when you get there.” They take on sort of a protective role. Fathers, on the other hand, see the same dangers, but their goal is to prepare rather than to protect their children. They want to toughen their kids up enough so that they won’t break when life sends them a curve…or two or three.
Couple of examples. When Carrie was a junior in college, her grades began to slip, and she was having entirely too much fun doing everything besides studying. I cajoled and encouraged, but it didn’t seem to be working that effectively. Her dad told her that if she didn’t straighten up and fly right, she’d have to earn every penny of her own tuition. That worked. When we bought Paul a used car, the deal was that he’d pay for repairs. The very next month, something happened to the little Sentra, and the bill was nearly $200. I felt sorry for him, a high school student with a part time job at Chick Fil-A, and I offered to help him out with the bill. His response, “No, Dad said it was my responsibility.”
Whose way is right? Both. Children, just like adults, need someone in their corner to soften the edges and assure you that things will work out just fine. They also need someone to make them walk the proverbial chalkline.