Reflecting on Fatherhood

Now that the traditional celebration of Father’s Day has passed, it feels appropriate to reflect a bit on the thoughts inspired by the events of the past few days, which, for me, relate directly to the nature of parenting generally, and to being a father in particular.

Both mothers and fathers have vitally important contributions to make as a parent, and it is important to keep in mind that the presence of BOTH in our lives, assuming that both love and nurture the children, can significantly enhance the outcome for our children, even though many still survive and thrive with only one parent, or with individuals who assume those duties through adoption or foster care.

While it is true that many children end up with a missing parent for a variety of reasons, or end up with shared visitation which often includes step-parents, there is no magic formula for raising children, and the importance of shared parenting can extend well beyond the traditional arrangements and still be balanced, loving, and nurturing.

On the traditional Father’s Day, I enjoyed visiting and communicating with my children, but my enjoyment was not dependent so much on what day it happened to occur, but more importantly on their intention to share time with me. I commented to my second youngest daughter’s message on Father’s Day, that EVERY day we spend time together brings me joy!

After a long illness, the man who was grandfather to two of my children was laid to rest on Tuesday morning, and although the circumstances were unfortunate and sadly unhappy during some of the years prior to Tuesday, I found myself embracing the memories of those years with a much different perspective, as I comforted my children, and saw how much they loved him and grieved their loss of his presence in their lives. As a grandfather myself, I understood clearly how important the relationship can be, and also how important it is to honor the roles of both mother and father, or of each parent, no matter how that arrangement ends up being described.

An article in the current issue of Scientific American Mind, [“How Dads Develop,” by Brian Mossup; July/August 2011.] describes the astonishing changes that take place in the father’s brain after the birth of a child.

The brains of babies and fathers alike benefit from one another’s influence…A father sprouts supplemental neurons in his brain and experiences hormonal changes after the birth of a child…A baby’s brain appears to be primed for contact with a father.”

Ever since witnessing the birth of each of my children, I have had an extraordinary connection with them all, and apparently those who adopt enjoy the same astonishing effects, and I can confirm this hypothesis having assumed the parenting responsibility for three amazing and beautiful children myself. Being a father is not simply a biological coincidence. It is, more than anything, a commitment to loving and caring and connecting to a child.

Father’s Day is a great day for us fathers, and I love BEING a father, but there is a great deal more to BEING a father than biology, and this idea has implications that extend beyond parenting.

….more to come

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