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A Fatherís Love

A fatherís love, oh how sweet! Yes! I really mean sweet. It is now time for a paradigm shift. We often think of a motherís love in colorful, warm, and tender terms; but we are reluctant to do the same for fathers. This was not Godís intent. It was Godís design for a fatherís love to complement a motherís love. The original plan was that both parents would creatively weave their different ways of loving into a tapestry of knitted emotions, verbal expressions, affectionate displays, and intellectual harmony. There would be no competition, nor lack of love from either side. This type of loving would create a family chemistry that would ride through the roughest storms and sail over the darkest clouds.

CAN FATHERS REALLY LOVE?
Perhaps some are saying that fathers cannot really love like mothers do. Oh, yes they can. Sadly, however, many men have been fooled into believing that the love they should have for their families is somewhat of a diminutive resemblance to a motherís love. There is another side to the story. Men get a lot of mixed messages concerning fatherhood. On one hand, society wants them to be committed first and foremost to their career. Co-workers and even bosses might think it's great that a man has children and a loving family. It might even be seen as a source of strength and stability. But he is not expected to put the children and wife above his job. The job comes first, and whatever is left over, he is free to do as he wishes. "Most of what we read in the newspapers or see in TV miniseries having to do with fatherhood is about Ďdead-beatí fathers who abuse their children or mothers and children who courageously survive abandonment" (Stephen Harris). No wonder many fathers go home late from work, oftentimes while their children are asleep. Additionally, when we read the national and international magazines and books, they often paint the picture of parenting from the motherís point of view. Men do not receive a great deal of encouragement to delve deeply into fatherhood. The message society is giving is that a fatherís love is not so important as a motherís love.

MOTHERING FATHERS??!!

What is a fatherís love really like? Even when a father expresses tenderness and consistent parenting care toward his children, it is usually described in "mothering terms." This is noted by the common title of two well-known books, one by a Jamaican author and the other by an American. The common title is "My Father who Mothered Me." The books tell the story of men who grew up with their fathers alone after the death of their mothers. The stories graphically share the tenderness, patience, caring, and nurturing of their loving fathers. Why do we think of loving fatherhood in mothering terms? Is it because we attribute tenderness and affectionate actions to being feminine rather than just being loving? Obviously, fathers do not have breasts. Fathers are not made with the extra soft cushion of fat under the skin like mothers have. Nevertheless, fathers do have other body parts mothers have. They have arms, legs, eyes, lips, and ears that all are needed for the act of loving. Fathers also have brains that, according to research, have the same ability as mothers have to think, feel pain, laugh, and cry. Fathers and mothers may process information differently, but there are no biological reasons that can explain why a fatherís love cannot be as intense and meaningful as a motherís love. Of course, there are sociological and cultural factors that have deterred the male from being intensely loving. But we must remember that these factors can, at the most, influence how we love but not "dictate" to us. In simple terms, even a father has a choice of how to love. He can refuse to submit to societal norms and go beyond tradition to make a difference in his own family. Unfortunately, manliness and male loving in our society is still measured mostly by the way the father provides financially and materially for his family and not by how much he really shares himself with them.

 

FATHERS WHO LOVE      

How, then, can fathers truly be intensely loving in a society that does not encourage it? Hereís how: (1) Fathers decide that it is manly to love intensely. (2) Fathers conquer the inhibition that society thrusts on them. (3) Fathers truly treat their family members as they treat their own personal lives. (4) Fathers accept the fact that their love complements the mothersí love, not competes with it. Thus, their love is equally important to the family welfare.

The good news is that there are many Bahamian fathers who love intensely. Many men leave behind the traditional roles for men and become, along with mothers, the primary care-givers for their children. These are the fathers who refuse to work overtime, who leave their briefcases at the office over the weekend, or their tools in the carpenterís shop, who make an effort never to miss a school parents-child activity. They are finding fulfillment and success in ways that society doesn't quite understand yet. We do know that these loving Bahamian fathers are the ones who are really contributing to the strengthening of the Bahamian family life, thus greatly assisting in the decrease in criminal activities. These are the fathers who know that the "good old days" were not all that good, and that to maintain a healthy family life requires one to take a new look at the way we do things. The habits and traditions of the "good old days" did very little to strengthen families. We are seeing evidence of that today.

My very own father made it easier for me to break tradition and become an intensely loving father. He did everything for us and with us. He loved, cried, hugged, kissed cooked, baked, talked with us, and told us, "I love you." More importantly, he freely said "Iím sorry" when he made a mistake. Therefore, when our two children were born, I was extremely jealous of anyone else taking my place and influencing my child more than I. I didnít even want my parentsí love for their grandchildren to be in any way more intense and meaningful than my love. Although I did not breast-feed my children, I would change their diapers, cook the food, iron the clothes, and comb their hair. When our daughter started to go to school, her friends would commend her on her neat hair styles. They would say to her "Your mother did a beautiful job." She often had to correct them by saying "It was my father who combed my hair." I combed my daughterís hair every day until the age of ten. After that, I did not have the skill to make any more of the fancy, more "grown-up" styles. It was my wifeís turn then. I would spend literally hours holding our children, playing with them, and being there to say "good night."

DONíT BE AFRAID    
Fathers, donít be shy of passionately loving your children. Your love for them helps them feel more secure emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. Remember, if your peers laugh at you for going directly home after work and choosing family time over sharing time with them, one day their laughter will turn into sadness. The old adage is true: "Last man laughs best." Research tells us that men who intensely love their families live longer and happier lives. We also know that children whose fathers are actively involved in their lives do better in school, even in single-parent families. Remember fathers, when you do not love children as intensely as their mothers do, you are causing an imbalance in the family equilibrium, thus increasing the risk of childhood rebellion and teenage delinquency.

Fathers, your sons and daughters need your intense loving. They need your hugs, kisses, smiles, affirming words, and ever-present energy. They need your love. Fathers, society needs your love. God created you to love as intensely and deeply as mothers do. Donít be fooled by the noise in the kitchen. It will make you believe that there is really no living room. You are a part of the living room and the kitchen. Love, dear fathers, love! A fatherís love is sweet. Because to a child it is another "sweet flavor" of human expression that makes life sweeter and more enjoyable. Happy fatherís day.

 
 
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Permission is granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your  personal use, friends,  seminar, or meeting handout.  You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary.    Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form. Or you call at 242-327 1980.  Copyright © 1999 Sounds of Encouragement. All rights reserved.   Articles written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist, Marriage & Family Therapist.  P.O. Box CB-13019,  Nassau, The Bahamas.     question@soencouragement.org