After last month’s story and the huge response I receivedfrom many mothers about what it meant to be a mom, I got to thinking about howthat might differ from the perspective of being a father. In honor of Father’sDay, I recreated the experiment and sent out emails to all the fathers I know.First difference-only two replied in the time frame I gave them (which was, bythe way, three days instead of the 24 hours that I gave the moms). All it tookwas an additional "come on, guys" email (and holding a gun to myhusband’s head!) to receive the following. In some ways, many of the feelingsare the same for both parents. But in others, they are very different. Hearwhat these fathers have to say and see the difference for yourself.
I was an ancient 36 years of age when I became a father.That’s about 61 in Utah reproductive years. Though battling senility at 41 now,my wife and I are expecting our second child this month. Yes, I will be nearly60 (114 Utah time) when this one graduates from high school.
Up until I was a dad, I’d always felt like a fairlyresponsible guy. I owned a home, a business and even a vacuum. But on the dayour daughter, Aria, was born, these words came to me (in the voice of CharltonHeston): Now… YOU. ARE. A. MAN.
It felt good. I truly wasn’t afraid of the newresponsibilities. In fact, I think most men wear their new mantle with pride.It provides a strong sense of purpose and an excuse for just about everything,good or bad: "I have to work hard and get ahead financially. I have a family to support."" I will not be attending your event. I have mouths to feed." And, movies have taught me this one:"Please don’t kill me. I have kids."
In all, being a dad is great. Really. It’s the firstthing to show me how much I need to pay attention to "the now" sothat I have "a future" full of great memories for and of my family.
Oh, after the voice of Moses declared my manhood thatday, after I cooed and gooed, made faces and sang to my little daughter, Iheard her tiny, telepathic cry: "No… YOU. ARE. STILL. A. DOOF."
John Hancock (the husband with the gun held to his head),dad of four-year-old Aria and "baby" to be born this month
My wife and I live the feminist dream. She works 40+hours, including business trips, and I’m a stay-at-home dad. The onlydifference between genders we see in parenting our now-16-month-old son is thatwhen he experiences physical trauma or existential panic he prefers to becomforted by my wife. This makes perfect sense, since she is the physicalmatrix he came from. Otherwise, we see no differences between mothers andfathers. We are just two human beings raising a child, and we see that ourpsychological strengths and failings have vastly greater impact on our child’sdevelopment than our respective genders.
I never thought of or identified myself as a"father." I’m just a parent. A human being trying to raise a child inthe sanest most human way possible. The only benefit that traditional genderroles might bring to our family is to lessen the agony my wife goes through inleaving us every morning to go to work. But how much of that is personalpsychology and how much of that is biology? Perhaps there is some of both, butif I had to leave my son every morning, I would suffer too. He’s a great littlekid.
Dad to 16-month-old Jack
It’s always been ironic to me that this is usually thefirst utterance from a child’s mouth. I would have expected it to be"mama," "food," "poop" or something else a littlemore germane to their brand-new existence. But according to studies invirtually every culture, "dada" wins the prize for first baby worduttered. Of course, when one considers the crazed cacophony that greets anewborn, perhaps they’re simply turning to dad first for protection.
As I have mused over my worth as a father to two sweetdaughters, I feel very comfortable with this role of "protector" andalthough they are now 20 and 26, they still text and email me once in awhilewith a pleading "dada!" The following is a song I wrote for my fatherwhich illustrates the inadequacy that he felt when I, as his first-born son,was born.
Rock a bye, Sweet Baby, in the treetop
When threatening winds blow, the cradle will rock
But when the bough breaks and the cradle does fall.
Know this, my little one
Trust me, my precious son.
I’ll catch you cradle and all.
Soon all the king’s horses will take you away
And into the battle to fight for the day
But, when, in the moments of doubt and of fear
Know this, my noble son
Always, my special one
I’ll catch you cradle and all
So, slumber…..all the night through
Tomorrow will come…too soon.
As twilight approaches a star becomes dim
And father to son, as he fades, calls to him.
"The bough is now breaking and I’m soon to fall.
Would you, my caring son,
Now that my life is done
Please catch me, cradle and all.
Father of Kristen, 26 and Erica, 20
Having lost my dad at an early age makes my desire to bea great father the most important thing in my life. I want to be there to sharetheir many first experiences, to teach and guide them in their many interests,to foster new ideas, and to reinforce who they are and who they will become.Itis important for me to be there to share their joys and sorrows throughout ourlives, but more importantly, for them to know that I will be there when and ifthey need me at any time for any reason. I am like a doctor-on call 24/7/365.
Dad to twin girls, Ella and Georgia
Being a father is certainly more than"fathering" a child. I think it’s about choosing to be a certain waytoward our kids. Parenting is teaching out of love and responsibility.Developing as a father only happens in collaboration with the needs of myfamily. What my family needs me to be, I try to be. I have to listen to whatgoes unsaid. I’m growing daily with my daughter. She teaches me about what sheneeds in me. Unbeknownst to her, she’s teaching me how to be her father. Ofcourse, she doesn’t always like what that means. Being a father, being aparent, is improvisation. Voltaire wrote: "Doubt may be uncomfortable, butcertainty is absurd."
Father of three-year-old Reya
Before we had Daisy, I asked a lot of our friends what itwas like to have kids. The most common response was that it was more work thanalmost anything they’ve ever done, but it was also the most worthwhile thingthey had ever done. Mary Beth and I had always been project-based, so wefigured this would be another project, the only difference being it was a bitmore long-term than a new record or a photo assignment. Everything everyone’ssaid has been true–how we can love somebody so quickly after we’ve first metthem, how you don’t know what you did with all your "free time"before you had your kid, how they rearrange all your priorities. But the onething that I didn’t expect was how Daisy is helping me be a better person. Ifind that when I’m with her, I act more like the person I’ve always wanted tobe. We spend less time doing unimportant tasks because we want her to spendtime doing meaningful things. I look around more on walks in our neighborhoodbecause I want her to appreciate the little things in everyday life that Isometimes miss. Just two days ago we were on a walk and we spent about sixminutes looking at a little pile of snow dissolve into a small tricklingstream. I never would have noticed that pre-Daisy. I can’t wait to see whatelse she’s going to teach me.
Father of Daisy (one year old)
When my sonwas born, I dropped everything and focused on being with him.
Now that he is older I feel that it’s important for himto see me doing what I love to do.
Now that he is older I feel more important. Over the pastsix months, I’ve been guiding him in his explorations of fire; I bought him hisfirst pocket knife and I’ve been teaching him how to not get hurt using it.I’ve been teaching him to drive; he’s been shooting a bow-and-arrow and soon hewill receive a slingshot; and I’m going to pick up some small appliances at thethrift store so we can take them apart and see what’s in them.
If I lose my patience, I apologize sincerely, but he doesnot get off the hook for whatever trouble he was in.
Dad of one son
Being a father means that I still get to be a kid with mykids! We sure didn’t have all these great new toys when we were growing up! Ofcourse, having kids can be expensive and has changed my life forever, but theyare the best investment I will ever make in this life, and a very welcomechange indeed. No matter how hard life gets, I have been privileged with cominghome each night to little outstretched arms rushing to have me hold them, andat that moment, nothing else matters, and nothing could be more perfect.Watching my children grow and learn, and knowing that I had anything to do withit, fills me with so much love and understanding that we are all God’schildren, and that they are our little pieces of heaven on earth. And I’m justglad to be a part of it.
Father of three girls
Before I ever had children, I never knew how incrediblebeing a dad could be. My children, I feel, are my greatest accomplishments. Itis such an immense and important responsibility to shape a child’s life. I findyou can’t really slack off on this great responsibility. You give your love andyou get so much more love in return. It’s the kind of love you don’t experiencein any other part of life. The kind of love that at a moment’s notice you wouldgive your life for your child. I will measure my success in life not by thethings I own or degrees I acquired, but by the happiness of my family.
Father of four!
In every family, parents play different roles. I don’tthink this is necessarily a "fatherly" trait, but in my family, Ihappen to be the one that "keeps the trains running on time." Thatmeans, for example, waking my (now 12-year-old) daughter up, having breakfastwith her, and getting her to school on time. I’ve altered my schedule, so thatto do these things I now wake up at 5:15 a.m. and go to the gym so I can behome by 7. I try to bring a sense of stability and reliability to our home.Hopefully, this will instill in her a sense of personal discipline, and theidea that life can and should be really fun, but also comes withresponsibilities and obligations. As she is now entering the stage of lifewhere she will need to start making her own decisions, I can only hope thatthis sense of stability and reliability will help her make healthy life choices.
Father of 12-year-old daughter
Being a father is being in the throes of love….
I find the insight from observing and possibly (possiblynot) serving the intelligence and life experience of my boys to be the greatestenrichment and joy. I see that children experience life to the fullest bydefault. What an opportunity and blast to join in with them. In this there isno duty, only joy and sorrow, beauty and compassion. Love.
Father of two-year-old Seuren and four-year-old Coen
I love being a dad. The love for my daughter is biggerthan I ever knew love could be. She is so important to me and my daily life.
I have become a very paranoid parent. I am always worriedabout her, not just her safety when I am not around but also her feelings, heremotions. I hurt for her if she is unhappy, but on the other hand I feel greatwhen she is happy.
I guess to sum up, I love every part of being a dad.
Father of 10-year-old Lexie
Guardian, provider, teacher, supporter, partner in crime,etc. How can I put into words the feeling I get when shyness brings them toclench onto my leg, when joy lights them up because the train set they saw inthe store is suddenly in the living room, when ant begins with the letter "A",when my shoulder is soaked in tears, when we sneak a bite of cake at 6:30 a.m.,when "Love you daddy" melts my heart… when I wake up every dayknowing I have two beautiful boys who think I am the king. And with each day, Ibecome a better father through the limitless love and support of their mother.
Father of Markus (27 months) and Max (11 months)
Kindra Fehr is a mom (child #2 nearly here!) and artist.See her current work at Pilar’s Art in the Garden June 13-15, 5-9pm, 403 E. 8th Ave, SLC.