June 26, 2009

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Fathers complement mothers in more ways than gender

Cynthia DewesFathers’ Day is past, but I’m still thinking about it. It’s an important reminder of who we are, where we came from and the road we are taking through life. Because fathers, like mothers, can help determine many of these factors for us.

I like to say that it’s easier to believe in a loving God, the unseen Father, when we have (had) a good father in earthly life.

Respect, affection and obedience to legitimate authority are possible when that is true. In turn, sons learn from a good father to be good men, husbands and fathers themselves. Daughters learn how to relate to men as friends, spouses and partners in parenting.

Instead of creating a “battle of the sexes,” with every relationship a wrenching drama as seen on daytime TV, having good dads and moms teaches children how to cooperate and sustain each other as adults. They can create instead a happy and productive life for themselves, their kids, friends and neighbors. Maybe, even for the world.

Fathers are appreciative of feminine attractions, and know how to funnel that appreciation into truly loving their wives, daughters and sisters. The women, in turn, may learn to appreciate themselves more because of it. Fathers are comfortable being men, and they enjoy it when women are comfortable being women as well. Fidelity is then not only possible but joyful.

Fathers have varied interests, many of which contribute to the education, experience and pleasure of their offspring. Some like sports, either by participation or by watching them on TV. Some enjoy music, playing it and listening to it. Others hunt or fish, enjoying nature and taking responsibility as stewards of this good Earth.

Some fathers share their work with their children. Kids learn to do home repairs, keep a lawn and garden, and maybe cuss creatively at the computer, thanks to fathers. They may be helped to understand the very nature of work, the need to do the best job they can, and to relate to colleagues, customers or the boss. They learn that if one prepares well and loves his or her job, work will be competent and fulfilling.

Fathers of an intellectual bent like to engage their kids in discussions of important things: religion, politics, moral imperatives. They listen respectfully to their opinions, and so the children learn how to debate productively without yelling. Although yelling can be a fun accompaniment to their discussion.

Sometimes fathers are not our biological parents, as in adoptive fathers. But priests, teachers, coaches, relatives, neighbors and other men also may share their gifts as surrogate fathers to kids who need them.

Fathers like to solve problems and fix things, including the people they live with. Moms generally like to sympathize, but fathers like to tell you what you should do. They tend to communicate by fiat and plain reason rather than empathetic concern. So sometimes they sound more insensitive than they really are, and may take a bad rap for their “management” style.

Fathers may be large, fat, small, wiry, muscular or doughy. They come in all colors and degrees of swarthiness, and they are generally larger and stronger than moms. Still, they are tender toward their mates and patient with their children, despite their potential physical dominance.

Fathers, like mothers and kids, are made in God’s image. We’re lucky if we have good fathers who understand that, and we should show them our appreciation by making every day Father’s Day.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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