Our society doesn’t invest nearly as much time and attention preparing boys to become fathers as it does preparing girls to become mothers.
For example, what does it mean to “mother” a child? Terms like nurturing, feeding, and comforting readily spring to mind. But when someone talks about “fathering a child,” we’re more likely to think he did no more than deposit some sperm–slam, bam, thank you ma’am.
Here’s another example: When you were a boy, did you learn to change diapers? If you did, the odds are slim that your father was the one who taught you.
Think about what you learned from your father and/or stepfather about parenting. You probably learned a lot from his example, even if it was a bad one. But how much did he ever say to you about how to be a father, or about how his life was enriched by having you as his son?
This lack of words–father silence, if you will–is important for dads to acknowledge. Because we tend to start out with less training and information in fathering than our partners have in mothering, we have to recognize our need to actively reach out for knowledge.
It is also important to break this generational cycle of father silence. Our own parenting will be better and easier if we start talking about fathering, asking questions, and sharing our experience.
So talk about fathering when you gather with friends and family this Holiday. Our words are among the best gifts for fathers. Listen to other dads and stepdads, too.
You’re not the only one who will benefit. The other fathers we talk with will also be ahead of the game. More important, our open discussion of fathering gives our own children words and wisdom they’ll need when they take their turn as fathers and mothers.
Share what you’re doing to break father silence!
Joe Kelly is the best-selling author of Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter and 5 other fathering books. He is also Co-Founder of New Moon Girls.