Listen to today’s post on the go or continue reading below …
As women, early on in childhood, we harness our nurturing instincts through societal norms such as playing with dolls and babysitting. Little girls often long to get married and have babies, then fortunately, our focus widens and we set various other personal goals for ourselves. As our society continues to evolve and progress, hopefully we can continue to breakdown stereotypes and encourage mixing of gender roles. In fact, it is actually beneficial for young boys to play with dolls and foster nurturing instincts, empathy and emotion. As Dr. Lise Eliot’s book Pink Brain Blue Brain indicates, “brains are shaped by how kids spend their time – playing with dolls versus balls”. My husband still remembers his only doll, Genevieve, fondly. Only upon reflection, do I recognize what a good sign this is and was.
As with nature, nurturing plays a significant role in the development of a child. Science often battles the “nature versus nurture” debate, and in the end, it is quite difficult to tease out what is more important. Specifically, with respect to a father, an article by Sara McLanahan, Laura Tach and Daniel Schneider demonstrated “…strong evidence that father absence negatively affects children’s social-emotional development, particularly by increasing externalizing behavior.”¹ Clearly, lack of nurturing has a negative impact, but is it in part the nature of an absent father that tends to repeat itself throughout generations?
Although physical presence is fundamental in a child’s development and help with navigation of the world as an adult, many other characteristics and qualities exist that make a man a father. The ‘anatomy of a father’ is wonderfully woven into a man throughout his journey as a parent.
Here is a list of characteristics and qualities I deem most important in the anatomical make up of a father:
1) Unconditional love: The love of a father, without terms and conditions, is extremely powerful. From this love, grows trust, confidence and security that support any relationship.
2) Pride: Being a proud parent is a priceless gift that keeps on giving. Be proud of not only all their efforts, but also the person your son or daughter has become.
3) Sense of humour: Great danger exists in taking ourselves too seriously. Making light of certain situations and taking time to laugh with your children is the quickest way to pure joy.
4) Patience: When I think of this, I instantly think of the animal kingdom’s most devoted dad, the emperor penguin. He spends two months holding the egg precariously between the tops of his feet while mom returns to the ocean to feed. Patience always pays off as a parent and often allows children the room they need to flourish.
5) Generosity: My husband derives great joy in being generous and kind toward others, and no surprise, so do our kids. Not only is he generous of material items, but also of his time. What greater gift than that of time for our children?
6) Connectivity: Take a few minutes to watch this TED talk by Steven Addis that illustrates a father-daughter bond and the impact connectivity can have. As Steven says, “One of the most important things we can make are memories.”
7) Interest: My father was always known for his litiney of questions for my friends and dates that came into our home. What might have appeared to be a test was really just his interest in the people I associated with. If you know your father is interested, you are more likely to make better choices.
In closing, as my very wise husband always says about how we parent: “We are not just raising our kids, we are living life with them.”
What other qualities do you consider important in the anatomy of a father?
1. McLanahan, S., Tach, L. & Schneider, D. (2013). The Causal Effects of Father Absence. Annu Rev Sociol, 399: 399–427.