Dads are Not Secondary

Do dads really understand how important they are? I don’t believe that parenting is complete without a mother and a father’s contributions to the child’s development. My view is shared by many psychologists and angers some single parents. Not all the time, but for those that have a chip on their shoulder, angry at their spouse, their “x”, or the world, I have been known to be at odds. I don’t know why this is a contentious issue for some people. 

It really isn’t a competition. According to child psychologist Eric Erikson, “a mother’s love and a father’s love are qualitatively different”. We as dads don’t bring the same elements to the table. On the other hand, you could just say that we do it differently. Men and women communicate, educate, and encourage differently. One example of this is the nature for men to encourage risks more than women. Dad’s tend to push their kids to test and challenge their limits. Moms are usually a bit more protective. 

I remember encouraging my kids to climb higher, go farther, and push the boundaries of failure. One time, my middle child was about 9 or 10. He was a climber. Okay, honestly he was a daredevil. My wife blames me for this (laughing on the inside). We were at a motel that was close to the beach. This particular motel (single story) had a pool that was particularly close to the building. I could see that my boy was thinking how cool it would be to get on the roof and jump to the pool. He stared at the pool, then at the roof, then looked at me. I told him, “sometimes a man has to do some crazy things”. He smiled.

I forgot about our interaction until later that evening. We had been to the beach and were getting cleaned up. We noticed that my boy was not around. He was a good swimmer, so we were not in a panic. My wife walked to the door of the room and opened it just as her boy fell from the sky and made a huge cannon ball splash. She yelled at our boy for the act. He responded that “dad” said it was okay. She immediately knew that it was true. She looked at me and said “idiot”. My boy and I did a fist bump when she wasn’t looking.

Another time, we were at a soccer game. I was the coach and my boy was the star of the team. That particular day, we were starting the second half of the game with a strong wind at our backs. My boy had the kick off. I knew what a powerful shot he had. He looked at me and I said, “just score from there”. This was not exactly a smart game tactic. What I conveyed to my boy was that I thought he could. The other coach rolled his eyes and told his defenders to get ready for a quick possession. So, my son to a few steps back and launched it. Goal! My boy and I locked eyes in the midst of a primal scream with our hands in the air.

Dads don’t always make the best decisions, but I believe we have a bit more of a “go for it” attitude. Sometimes our children won’t succeed at our suggestions. However, risk taking does encourage them take on the world. Dads play rougher, enforce rules, and are the best examples for their kids to understand what a man is supposed to be. This doesn’t mean that we always are the best examples or teachers. Just as any human is fallible. We can always fall short of our goals as parents. However, dads have a way of loving, teaching, and encouragement that looks and feels quite different from that of a mother. 

I don’t like speaking or writing apologetically. People should not always have a pre-qualifier or caveat. There are moms all over the world that do a wonderful job giving their all for their children. I think most people would agree that moms screw up less than dads. However, this says nothing about the importance of one love and care over another. Kids need both. A lot of kids don’t get both and that breaks my heart.

Kids are in need of protection, comfort, nourishing, and teachings of moms. What I don’t think many people understand is the equality of a dad’s love for his children as well as their developmental benefits it has on his children. Research shows that children of a nurturing 2 parent home have an advantage. They need to feel secure, accomplished, loved, and affirmed. They need to be encouraged to grow, take risks, and reach beyond their comfort zone. All of this forms them into what kind of adult they will become. A mother’s love is paramount, but no more or less important to the balance that a dad’s love provides for them. Fathers need to understand their crucial role. They need to love as a dad should. They need to be the best dad possible.