Of Fatherhood

Recently, my daughter celebrated her eleventh birthday.  As with any parent, I’m amazed at just how fast time has passed.  Like most kids at her age, she’s caught between wanting to be a lot older than she is at times (see “teenager”), while still also wanting to stay a child.  I know which daddy would prefer!

As we celebrated her birthday, I realized that at the age she reached, eleven, I lost my mom to cancer.  It is hard for me now to comprehend that I was that young when my mom died.  In my memory, I was never really eleven.  My mom’s death forced me to take on a level of responsibility few kids are prepared for, and as I look at my daughter, I realize just how young and unprepared I was for what I had to handle. 

But I was blessed by having a dad who took on the responsibility of raising me as a single parent and never, ever wavered.  As I grew up, my dad was always there for me.  He became my best friend, my mentor, my confidant, my advisor, and my constant encourager.  It’s impossible for me to completely express what he did to form who I am today.  Don’t get me wrong, he was far from perfect, but considering the circumstances, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if he had been anyone other than who he was.

But despite all he did, there is one thing my dad could never be, no matter how hard he tried.  He couldn’t be my mom.

Now, it doesn’t mean he didn’t fill some of that role.  Every single-parent has to fill the role of both parents as well as they can.  But I believe if people who have experienced being raised by a single parent are completely honest, they’d tell you that their parent couldn’t fulfill both roles completely.  That’s not an indictment or criticism or judgment on those single parents.  It’s the result of the simple reality that moms and dads fill different roles because men and women are different

Even now as my wife and I raise our daughter it is abundantly obvious that we parent differently.  There is a role my wife plays in my daughter’s life that I simply cannot fill, and vise versa.   Again, those aren’t weaknesses, they are not societal constructs.  They are the result of the fact that I am male, she is female, and we are different.  She can’t be my husband, I can’t be her wife.  She can’t be dad, and I can’t be mom.  Our strengths and weaknesses complement each other for the benefit of our child. 

But in our culture today we are being told that’s not acceptable.  Indeed, we are being told that this reality is dangerous, discriminatory and bigoted.  We are witnessing a “progressive” drive to erase “gender-specific” terms like “husband” and “wife” from the law because they offend people who don’t emotionally align with their biology.  They brush aside truth and social science and replace it with personal motives and desires.  They argue that kids simply need to be “loved” and everything will be okay.  They conclude that the gender differences moms and dads bring to parenting are social constructs or patriarchal deceptions and that there really are no differences and that mom and dad are interchangeable. 

Sorry, but it simply isn’t true.  Sure, kids are resilient and can overcome a lot, but if we want the best possible outcomes for our kids, our law and policy should strive to encourage a two-parent family with a mother and a father because each brings something different and necessary to family.  To purposefully deny children one or the other to fulfill the emotional needs of adults is narcissistic. 

Single parents have it tough.  Often, like in my dad’s case, it isn’t by choice.  Primarily, it’s the consequence of someone else’s decisions or tragedy.  Many do a remarkable job considering their circumstances.  But to ignore the reality that men can’t be moms and women can’t be dads isn’t hateful. It’s accepting of the real and, frankly, remarkable differences found in humanity.  The mysterious and wonderful differences between men and women, between mothers and fathers.

It’s amazing that those who claim to fight for “diversity” are bent on removing the differences between men and women because it is within those differences where the strength of true diversity thrives.  It is amidst those differences that children are more likely to find success.  To deny children that diversity is not progress, it’s shameful.