No Sense Putting It Off

The evidence is actually pretty clear.  Kids are significantly (and unfairly) disadvantaged (to use a euphemistic word for “hurt”) when they don’t have positive, consistent, reliable, present fathers.  The absence of fathers causes confusion, distress, distorted relationships, and large-scale societal breakdown, in addition to such a wide variety of other effects as to be staggering.

Non-partisan groups and even those partisan groups who are normally inclined to disagree with each other, all agree about this.  The research is overwhelming trending toward sickening.  It’s important to be clear too, that the research specifically discusses the involvement of a male parent, rather than a merely androgynous second parent, a void which could be filled by either sex.

Presumably something similar could be said about the necessity of a female parent, but discounting those women who neglect/abuse/murder their children, women are less inclined to be deadbeats.  That is to say, it’s significantly less likely that children would grow up without mothers, so there isn’t as much evidence for the negative impacts of not having a mother.  Thankfully, I think every person on the planet is willing to grant that mothers are important.  No one wants to find out what would happen without them.

Unfortunately, as I’ve already said, we as a society are almost eager to find out what will happen if we eliminate fathers.  We may say otherwise, but our actions betray us.

I digress.  Back to the overwhelming evidence that children need fathers, combined with the assumption I think we’ll all happily grant, that children need mothers.  Even more research suggests the rather obvious fact that children are best served when their fathers and mothers have a healthy relationship with each other.  In fact, once you add the weight of research about the damaging effects of divorce, it’s pretty clear that children’s best hope is to have mothers and fathers who have a consistent and reliably healthy relationship with each other over the course of the child’s entire development.

There’s not really anything shocking about any of this.  I mean, it’s shocking that we’ve let the problem get to the point that we have, but it isn’t shocking that the problem exists, and nobody significantly disagrees about its causes.

What’s more shocking is what we do about it.

Let me put this bluntly.  All the evidence clearly indicates that children are hurt if they don’t grow up in a committedly monogamous heterosexual family, and that society follows them into distress.  We respond by ignoring that entirely and hoping for the best.  Of course there are situations where the ideal isn’t possible; I’m not trying to criticize people if their situation is imperfect.  I’m criticizing all of us for accepting the lie that the ideal isn’t necessary or helpful.

The results are in:  denial isn’t working.  We have too many contradictory commitments.

We want men to be fathers, but we don’t want to offend women by suggesting that men are in any way capable of doing or being something which they (women) cannot do or be.  In fact we want to avoid any suggestion that there’s a difference between them sufficient to perhaps treat them differently. We certainly don’t want to suggest that the women who are mothers might in any way need the men who are fathers.

The collapse of fatherhood is exactly the product of those second commitments though.  To be blunt again, for a hundred years feminists have said that they don’t need men, that they can do anything men can do, that there is nothing special or unique about being a man.  Should we be surprised that so many men have listened?  That so many men have left women to fend for themselves, have left women to do what men ought to do, have stopped believing that they have anything special to offer.

We want children to see healthy relationship between their mothers and fathers, but we don’t want to believe that men and women might both have unique and important contributions to relationships. We want children to have families, but we don’t want to offend anyone by suggesting that they curtail their sexual impulses until they’re in some way committed to their partner.

I could go on, but I’m out of time again.  It’s pretty clear which of the contradictory commitments we favor.  The question remains: how long will we keep trying to preserve the helpful things our commitments won’t allow?  How long will we delude ourselves into thinking that maybe we can preserve social institutions which we’ve entirely gutted, like fatherhood and family?  How long until we accept that all of our supposed liberations are in fact the problem we face?

Advertisements

Fatherhood In A Vacuum

My wife showed an amusing video to me today.  It started with a large man doing a rather girly cheerleader routine.  At the end the camera pans back and we see that the man is helping his daughter learn to lead cheers.  It was produced by an organization created to support “responsible fatherhood,” which is certainly an interesting way to put it.

I for one am glad that people are taking an interest in encouraging men to be fathers to their children, but I would be even gladder if they stopped undermining fatherhood by every other one of their efforts.  Right now they are destroying the foundation and first floor of the house, and are trying to encourage the second floor to stay aloft.  It simply will not happen that way.

Fatherhood is an extension of manhood.  You have to be a good man before you can be a good father, although that relationship is not necessarily chronological in a strict since.  It may be that struggling to become a good father will help one become a good man, but you cannot simultaneously be a good father and a bad man.

So what does it mean to be a good man or a bad man?  I suspect that when first reading that, many people read “bad man” as “criminal,” but that isn’t what I mean.  I don’t mean bad in the sense of “breaks the law,” I mean bad in the sense of “doesn’t meet the standard.”  The real question is this:  what does it mean to be a man?

And that is precisely the question that our society not only avoids, but actively discourages.  We don’t want to seem like we’re being unfair to anyone, so we don’t want to say that there might be anything called “manhood” which would in any way exclude anyone, including women.  Mostly, we reduce manhood to what is unavoidable and obvious: biology.  And then of course we downplay even that.  We don’t even want to admit that biological differences are that important.

It shouldn’t surprise us that our culture is so obsessed with sex.  The biological relationship between people is the only one we’re prepared to talk about at all.  We can’t talk about relationships between men and women as anything but relationships between male and female, because we’re uncomfortable suggesting that there might be such things as manhood and womanhood.  We don’t want there to be qualities that distinguish us, because that might be unfair.  Of course we can’t deny that we have distinct sexual organs, though, so suddenly that’s all we have left to talk about.

Now curiously, generations of male humans, raised to believe that the only definition of manhood allowed to them was biological, became fathers in a purely biological sense.  But of course they became biological fathers often, as that’s a natural consequence of relating to human females primarily through sex, and they had no other means of relating.

Unfortunately, children are a hindrance to sex, so purely biological fathers resent them (at best) or hate them (at worst), and in any case have little cause to stay with them.  This is especially true when they can fulfill their purely biological desires more effectively by leaving those children and their mother, and pursuing a relationship with some other unencumbered human female.

So in short, defining manhood purely in terms of biology produces exactly the culture we have today, which has become so obviously problematic that we’ve resorted to making goofy videos in a vain attempt to convince those we’ve reduced to being male to be something more like the men we won’t let them be.

That was a confusing sentence.  Let me put it another way.

Dear Society, you cannot salvage fatherhood because you have destroyed manhood.

I’m out of time, but let me say one small thing before I go.  I don’t mean manhood in terms of heavy drinking and shouting at sports, or any of those things that are stereotypically associated with “men being men.”  I mean something more like what was glimpsed in chivalry:  being unapologetically strong and bold, but using that strength and boldness self-sacrificially to serve, protect, uphold, and uplift.

Tigers, Fathers, and Ramblings, Oh My!

I spend a lot of time watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood–I have two kids–I’m not objecting though.  I might be upset if I had to watch something like Spongebob, but that show is both ugly and insipid. I would be upset if I had to watch it even once.  Contrariwise, I’m largely content to watch as much Mister Rogers as my daughter (who is the driving force behind this phenomenon) wants.

One of her current favorite episodes features a beautiful duet between Daniel Striped Tiger and Lady Aberline.  I can’t possibly do justice to it by trying to describe it.  Also, if you don’t know who the characters I just mentioned are, it’s okay.  They’re not actually crucial to the story.

Either way, the crux of the issue that the two sing about is that Daniel Tiger is feeling insecure.  Lady Aberline assures him that though he’s different from everyone else, he’s okay.  Subsequently, Mister Rogers applies the same to his viewing audience, which happens to include me fairly regularly.

Now, as in currently, diversity is fairly popular.  Or at least people talk about it as though it were popular and try to convince us that it is popular.  I’m willing to buy the hype and believe them, although some part of my brain has reservations that they’re being insincere.  Difference seems to be involved in diversity, so in this way Mister Rogers was saying something that the world very much wants to approve.  More on that in a moment.

Any sort of art is the interaction of distinct and irreducible things, or insoluble things, or things which are separate and can’t be made into one unified thing.  At the very least there’s the art itself, and the person who experiences it.  I am not, so far as I know, the episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood that I watched.

Oh, I could talk about that claim for a long time.  I’ll foreshadow later discussions by saying that I believe I’m not the episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood because I’m Christian.  For the moment though, back to me watching television.

The me who was watching Mister Rogers happened (as it frequently has lately) to be thinking about fatherhood.  Fatherhood is one of those topics about which the people talk, and about which I know they’re being insincere.  We spend a lot of time talking about how fathers are important, about how being a father is more complicated than merely begetting children, and even about how society without fathers is full of things like crime.  But we don’t mean any of it.  I know we don’t mean any of it because we spend even more time talking about how men and women ought to be treated the same.

The two ideas are irreconcilable.  If men and women ought to be treated the same, then there’s no reason to say that women can’t be fathers just as effectively as men can.  Or rather, to use different terminology, there’s no way to say that fathers provide anything that mothers don’t, except perhaps an increase in quantity of parents, which could as effectively be provided by having groups of mothers live together.  In any event, if men and women ought to be treated the same, then fathers are irrelevant, or at best a luxury, like having a second car.

But I’ve gone rather far afield.  I tend to think fathers are important, again because I’m Christian.  The issue is rather more practical:  What are they important for?  Or perhaps, how does that importance manifest?

This is where the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood duet enters to discussion again.  As I’m thinking about the qualities and requirements of fatherhood–the standard against which those men with children are measured–I’m reminded that everyone is different.  Diversity makes standards difficult.  (If you don’t believe me, ask a teacher.)  Not just more difficult to discern, but more difficult to implement.  They can seem like injustice.  While many might be gifted in one area such that the relevant portion of the standard comes easily, what about the people who not only aren’t gifted in that way but even struggle in that area?

My culture is inclined to abolish standards rather than deal with the difficulty.  We do it all the time.

Being a Christian though, I can’t.  It wouldn’t be faithful.  Also, because I believe in a good God, I believe that being unfaithful to him would also be unhelpful.  Like biting the hand that feeds, only described in some way as to avoid the cliché.

So I’m left with these two ideas: the belief that there’s a specific, important, objective thing called fatherhood; and the belief that the men who attempt it are all different, and that those differences are good.

But now I’m out of time, so more on this tomorrow perhaps.

 

 

 

 

The Nutshells In Which I Live

As much as I may want to, I can’t possibly write posts about all of my daughter’s antics.  There are far too many; she’s an antic machine.  We appreciate this about her–she has a definite joie de vivre–but we can’t keep up, and I certainly can’t write fast enough to do Continue reading