The Diminishing Dad

As the man hastily parked his car in the parking lot on an early spring morning, the sun was not yet peeking out from behind the clouds. The grey-haired father shoved his keys into his pocket and rushed down the hospital corridor, anxious to see his daughter and his infant grandson. Word had come to him that the newest member of his family had joined them sometime in the wee hours of that morning.

The man rapped softly on the door of his daughter’s room and then entered quietly after hearing no reply. In shock, he viewed an empty room—no baby bassinet, no awaiting mother in the bed, the lights completely off. It was at that moment he feared the worst, his thoughts not even nameable.

His daughter, not expecting such an early visitor, was enjoying her first shower since giving birth. She put on a clean gown and opened the door from the bathroom, eager to climb back into bed, when the welcome sight of her father greeted her. The anxiety on his face was palpable, expressing both joy at seeing her and tentative questioning about the baby. She laughed and reassured him that his grandson would be along shortly from the nurse’s station, where they were administering some care while she bathed.

Nearly a quarter-century later, he still speaks of those panicked moments and how relieved he felt upon seeing his daughter. She listens to the story every time it’s told, basking in the warm glow of love and appreciation emanating from her Dad. It is a tender testimony to the nature of fatherhood, one of many such examples she cherishes in her heart. This man, her dad, became her chauffeur, English tutor, religious instructor, sparring partner in a debate or a discussion, respected advisor, and, finally, as an adult, a bosom friend.

In an age when the topic of toxic masculinity is more likely to dominate conversations than acknowledgments of such tenderness, we wonder what will become of this day when we gather together to celebrate fathers. There are natural questions we ask ourselves: as citizens of a “woke” culture, are we even allowed to recognize fathers as something noble and distinct? Doesn’t that suggest a (reasonable, rational) assumption of gender, and assign a unique value to it? If we recognize fathers, for what can say we recognize them? Surely we can’t pay homage to the typical male characteristics of yore?

We now celebrate the hipster, with his ratty corduroy jacket and skinny jeans who knows his barista by name, but not the man wearing dirty, worn work clothes bearing grime on his face at the end of the day. We laud the man standing behind the woman (hear her roar), but not the one taking seriously his responsibility to lead and protect his family. We honor the open-minded beta male who seeks the journey, but never the alpha who rests in the truth. We have turned traditional American culture and the values of Western Civilization upside down!

If the underpinnings and history of the true, good, free American life have been Judeo-Christian values and beliefs, the family has been the method to impute those values to future generations. It is, after all, the family that has reinforced, taught and encouraged the belief and practices of those mores. What better way, then, to demolish the great and proud nation of America then by dismantling her foundation, one block at a time?

At the center of this effort, we find an attack on the cornerstone of the family: fatherhood. Consider the words of Linda Gordon, a well-known feminist, who says, “The nuclear family must be destroyed . . . Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process.” Toxic masculinity is under attack from toxic feminism!

What if the nuclear family is being destroyed by making society hate what has been the typical fatherhood role? What if the traditional admirable traits of strength, rationality, responsibility, protection, generosity, decision-making, and leadership are decried as woman-hating? What if we effeminize our boys to the point that we reduce or eliminate such characteristics?

But try this one on for size: God created fathers to be unique, with special attributes and responsibilities. And those strengths, when used appropriately and to good ends, create more harmonious families, children more rooted and grounded in Truth, and they further enhance the peace of society.

A disclaimer—which now must always follow statements such as those, in order to protect the author from oversensitivity on the part of . . . well, anyone, really: the author believes women can be most things, that women have special gifts and abilities, that women are equal in worth to men in terms of their rights and responsibilities, that women are not doormats, nor should they be treated or used as powerless human beings.

Nevertheless, fathers are not mothers—and both fathers and mothers have their individual, sometimes overlapping, roles. But it is precisely the role of fatherhood in its truest and best form that we gather together today to honor.

For the father who turns into his bed at night, weary with the day’s work and its responsibilities and cares, who utters soundless prayers throughout the day, beseeching his Creator for patience, wisdom and strength; for the one who silently wipes tears away from his eyes while watching a son graduate, a daughter curtsy on a stage, or a child walk down the aisle, you are not unwatched nor unappreciated.

For the man who has had to play the role of mother and father, your efforts will not go unrewarded. For the dad who sacrifices so that his family may prosper in innumerable ways, those littlest of eyes are on you, absorbing and learning your unspoken lessons. For the one who teaches a youngster how to use a hammer or a thesaurus, or how to change the oil in her car, those lessons take root and shoot, teaching far more than the skills themselves.

If you didn’t have a wonderful father, if you haven’t been the best one yourself, know that some of the richest things in life are forgiveness, mercy, and sometimes even forgetfulness. After all, some of the most difficult and painful lessons in life teach us the most valuable lessons. And sometimes we must also remind ourselves that not all broken fences should be mended.

So today we honor fatherhood. We nod to the humor of a whole classification of men for whom an order of jokes is named (“Dad, I’m hungry.” “Hi, Hungry, I’m Dad.”). We banish thoughts of toxic masculinity and, instead, praise the good in our fathers and the men who fathered our children. After all, they deserve a day.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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