Last month for Mother’s Day, we paid homage to all the different types of women who take on the “mom” role. In keeping with our theme of embracing all those in our lives who nurture and care for us, regardless of blood, we’d like to shine a light of love on the men who take the time to share their wisdom and embrace us as their own, whether we are born to them or not.
The Father Figure.
There is quite a lot to be said for having a positive “dad” presence in your life. Fathers bring a much needed perspective that is the alternative to the mom and they provide us with a unique kind of stability that cannot be underestimated. As with those maternal icons who nurture and care for us as a mother would yet are not our blood, finding those willing to give of their time and heart to be a dad to us keeps us centered and focused in a completely unique way.
This weekend is Father’s Day. And in honor of all the dads out there — the ones who birthed us, the ones who chose to help raise us, the ones who touched our lives and sometimes never even knew it — this one’s for you.
Who and what is a “father figure”?
Not to be derivative of our Mother’s Day article, but we do feel it’s important to set the stage for the ones who take on the role of dad and to explain who they are and what makes them matter.
Per the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a father is “a male parent,” whereas a father figure is “a person often of particular power or influence who serves as an emotional substitute for a father.” But whether the actual “male parent” or the “emotional substitute for a father” — which, by the way, has no gender specificity — that person in our life who is the counterbalance to our mother brings with them not only the attributes of nurturer and empath in their own way, but strength, dependability, respect and honor for our other parent, having an active presence in our life, and being a good role model as well as challenging others to do the same.
Fathers more than mothers are tasked with being someone kids can look up to. They’re the person who helps us keep our head on straight, calls us on our bullshit, and lovingly pushes us. It’s a big weight to carry, just like moms, and lack of a strong dad role model — regardless of your gender — notoriously leads to difficulties in growing up.
It’s interesting. The archaic vision of the father is that of the breadwinner, the coach, the disciplinarian, and the protector. Today, these roles are shared between parents. The family structure has changed and transformed into something more immersive and inclusive, and fathers are just as involved with the day-to-day care of their children as the mom. And yet…
The number of single mothers raising their kids without the involvement of the “male parent” is incredibly high. And that’s where the father figure steps in. That’s where they’re needed. Not to pay the rent and not to keep the house protected at night but developmentally.
What is it about that person who takes on the role of “dad” for us that makes them so important to our lives?
Double dose of problem-solving skills
Our moms are great at disciplining us by helping us tap into working from the inside out — using our social and emotional skills. Dads are the ones who help us keep it real and focus on sharing the real world consequences of our actions — the impact on others, our jobs, our friends, and so forth. That one-two-punch gives us a broader perspective and understanding of how to deal with people appropriately as well as a bigger set of tools to choose from to handle different issues that arise. This boosts our confidence, our interpersonal skills and, actually, keeps us on the straight and narrow.
Better communication, better grades
You know that thing called “baby talk”? Yeah, dads tend not to do it. They most likely speak to and with their children without filtering their language — my dad was the king of this, which made my mom absolutely nuts and to which he would respond, “If they’ve never heard it before, they don’t know what it means, and if they know what it means, it doesn’t shock them.” Ah, Dad…
Where was I? Oh, yeah. That father figure person also won’t finish children’s sentences for them, waiting instead for kids to find the words themselves. These little boosts make us work harder, develop the desire to learn more, and it helps when we are in school.
Even if a “dad” is not a native speaker of whatever primary language is required for the child’s education or their location, it doesn’t change how much their verbal back-and-forth matters to our development. It’s not about what language they’re using but how they communicate with us and encourage us as we do so.
More involvement means more acceptance
The father figure who is involved, nurturing, empathetic and caring shows us that these characteristics are not the sole domain of the women — or the mom, as it were — in our lives. Because of this, we view these attributes as something that is human, not gender-based. Seeing both parents engaging with us in this way makes us more appreciative of the varied approaches and accepting of those who are different from us — gender, race, religion, ability, socio-economic, etc.
The (not so) new face of “dad”
The importance of fathers is nothing new but the depth of studies into it are. The role of the mother or even mother figure of aunts, friends, our urban feminine family has been researched, discussed, and touted for years. Now, however, that person who fills that other shoe to complement our “moms” is getting more attention and being shifted from the mere hunter-gatherer to an evolved, INvolved co-parent.
And our “father figure” no longer has one gender assigned to them. It’s all about being offered another perspective as we are developing — fresh parental eyes, a yin to our maternal yang, and vice-versa. He, she, they can be the husband, partner, mate, or friend to our “mom,” or the literal father, brother, uncle, friend to us as well. Whoever they are, they are that person who takes on the dad role in our lives and helps balance us out.
The “dad” is hugely significant in determining who we are, will be, and even want to be. It is why things like Big Brothers of America, Daddy-Daughter Dances and events, and schools and even legislators putting out the call for anyone who can to step in as fathers for those kids without are vital opportunities.
No gender needs a father figure more than another, which is the same with “moms.” In the end, what this all boils down to is that every single human needs and deserves those two positive roles in their lives to make them feel more confident, more valuable and valued, and infinitely more cared for. The operative word here is “positive,” of course, and the other thing to remember is “involved.” It’s not enough to just show up once in a while. Those “dads” who are truly a part of your life are a bright, shining contribution to the wonder that is you.
Happy “Father’s” Day to each and every positive and involved maternal counterpart. You matter every single day and you always have.