by Greg Krehbiel on 18 August 2004
I’ve been thinking about a series of articles reflecting on fatherhood in our sex-saturated, post-feminist, sex-role-confused time. I think the confusion is best expressed by the title of this post. Just as the public schools seem to want all schoolchildren to be good little girls, so the culture seems to want all parents to be good mothers. Part of the result is the mess we have today in families.
Men simply don’t make good mothers, and if society insists on turning up its nose at fatherhood, then it’s going to reap the consequences of a fatherless society — specifically, the violence of undisciplined boys.
And so begins my casual reflections on fatherhood, beginning with what I consider to be the foundation of fatherhood …
How many times have you heard someone excuse the garbage their children listen to with something like this: “Yeah, well my parents didn’t like the music I listened to either?”
Listen carefully. Your parents were probably right.
The one-minute review of human history
Imagine a single line of billions of people walking down a road. It’s not a very good road, and there are pits, snares, traps and ditches. Each time someone falls into a ditch, he turns around to the fellow behind him and says, “Watch out for that ditch,” to which the next guy replies, “Mind your own business! Ahhh! Ouch. Hey, watch out for that ditch.”
Did 19th century Chinese teenagers rebel?
When people screw up, they have a few choices to make. They can admit the mistake, learn from it and try to do better. Or, they can make excuses.
Our culture has invented so many excuses it boggles the mind. Next time you make fun of the lady who sued McDonald’s because the coffee burned her leg, think of some of the blame-shifting silliness you’ve swallowed. For example, the idea that teenagers have to rebel.
Really now. Certainly there are some tensions in the child-to-teen-to-adult transition — i.e., from the “I make all your decisions” opening act through the “you make some decisions” stage and into the “you make all your decisions” finale.
But who says teens have to rebel? Did Chinese and Japanese teenagers rebel against their parents? (I.e., before their culture was corrupted by old-fashioned “we all rebel” American values.) Certainly not to the extent we see in independent-minded American culture.
Falling into the same ditches over and over again
If you want to be a good father, you have to start by realizing that your childhood is not the model. You want to train your children to be smarter than you were and to avoid the mistakes you made. You need to tell them stories — like the ten billion people falling into a ditch story — to help them get over our cultural stupidities, like “well you smoked when you were a kid.”
Genuine belief that good is right and right is good
Some of you are thinking, “But I want my kids to have fun. Smoking in the boys’ room was a blast.”
Look, I’m not asking you to be a mother. Mothers are supposed to be shocked and offended when their children misbehave. Relax. You’re a dad. You can give the knowing wink when your son acts like a boy and veto the mom-imposed six-week grounding.
This isn’t about being huffy and offended and putting on airs of self-righteousness. This is about a firm conviction that doing right really is the best thing to do, and that while smoking in the boys’ room may have been fun, there are better pleasures in a life lived well — that delayed gratification is better, that being good doesn’t mean ratting out your friends, or being a bore, and that living a life of honor and truthfulness and self-sacrifice really is better than being a spoiled brat who always wants to get his own way. Even if he does.
-- 2004-08-18 » Greg Krehbiel