By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
Many fathers are breaking new ground by becoming more active, more involved in their family – especially with their children. Previous generations defined fatherhood more in terms of providing the economic necessities families need. But this generation, more than any other, has determined that their role as a father does not end with providing economic security, but continues to building a strong bond with their children. Unfortunately, so many of these fathers don’t have role models, don’t have a blueprint to follow in terms of what being involved in the lives of their children actually looks like.
January is National Mentor Month and that seems a perfect time to make sure all of these trailblazing fathers understand that while they may not have a role model for the kind of father and man they want to be, they are transforming themselves into the role models they never had. Today’s involved fathers, in their quest to be a better father, to better meet the needs of their own children, are ensuring that their children will never be without a wonderful fatherhood mentor.
Most dads know they want to give more than they received. They want to see their children more than their fathers saw of them. They want to feel more than their fathers felt with their family. They want to know their children. They want to witness their child’s firsts – first crawl, first word, first step, first throw, first hug, first everything. They want to be there to soothe when their child is upset. They want to help ease their fears and also make them laugh. They want to be more than just the disciplinarian – they want to play and have fun. They want to be a central part of their children’s lives and not just a play a supporting role. They want to be more than just a one-dimensional parent. They want to develop a three-dimensional relationship with their children. The trail this generation of fathers is blazing will make it so much easier for their own children to follow.
This blazing a new trail can take enormous effort. It involves pushing ourselves past our own limits, past our own fears so as not to inflict or impose those fears, those limits on our own children. It involves surpassing the model of fatherhood we grew up with, learning what we wanted but didn’t have and what we had that we want to pass on to our own children. This process of growth can be an incredible process, a process that is challenging, daunting, but phenomenally rewarding.
Every step we take in our personal growth as people, and as parents, gives our children a head start. The growth in ourselves we’ve worked so hard to achieve actually becomes part of our children’s foundation, giving them one less obstacle to overcome. If we men begin to break the “tradition” of distance, then our sons will have an easier time being involved with their children. If we men break the “tradition” of lack of emotion from fathers, we make it easier for our sons to grow up believing it is healthy and important to experience their emotions. We also make it easier for our daughters to find a man she can be truly emotionally intimate with. Every foot of path we clear on this new trail – even if we only partially clear it – creates an easier path for our children.
Because it’s not just about being a good father, about being a good mentor or role model.
Our children define so much of themselves based on who we are. Our sons build their definition of manhood based on us, on what we do, on how we are, on who we are and how they see us. The healthier they see us and relate with us, the healthier they will be, the better chance they will have at having strong, healthy relationships throughout their lives.
But our daughters also define manhood based on who we are, on how we act, on what we do. They develop their ideal partner based on their emotional (and sometimes even physical) profile of us. Their sense of self, their self-esteem is so intimately wrapped up in our relationship with them. And, of course, their ability to attract and be attracted to healthy men is based on how they view us, on their relationship with us. If we have taught our daughters they are special, unique, beautiful and intelligent, they will expect men to treat them that way. If we don’t…
National mentoring month is a good time to congratulate all of you trailblazing dads, to remind you of the incredible work you are doing to not only improve your life, but to improve the generations that will follow you in this world. You are the foundation for all that comes after you and that foundation looks pretty strong from where I’m standing.