Image via the LDS Media Library.
This one’s for you.
The men who step through the door like clockwork at the end of every workday and try to slip out of work clothes while children climb over and clamor around you. The men who stay at home and hold children in your arms, change diapers, cook meals, and deserve all of the credit in the world for it. This one’s for the grandfathers, the godfathers, and the stepfathers, the men who’ve ever been fathers, acted as fathers, or wanted to be fathers.
This one’s for you in a world that keeps throwing you under the bus.
Society is pretty obsessed with all of the things that you men do wrong these days. You don’t understand anything, they say. Boys are stupid, men are babies, you’re privileged, you know nothing, and you’ve had your turn, they say. Within that society are thought leaders and women who shove you into a corner as if being a man means you have nothing valuable to contribute anymore. They ignore your problems, telling you others have had it worse. They look past your victories, telling you it’s time for someone else to have their share. They strip you of your respectability and your dignity. They don’t give credit to your manhood, something that isn’t defined by your ability to be tough, but by your character and your ability to be decent.
Often, society demeans you by lumping you under the term ‘the patriarchy,’ which has come to be defined as a system where men control and subdue, a system that needs to be crushed and attacked. Interestingly, it’s a term that historically has meant family and father.
Whether intentional or unintentional, this rhetoric makes you seem like brutes and bad guys, and I wonder if it affects how you feel about your fatherhood.
Being a father is a tough job, and the world makes it look like a useless one. Daytime television seems dedicated to paternity tests and men who feel fatherhood is both a waste of their time and a burden no one wants. Nighttime television is dedicated to men who cheat, abandon their families, or remain in a state of perpetual, non-committal bliss. Love of children and loyalty are not often associated with the men the media feeds us, and strong father figures are few and far between. Even outside of the media, fathers are infantilized, considered incompetent, and not often given the same amount of credit we give mothers and wives.
But you should know that you dads mean everything.
You don’t have to be a perfect dad to be a good dad, and the lessons you teach most often come by example. Because of dads, we know what hard work means. Because of dads, we know the difference between The Beatles and The Monkees. Because of dads, we feel protected. Because of dads, thousands of us know how to drive (and lots of us know how not to drive). Because of dads, we know exactly what we did wrong and how we need to fix it. Because of dads, we know that problems don’t fix themselves. Because of dads, we know what tough love means. Being a dad is more than being a figurehead. Being a dad is being a part of one great whole, one that would be missing something enormous without you.
The world is filled with bad dads, mediocre dads, and men who don’t want to be dads at all. To those men, I’d say this: if you think being a father is a lot of work, it’s because it is. If you think fatherhood changes the way you live your life, it’s because it does (and should). But if you think that fatherhood is a worthless job that doesn’t make a difference, it’s because you don’t really know what fatherhood is. You don’t know what it means to your family.
Please don’t listen to the world when it attacks your importance and worth, when it tells you that fathers are unnecessary or that fatherhood is a joke. Don’t look at yourselves through the eyes of society, but through the eyes of your little girls and boys, your wives, and the people who love you. You might see a champion who can do nothing wrong. You might see a normal man who makes mistakes. But what you’ll definitely see is that being a dad matters.
So this one’s for you dads.
Thanks for doing the dirty work, but most of all, thanks for being ours.