ROMNEY WORDSWORTH – Father’s Day was this past Sunday, June 19th. Being a father myself, I will take this occasion to set down my thoughts on the role of fathers in bringing up children, and why this is so vital to the family and society.
The very first precept about fathering that I formulated long ago is that a father’s role is NOT to be a nurturer. That is the natural role of the mother, and should be left to the mother to do that which she does best, unless you are in the unfortunate situation of being a single father.
No, the primary role of a father is to teach his children to survive and succeed in the larger world as it is, and not as we would wish it to be. I cannot stress enough that last part, as it is primarily where conservatives and liberals part ways in child rearing. The Liberal spends his time trying to erect a larger and larger government edifice that is supposed to insulate your child from all the dangers in the world. The conservative accepts the world as it is, and resolves to teach his children how to cope with that world.
The world is a dangerous place. It always has been, and always will be. If you are a father, it is your job to make sure your children have the skills and resources to look after their own safety. Teach your children how to box, starting with how to make a proper fist and to throw a proper punch. Every child will have to face a bully someday, no matter how many official government mandates and programs are enacted to eradicate bullying. Teaching your child to have the confidence to punch back at someone who hits your child first is a survival skill your child will be thanking you for someday. By all means, teach your child an ethical standard to never be the aggressor, and to use their martial skills for defense only. You need only to point to the cultural reference given to us by George Lucas in his Star Wars mythology about Jedi Knights, and the Light Side and Dark Side of the Force, to point your child in the right direction. Of course, old George got his stuff from the New Testament, but that is a discussion for another day.
Sending your kids to Karate or Tae Kwon Do classes is great preparation for your child to be able to defend themselves as well, although not every Dad has the money for that, nor every child the maturity to take advantage of what those classes offer. Flexibility for fathers is essential in this regard. No plan for child rearing survives contact with the actual child. Whatever great ideas you have for what you want to teach your child, your child may have other ideas. Be flexible, but firm. It is the end result that counts, and not how you get there. Situational awareness and “street smarts” can help your child avoid trouble before it starts. Take your child to the city. Show him or her the ugly side of life, and how to deal with it. How to deal with pan handlers, how to use the reflection from store windows to see if someone is following you from behind, how to use car keys in your fist as an impromptu weapon, etc.
In this regard, you begin to see the classic childhood activities in a newfound light: Fishing, swimming, sailing, hunting, camping, horseback riding, the boy scouts, all offer training in survival skills. Things like how to start a fire, cut a tree down, basic carpentry, sewing, tying knots with rope, identifying poisonous plants, first aid, handling a firearm properly, etc. Do not overlook domestic skills as well: Cooking, cleaning, and laundry. I’ve met many a clueless college age student who has no idea how to cook for themselves or do their own laundry. This is where parents can “over-nurture” a child to the point of not letting them learn and do things on their own enough, and thereby not acquire the skills needed for self-reliance and independence. Use every teachable moment. If you get a flat tire while out driving your children somewhere, show them how to change the flat, don’t just call AAA. Before your child leaves home, if they have a driver’s license, they should know how to change a flat tire and do basic engine maintenance.
Your goal should be for your child at 18 years of age to be well educated with good grades, be physically fit, be financially responsible about debt, how to write a check, cook and clean and maintain a household, operate and maintain a motor vehicle, and have some kind of skills to physically defend themselves. You want your child to have developed a basic work skill, and to have had some experience working a part time job, and know the value of things such as being on time, following directions, and have a good work ethic. Such a young adult is well equipped to go out and make their way in the world, and have as many doors of opportunity open to them as possible.
Get all that done with your child, and you can say to yourself as a father: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.