Shining a light on fatherhood.

shutterstock_257089360When raising my boy as a single mom, I naively believed I could be both a mother and a father.  Single handedly I planned to work hard and overcompensate so that my son didn’t see any difference when he compared his life with other kids’ lives.  I would love him, support him, cherish him, provide for him and rock my responsibilities.  I had no idea how important a father would be to his development and emotional well-being.

I had no idea.

Today I understand the importance of having a positive male role model in my son’s life.  Both he and I were lucky to have incorporated a variety of influences into his journey towards adulthood.  The impact on his social and emotional development has been beneficial.  Sometimes, as a mom I can be too nurturing which can, in turn, interfere or tip the scale negatively when it comes to my children’s self-esteem.   When mom does everything for her child it also prevents the child from learning independence.  A father’s approach provides the balance to that scale.  Of course, the opposite can also be true.  I think that sometimes men don’t truly understand how much their actions can impact their own child.

Brush it off!  Get up!  You can do it!  No I’m not helping you tie your shoes.  Get your stuff packed up.  Listen to your mom.  What did you say?  These words come out differently when dad says it.  These words relay a very different message than what you hear.  The clear message that is forever in the background is  “you CAN do it.

Perhaps it all starts when dad cuts the umbilical cord in the birthing room.  Or maybe it all starts when your husband, significant other or father of your child throws your toddler up in the air and catches him.  This marks your very first freak out as a mom.  You think your child will get hurt!  You get angry!  This is a risk!  You want to protect your child with every lioness cell in your body and yet both of the people taking this horrible risk laugh with unadulterated joy.  They took a risk.  They survived.  In spite of what mom said.

They are saying this to your child; “You CAN do it”.

My father had a significant impact in my life when it came to my inner strength and my moral compass.  He would jokingly tell my mother and us kids that “they are guilty until they prove they are innocent.”  It was infuriating.  In our teen years my siblings and I would do anything we could to convince my mother of our innocence of any one crime we had committed.  We would aim for her heart and dad?  Well dad would get in the way.  He would see right through us. He would tip the scale on our games and it was because of him that we eventually thought twice of being duplicitous.  Instead we learned accountability.  As I age it has become clear to me that many of my peers have not learned the same lessons.  I was fortunate enough to learn from example.

If you are a father I want you to know how important you are and how much of an impact you have on your child’s life.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.  Even if you have been through a divorce or have made mistakes, don’t let that sway you from putting your best foot forward for the sake of your children.  They need you.  They are watching you.   Treat their mother right.  Treat yourself right.  Live by example.

My son has had my father, my brothers and his own father in his life.  While he has been surrounded by love, I know that his relationship with his father has impacted him a great deal.  For a boy, a father is a mirror.  For a girl, a father can be the model for her future relationships.   But one thing is for certain…

The best thing I have ever done was to maintain a positive relationship with his father while also supporting the strong bond between my son and my husband, brothers and my own father.  Together, these men have helped me raise a good mannered, accountable, empathetic and strong young man.  This young man has in turn paid it forward.  He is now a solid rock and foundation for my younger sons.  He is the additional voice in the house that tells them that they can do it!

There is a certain importance and beauty woven into the fabric of those who serve as fathers.  There is power in their lessons, in their faith, in their strengths and in their weaknesses.  There is power in the words “you can do it.”  There is power in the words “stand and decide who you want to be.”  It doesn’t matter if you have a son or a daughter.  Never underestimate the importance of this role.  Mom is usually in the spotlight but I would like to turn the spotlight on those who serve as fathers.

Thank you!

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