Daddy and Me: How a Father's Involvement Affects a Child
"He was a father. That's what a father does. Eases the burdens of those he loves. Saves the ones he loves from painful last images that might endure for a lifetime." -- George Saunders, Tenth of December
The best memories from my childhood are definitely the times spent with my father. He would let me ride in the front seat of his truck, and we drive hours to get to a car show. My sister had no interest in this, so it was just me and him. He would always buy me a soda and candy for the ride, and we would listen to classic rock and sing at the top of our lungs! To this day, I can think of nothing better than cruising with the radio as loud as it can go.
But what does it mean to be a good father? How important is it for children to have fathers that are present and actively involved in their lives?
More important than you might think...
Here's the deal...
The effects of a mother's relationship with her child has been well-researched and well-documents. But people don't realize that a father's relationship is much more essential to the happiness of a child. As a mother, this breaks my heart. I know that no matter how much I give to my child, if her father is not a positive, present figure in her life, she will suffer greatly.
There are major differences in the two kinds of relationships, as well. A mother's role, typically, is to soothe and comfort. Many mothers can attest to this. As soon as a child gets hurt, his immediate reaction is to call for his "mama."
Dads are generally there to excite children. They are playmates that aid children in risk-taking, exploration, and test limits. Keep in mind that this is not a definite definition. Parent-child relationships are much more complex, but this is simply a breakdown to its most basic function
What a Son Needs
It boils down to this: a son needs certain things from his dad.
- He needs to feel loved- this is, perhaps, the most important thing that a son needs. It can be difficult for fathers to express love to their sons, especially if they are trying to teach them strength. It is important for fathers to go beyond the enforcement of "toughness" to be sure that his son feels loved.
- He needs to feel like he matters- many fathers are the "bread-winners" of the household, and it is easy for a man to get caught up in his work and providing for his family. However, it is very important for a father to take time out of his schedule to make his son feel like an important part of his life.
- He needs to feel like what he does is important- in addition to taking time out to making a son feel important, a father should show an interest in his son's activities. Whether it be attending t-ball games or helping him practice for a spelling bee, a father needs to be supportive.
- He needs to feel like his father is proud of him- "I'm proud of you." It is amazing what effect these little words can have on a child. Every kid wants to know that his father approves of his activities, and he is proud of what has been accomplished.
What do you want most from your father?
What a Daughter Needs
A dad is a young girl's first love, so it's no surprise that they need a few different things than their brothers.
- She needs to feel loved- this one is exactly the same as a son. A girl needs to have at least one man in her life to let her know that she will always be loved and cared for.
- She needs a role model for future relationships- the way a father treats a mother provides an outline for the type of relationship that a girl will find appropriate. This is one of the reasons why girls who grew up in an abusive home tend to find abusive husbands. It is so important for dads to treat their wives the way that they want their daughters to be treated.
- She needs to feel important- too often, houses become separated based on gender. A girl spends all her time with her mother, and the boys spend time with their dad. However, every girl needs some quality time with her dad doing non-gender specific activities.
- She needs to feel like her dad is proud of her- A dad's approval is something that all children ache for, even as adults. I can attest to this. Even now, after being married and having a child of my own, it never fails to please me when my dad says that he is proud of me.
I just had to share this...
Fathers and Marriage
There seems to be a stereotype that exists: divorcee fathers tend to be less involved, lower quality fathers. While this is not always the case, there may be some truth to it.
Many fathers who exhibit caring, involved attitudes towards their children tend to exhibit these characteristics when interacting with their spouses as well. This means that they tend to be better husbands, and much less likely to get a divorce.
One of the biggest reasons I fell in love with my husband was because he was so good with his younger siblings. His mom started having kids when he was 13, and she just had one this year (he is 24 now). I knew that he was going to be a great father.
We have been together for over nine years now, and we have a beautiful baby girl. She will be nine months old in a few weeks. I have to say, watching him with her melts my heart. He tries so hard to be attentive and to make sure that she is comfy. I feel secure leaving her with him because I know that he is sensitive to thinks like her hunger and whether or not she is cold. He is truly amazing.
He has his moments, though. Being a boy, he doesn't exactly have the best fashion sense. The other day, I asked him to get her ready so that we could go to the mall for a little shopping. When he came down with her, my jaw dropped. She was wearing a leopard print onesie with light pink trim, jean shorts with a hot pink bow on the front, leopard print leg warmers, and socks with pink, red, and brown polka dots. He, then proceeded to tell me that he didn't know how to work leg warmers, so he tucked one side into her sock and left the other side over the sock. I didn't even know how to respond.
I admit it. I laughed at him, and told him he was an idiot. He was so proud that he was able to "match" her clothes, and he had even managed to get her hair into a ponytail without any fuss. I love him so much more for this memory. He never gives up, even in the face of adversity (or fashion)!
So I have to give a little shout-out to all those dads out there...
To the dads who make it to every soccer, t-ball, or football game- we are your biggest fan!
To the dads who make an effort to make it home for dinner every night- we are grateful for you!
To the dads who take time out to play games and teach us how to use tools- we think you are amazing!
To the military dads who are deployed and fighting for our freedoms- we will be here waiting for you!
To the dads who make us feel so loved- we love you too...
© 2013 Stephanie Constantino