Monday, 9th September, at 7.30,
I will be the guest speaker at
Spirituality in the Pub at the Jamberoo hotel.
Topic: The Time is Now and We are Here
If you live in that part of NSW I’d love to meet you there.
I admire young dads. The ones I’m familiar with are very comfortable playing with their children, changing nappies, reading bedtime stories and handling toddler insubordination. The men in earlier generations were probably just as busy as fathers today, but they gave an impression of distance- a ‘Just you wait till your father comes home’ distance. Hugs were seen as unmanly and love a four letter word that was best left unspoken.
Changes in society, the rise of feminism and the intermingling of cultures have all contributed to the way young men perceive parenting in today’s society. Parenting at its best is assumed to be a responsibility shared by a woman and a man. This involves lots of negotiation, from decisions about how much time can be allotted to adult male sporting pursuits, to a united approach on issues from toddler tantrums through to door-slamming adolescent rebellion and how many Christmas presents are too many.
Much is expected of Australian fathers today. I have known four generations of men who were fathers. My one and only grandfather believed that children could be seen but definitely not heard. No grandfatherly hugs to be found there!
Right up to the time I left home for the convent, his eldest son, my father, was just dad; he went to work, he drove the car, he barracked for Fitzroy, he paid for my Catholic education, went to Mass every Sunday and spent a lot of time protecting Australia from a supposed communist threat, instead of trying to share some of the differing interests of his three sons. Not so long ago I heard my then two year old grandson calling “daddy, daddy” as the garage door signalled that his dad was back from cricket training, I wondered what it would have been like if my father and I had shared a similar bond all those years ago.
When we are young we might yearn for a father who thinks that we are the most wonderful person in the world – even when we obviously weren’t – a father who always has time listen to our joys, our triumphs, our confusions, our heartbreaks. This ideal father would gently and persuasively shares his wisdom, hold us in a bear hug and send us back to our daily routines and commitments with a renewed strength and purpose.
Previous generation fathering wasn’t always the kind of hands-on love that lingers in the memory. Neither my dad, nor later on my brothers were as hands-on and loving as the young men who are today’s fathers. I might be looking at this through rose coloured glasses, but it’s my belief that these young men are more able to talk openly about the joys and struggles of family life. As a result their parenting seems more unselfish and in touch with the needs of children.
My father’s great grandchildren are growing up in an environment where their father is a loving centre and role model. It’s a more relaxed kind of fathering and it’s a great gift to their children. So on Father’s Day when all you dads receive lovingly wrapped ‘men-presents’, know and believe that it is in appreciation of the gift you are.
Judith Scully (firstname.lastname@example.org)