Old School Fathering in a New School World
When I was growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s, I didnt have a father of my own and the idea of a Father in my eyes was an abstract one at best. I saw from the outside the way my friends dads were and my reality was shaped by that perception. It wasn’t until I became a Father at age 19 that I quickly realized that I had no idea who or what I was supposed to be. How was I going to raise my son and be a good dad when I had no example to go by? I barely even knew how to be a Man, let alone create one.
There are plenty of stereotypical ideas that come to mind when we hear the word Man. I often thought of the strong, reserved protector that goes out into the world, toiling away to bring back food and fire, throws a baseball back and forth in the front yard with you before retiring to his favorite chair. But what never came to my mind was everything else that comes with being a Father.
Like there is a duality of Man, there is also a duality of Fatherhood. We have to be that strong, reserved protector that brings home the bacon, sure. We have spent quality time with our kids and our wife. But those things are just glimpses of the surface. They dont tell the full story, the other side. And over the generations, society’s expectations for the role of a Father has changed and certainly not for the better.
“What am I supposed to do?”
The problem is that the world today isnt what is used to be, so it seems logical that the way we prepare our children for the world should change as well. But that logic isn’t sound. While the exact scenarios our children will face may be vastly different than that of what we experienced, the underlying challenge, and solution will be very much the same.
While the world became safer (speculative) and easier to survive in, Fathering shifted from making our children strong enough and hard enough to face a world without us in it, to making our children’s lives easier. But in doing so. We did them a disservice. No, there are no roaming bandit hordes burning villages and plundering homes, but the world is still every bit as cruel and hard as it ever has been. Having been lied to that they could be anything, deserved everything, and rescued from every failure, we have a generation of Men and women unable to function effectively in a world thst demands they perform and rewards only merit.
Our job, our mission as Fathers is to foster strength, resilience, and morality, in our children. Providing for them, and protecting them is the baseline of that. We arent just protecting them from the elements and strangers, we are protecting them from themselves. Because if we dont, they will become their own worst enemies. They will be the victims of our instilled false expectations of the world.
So how do we make sure that our children become strong enough to face what the world is going to throw at them? Well, that’s simple. You have to let them fall. You have to let them fail. You have to let them get their feelings hurt. You have to let them lose. Now I know its hard watching our children struggle. I have 9. Every time one if them got hurt or sad, my first instinct was always to swoop in like Superdad and save the day. But it wasn’t until my oldest was in school that I realized that I had done more harm than good. I hadn’t done anything to prepare him for life outside the castle walls.
It took some doing, but eventually he came around. His mother and I changed how often we would “save him”, letting him feel the full weight of the consequences in a controlled environment. Amazingly, he became stronger, less emotionally fragile, he developed the tools needed to cope with a world that could care less if he failed.
That’s the connection that Fathers today need to make. You aren’t raising a little boy or girl. You’re raising that little boy into a Man and that little girl into a Woman. People who are one day going to be in your shoes, facing the world and raising your grandchildren to eventually fill their shoes. Are they going to be capable of creating strong Men and Women that are able to face a world that will demand they contribute? That all depends. It all depends on the lessons and values that you instilled into them.
So as the bard would say, here lies the rub. Fathers arent just raising children. They are creating the foundation blocks of a lasting legacy that will stretch on for countelsss generations. Are they going to be built on sand? Or will they be laid on stone?
That’s on you, Dad.