I have to thank @coffeepinkicing for inspiring this one, and I have to thank my Daddy for being my muse. Read on and you’ll get it.
I’ve been slacking on my daughterly duties this year. Usually I get my Daddy a heartfelt card and write a heartfelt message in it and send it on its merry way (I generally hand deliver it and watch while he reads it). This year I’m writing this post. I already cleared it with him, so I should be fine.
So @coffeepinkicing let her twitter fam and friends know how she felt about Father’s Day, and it got me reflecting on my thoughts about the day. Maybe you aren’t appreciating your biological father on this day. Maybe you are appreciating a father figure- a step dad, an uncle, or grandfather. Someone who you should not be shouting out on this day, though, is someone who doesn’t have male genitalia.
I hope I didn’t lose anyone there. Feel free to write an angry reply, but only do so after you have read my reasoning in its entirety (please and thank you).
Coffeepinkicing’s comments were about stepping up to be a father for her brother and about her mother stepping up to be her father. Now, while I don’t discount the contributions ANY single mother has made to her child’s life, I know she has NOT been a father to her children. While she has not had anyone to share the joys (and the financial and emotional burdens) of parenthood with, she is being a mother to her child. As she is a woman, that’s all she knows how to be. That’s deeper than gender roles.
Let’s put this in context: a single mother can tell her children what a man should be. He should be kind, he should be gracious, he should be accepting…the list can go on. In fact, the specifics of what she says don’t matter if the men she brings around her children are a STARK contrast to the kind of man she tells her female child she should strive to have and she tells her male child he should strive to be. The proof is in the pudding. If she consistently brings men around who disrespect her (shiftless, poot-butt men) then THAT is the message her children will likely take home. Ultimately, it will be THOSE men that help the children solidify their ideas of what a MAN should be.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all of the children will go on to perpetuate the cycle as disrespectful men or as women who allow themselves to be disrespected, but I am saying actions speak louder than words. That is and will ALWAYS be true. Some male children will see the way their mother is being disrespected and vow to NEVER treat a woman that way, while some will decide that Mother’s talk was just talk and what they see is what she REALLY wants from the men she brings around. Some female children will not settle for less than a Prince Charming, while some women will accept (either for a little while or for forever) that a man who treats her well is not her lot in life. I doubt any mother wittingly sets their child up for this fail, in the same way I doubt that any mother of a renowned killer raises her child to think that killing is morally justified.
As no person lives in a bubble, no child is learning how to be a man or a woman who has certain expectations of a man solely through the things they see happen in their mother’s interactions with men. Maybe Uncle Mookie keeps a girl or two on deck, so many you give up trying to remember their names. They might be mooning over him, but you know she is just one of many others. Maybe your older cousin sings a constant “men ain’t SH*T” refrain, but she is only bringing around men who, for all intents and purposes, a blind man could see aren’t sh*t from the gate. I think the people we ultimately become are a combination of nature and nurture. Hell, maybe some people have poot-butt genes (I kid…kind of. That’s a post for another day).
Still, because we are dynamic, just because that lesson was cultivated in childhood doesn’t mean it has to be a lesson that endures. Maybe a “friend” comes along who treats Mother like a princess, and that’s something a child can see at age 8 or age 80. If the child sees that change that this treatment produces in his or her mother (and if there isn’t some kind of Oedipus complex with the son and the mother or some “I-don’t-want-my-mom-to-give-her-love-to-anyone-but-me deal with the mother and daughter) he or she just might begin to appreciate the lesson that Mother tried to teach through her words, even if she wasn’t living it by example. It’s never too late to learn what a real man acts like or how to be a man. The thing that makes the difference is a person’s willingness to be open to the lesson.
I’m grateful to have had several men in my life who taught me what I should seek out in a partner and demand from any man who wants me to give them the time of day. This post though, was for my Daddy. Thank you for teaching me what a man is supposed to be.
Happy Father’s Day!