Sometimes random thoughts converge into a stream of conscious that I didn’t even realize was winding its way through my brain. One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts this week was Write an Open Letter to Men. Introduced at a time when I am working each day with youth in emotional pain, it led me to make a plea for reviving the art of fatherhood. (This piece was originally written January 23, 2013.)
Your sperm joining with an egg signifies new life. Of course, there is the new life of a child forming from the cells that are dividing and growing. But there should be a new life developing for you as well.
It is time for you to move from instant gratification and a life where you are the center of the universe to a life that considers your child first. You made a choice to participate in the activity that led to the life of this child. That choice amounts to implied consent. On a legal document it might look something like this:
I–insert name– do hereby swear that if a child should result from the act I am about to commit, that I shall henceforth and forever more be that child’s father with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that role entails.
Fatherhood is not a short-term gig; it is not light work. There is no financial incentive plan; however, the pay offs are greater than any you have known before. The job also involves worry, pain, and hefty servings of humble pie. There are no days off. The only insurance is the assurance that if done right, you will be a better person for having done the job.
There are certain things that a child needs from you. Without them a hole will develop in their soul. Only you can prevent this hole from forming.
A child needs you to participate in the financial cost of his upbringing. Without your contribution, chances that he will be raised in poverty increase dramatically. The environment of poverty has been shown to potentially suppress academic performance. Without a strong and quality education the odds of growing into an adult who can attain a position in the work force which will provide a comfortable living dwindle, meaning the legacy of your lack of contribution may well leave not only your child in poverty, but your grandchildren as well.
A child needs to know that she is lovable. If you-one of the two people in the world who share the deepest biological connection with the child- walk away, you leave in your wake doubt. Your child will wonder what is wrong with them that would drive you away. Children blame themselves rather than the adults who let them down. Long before your child can put it into words, she will have integrated into her soul a question of her own self-worth.
All children need a positive male role model in their lives. Boys need a man to guide them in learning what it means for them to become a man themselves. Girls watching a positive male modeling appropriate love and affection for a woman are helped to avoid the pitfalls of an abusive relationship.
Not every person is meant to be a parent. Some of us are not even capable. Reach an honest conclusion if you are father material before your sperm fertilizes an egg. Failing prevention, be man enough to know if you are not capable of providing these basic components of fatherhood and do all that you can to help put a suitable Plan B into place for the sake of the child.
You have a right to your own dreams and desires, just know that your right does not supersede or hold greater weight than the right of your child to her dreams and desires simply because you were on this earth first. In fact, being here first means you are the adult in this situation; be the adult and consider what your child needs from you.
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