I was rummaging in the closet this morning looking for something and came across the hat. Images and emotions about my daughter replaced my need for the item for which I searched. For me, this is not just any hat; it is the hat that topped my three-year-old’s frumpy winter ensemble. It was the hat I stood holding as she insisted upon putting her own winter jacket on before we left child care. The power of my daughter’s passion and personality are represented by that hat.
I am an empty-nester with my children spread from New York to London. At times, I live for instant messages, phone calls, and e-mails from faraway countries as my children—now young adults—travel and live their lives. I can feel their sorrows and pains, joys and excitement from thousands of miles away. Our bond is not broken by age, by distance, or by the fact that I am a father rather than a mother.
Perhaps my greatest frustration as a father has been that my connection with my children has sometimes been dismissed as bumbling, unimportant, or a nuisance by more than a couple of insensitive acquaintances through the years. Despite the fact that the comments have rarely been targeted directly at me, it hurts deeply to hear mothers insist that children can’t be adequately cared for by their fathers.
Fathers are not only a nice extra for children, fathers are crucial to the well-being of children. “In an analysis of nearly 100 studies on parent-child relationships, father love (measured by children’s perceptions of paternal acceptance/rejection, affection/indifference) was as important as mother love in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults” (http://www.fatherhood.org/fatherfacts_lb.asp)
So, as I sit here at my computer waiting for a call from my son in Switzerland and holding the hat with the lady bugs and the blue trim, I challenge fathers to take their important place in the lives of their children and I challenge mothers to support that effort.
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