Dave and I were swirling around the dance floor at a friend’s wedding when Dave brought us to a stop. He said, “ Take that in!” I followed Dave’s glance and was delighted with what I saw. One of the groomsmen was dancing with his eight-month old little daughter. She was a vision in a white chiffon dress covered with miniature pink flowers. On her head was a soft pink and white headband with a large white chiffon flower attached. She had white satin shoes with tiny pink bows. He was holding her close, lost in the beauty of the moment, and the song his heart was singing. We were mesmerized! It was obvious that this baby was deeply loved and that this dad delighted in being a father.
Have you noticed that young couples that are excited about starting a family find themselves in quite a bind these days? Both partners want to be engaged and active parents. Both want time with their children yet at the same time neither of them wants to sacrifice their income and future job prospects. How will they survive financially if dad chooses to spend more time at home and it has a negative impact on him professionally? What would it even look like in their situation?
As a marriage counselor I want to affirm couples who are willing to put this on the table as an important topic of discussion.
Fathers are not a pale substitute for mothers. Fathers are crucial to their children’s development.
Many young men today want to be the involved and attached father that they never had. Others had a deeply meaningful relationship with a father/step-father that they desire to emulate. Still others were edged out of the parenting picture in a previous marriage and they want to embrace being a father this time around. Once in a while I’ll run into a young man who sees being an involved, active parent as a cost he has to bear in order to be married to the woman he loves.
For whatever reason men who choose not just to be sperm donors, but also to be fathers, receive an enormous amount of pleasure from increased intimacy with their children. It is a wise woman who dialogues with her husband around the topic of how involved a parent he wants to be.
Dads who choose to be fathers have children who benefit forever!
Dads, let me pinpoint a few of the benefits you can provide for your children. You are important from infancy on. Even if your wife benefits from the bond that breast-feeding provides, don’t minimize how valuable you are to your baby. You even hold a child differently than a mother does and that’s good.
Here is just a snapshot of what research tells us about a father’s impact on his children…
- Infants and preschoolers lucky enough to have a daddy who plays with them are better at regulating their feelings and behaviors.
- Children who are bonded to and loved by involved dads tend to have less behavioral problems and less alcohol and drug abuse issues later on.
- Adolescent girls who have an involved father form positive opinions about men and are better able to relate to young men.
- Adolescent boys who have a strong connection with their dads model themselves after their father, seek their dad’s approval, and copy any of their dad’s behaviors that seem to be successful.
- Adolescent girls who have an attached father/daughter relationship do better in math.
- Adolescent boys who are emotionally attached to their fathers do better on achievement tests.
- Young people who have a loving relationship with their father can better relate to the concept of God as a loving Father.
In summary, young people who know they are loved by their fathers are likely to be emotionally secure, to be willing to embrace new opportunities, and will have an easier time connecting with peers of the opposite sex. They also have better verbal skills, intellectual functioning and perform better academically.
I’d like to see that eight-month old as an 18 year old. My hunch is that if the father continued to hold her in his loving gaze as she went through the stages of childhood and adolescence, she would turn out to be an amazing, intelligent, confident, and interesting young woman.
Dad, never underestimate the emotional imprint left by your loving attached involvement! You are invaluable!
Until the next Conscious Lover’s Blog…