There is an old saying that unfortunately I hear all too often, “Any fool can have a child but it takes a real man to be a father. ” There are several variations of this saying and I have heard them many times, from many different people. The wording always seems to vary slightly with each person who says it. Regardless of how they might be worded, they all deliver the same message.
Basically, it means that it is easy for a man to do his part in the conception of a child but there are many responsibilities that come with actually raising that child. If he is not man enough to take care of those responsibilities then he does not deserve to be called a father. Unfortunately for the children there are far too many fools out there who are more than willing to do the easy part and not enough real men who are willing to do everything else that comes with being a father.
If you look up the word father in a dictionary, you will most likely find a definition that is very similar to one of these two: “a man who has begotten a child” (Merriam-Webster) or “a male person whose sperm unites with an egg, resulting in the conception of a child” (TheFreeDictionary). According to these definitions, any fool who has a child, regardless of what he may or may not do to help raise that child, is considered to be a father. However a real man, who steps up and raises a child who is not his biologically, is not considered a father.
I would have to disagree with these definitions and I know many other people do as well. In my opinion, they don’t even come close to defining a father. They would be great for defining a sperm donor or impregnator, but a father is so much more than that. I would go well beyond any dictionary to define what I consider a father to be. Obviously, my definition would give a more in depth description of what I believe a real father is. However, even if I felt my definition was perfect, it would most likely be debated by someone who would define it a bit differently.
Everyone has their own feelings, ideas, and opinions on what a father is or should be. This might be based on their experiences with their own father, how they are as a father themselves, or maybe even how a television show depicts a father. There are many reasons why people will have differing opinions, but even though we all may have a slightly different definition of what it means to be a father, I would imagine most would at least agree with me that it takes a hell of a lot more to be a father than simply being a man and having a child.
Even President Obama once said during a speech on Father’s Day in 2008, “Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father” (Dyson). I could not agree more. It definitely takes a lot of courage because it is a huge responsibility and can be very challenging at times, but if these fools would just try to muster up that courage, they would realize that it’s also the most rewarding thing they will ever do. These fools who don’t have the courage to do what they should to raise a child are missing out on an amazing lifelong experience.
There are many different studies that show how the biological fathers’ choices and behaviors can affect their children. For instance, according to the Journal of Research on Adolescence, one study on how an absent father impacts a child’s odds for incarceration showed “Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds” (Harper). Although this is rather disturbing, in some cases the children might be better off with their biological fathers completely out of the picture.
It would obviously be more detrimental to a child’s well-being to have a father who abuses them, whether it is physically, sexually, or emotionally. Aside from abuse, one of the most emotionally damaging things men can do to their children is to be around, but not necessarily involved in their lives. According to Social Science Research, studies show that “Youths are more at risk of first substance use without a highly involved father” (Bronte-Tinkew et al. ).
This includes a biological father, who is present and lives with the child, but simply does not spend any time or take any interest in his or her life. More commonly, though, is when a man comes in and out of his child’s life because he only wants to be a father when it’s convenient for him. This can be really hard and confusing, especially for a young child. Imagine a young child, sad and wondering why daddy’s gone all the time and getting so excited when they hear daddy’s finally coming to see them, only to get heartbroken because daddy never comes or abandons them again.
These men will often try to convince themselves and others that they are a good father, but fatherhood is not a part-time job. If that’s all they can handle, then like most part-time employees, they won’t get any of the benefits. For example, I know a guy who has four children by three different mothers, and has done little to nothing to help them throughout their lives. He was hardly ever around while they were growing up, and failed to teach them any of the things that only a father can teach his children.
He wasn’t there to help them get through the many challenges, difficulties, and confusing times that life throws at all of us, usually because he was too busy looking for his next high or was in jail. Every once in a great while he would decide that he wanted to try and be a father, so he would get his kids for a weekend or two, but after a couple of weekends he would disappear again. He must have felt like he was missing out some fun and parties because he was stuck with his kids on the weekends. He was usually too drunk or high to spend any quality time with his kids when he did have them.
He couldn’t support his children financially either because he was either too damn lazy or messed up to go out and get a job, or if he did happen to have one he still couldn’t pay child support because he needed the money for more important things like beer and dope. His kids are all adults now and they occasionally see him out in public, and he’ll ask what’s going on in their lives. When they respond with how well they are doing or mention something that they’ve accomplished, he tries to act like some kind of proud father and pretend that he actually had something to do with their success.
If the way he fathered them had any influence whatsoever on their accomplishments or happiness, it was their motivation not to be like him. If I had to go by the common dictionary definitions of father, then I would regret to admit that the man that I’ve described is undoubtedly my father. Thankfully, I don’t agree with the dictionary, therefore I don’t consider him to be my father. I know what it takes to be a father as I have been one for almost six years now, and I would like to consider myself a real man who had the courage to raise a child. I’m not perfect, that’s for damn sure, but I do my best.
I owe it to my son to give him my best effort because I helped to bring him into this world, so I need to help him get through it. That’s what being a parent is. If you have a child, you have helped to create a life and that life is essentially an extension of your own. That child should be viewed and treated as if he or she were more important and more valuable than anything else in the world, as well as the most precious and fragile thing you have ever encountered. It’s no longer all about you; it’s now all about your child. This means that there will be many challenges and sacrifices that you will have to make.
It will require a lot of hard work, and you’ll probably make some mistakes along the way because just when you think you’ve figured out one aspect of parenting, there will be another one to figure out as your child continues to grow. In a nutshell, to be a father you should love and support your children, both financially and emotionally, as well as be there for them so that you can teach them and discipline them when they make mistakes. You should also be there for your children as much as possible, whether it’s physically or simply being there to answer a phone if they need to talk.
Essentially it’s the little things that make you a father, like asking them how their day was, playing catch or doing anything to give them that assurance of having their father to rely on when they need him. I could go on and on about what it takes to be a father, as I continue to learn things all the time. You can read all the books in the world on how to be a good father and they should help you, but if you have the courage to raise your child and really have what it takes, then ultimately you will know in your heart what you have to do.
That’s exactly how I felt when I became a father. For me, it wasn’t even a thought or an idea, it was just plain instinct that I needed to watch over and protect my son as well as love and support him and to discipline and teach him. Ultimately, I knew that I needed to be there for him, physically as well as emotionally to help guide him as he grows through what can be a very cruel and rather confusing world. Maybe my father (according to the dictionary) did have a positive influence on the man that I’ve become.
From the moment I found out I was going to have a child, I knew I could not be the kind of father mine had been because I didn’t want my child to ever go through the confusion and heartache I did as a child. Not only did I know that I needed to do all of these things for my child, but I wholeheartedly wanted to and I could not have been more excited to be able to raise a child. Raising my son is an amazing experience and I am proud to say I am a father.