Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And a belated happy father's day

Your First Things tie-ins are some ruminations about fatherhood:

I say I wanted to be a father, but that doesn’t quite capture it. I have very nearly made an idol of fatherhood, and worshiped it. In this, I think I am only in tune with the times. My ancestors worshiped the empty space above the cherubic throne, and so it seems entirely fitting to me to worship an absence—above all in this age of fatherlessness.

After decades of exposure to the social and psychological disasters, particularly those afflicting our inner cities, that have accompanied the deconstruction of American fatherhood, the gender feminists still don't get it. Though they insist that such cannot be the case, it becomes increasingly clear that the mayhem inflicted by violent men on women (and on other men, and on society as a whole) has its roots not in conventional patriarchy, but in the increasingly matriarchal nature of the American family. Ever since Philip Wylie wrote his angry text on American "Momism" back in the thirties, various astute commentators, including a number of women, have been telling us that American children, and especially boys, need more patriarchy-in the best sense of that term-and not more "empowered" matriarchs. These children particularly need fathers who are different from their estimable mothers in equally admirable ways: tough without being macho brutes, stern without being petty tyrants, and yes, affectionate-but on the whole, less nurturing than their wives.

Would my life be easier if, in premodern fashion, my wife took on almost all the responsibility of caring for our son? Perhaps. I’d certainly have gotten more rest during the first few months of his life. But then I’d have spent so much less time feeding him, changing his diapers, holding him in my arms, rocking him to sleep, and comforting him during hour-long crying binges. For all the stresses and strains of life as a new man, there’s no substitute for the act of devoting oneself to another person, especially one so helpless and needy. It—and arguably it alone—grants a gift of spontaneous, unconditional love that every human being, and not just women, should experience. I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.


  1. Those sarin and mustard gas shells are probably leftovers from the Iran-Iraq war.


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