17 March 2011

Radical Fatherhood?

Here's the chorus to one of my favorite songs from Peter, Paul and Mary:
And if you take my hand my son
All will be well when the day is done.
Parenting has changed me, quite radically. Since I was almost 40 when The Offspring was born, I had plenty of opportunity to come into myself in adulthood. I'd lived on three continents, completed a Ph.D., worked at several different and interesting jobs, including teaching, reporting the news, and managing book production for a publishing company.

Since becoming a parent, I've become more patient and more forgiving, of myself as well as of others. I've been stymied by the challenges in being a patient and forgiving as well as appropriately stern parent, day in and day out, but I keep working at it, keep trying again to do better.

I've been astonished to discover the depths and the breadth of my love for my son, and to realize my parents felt that much love for me.

American and European societies changed fairly drastically in the 1970s with the feminist movement. But it has mostly been women who have changed: men have mostly kept on doing the kinds of things they'd been doing all along, while women have started to behave more like men.

I was endeared to The Mate, when we met a little more than 25 years ago, because he wasn't a "typical man," but did "feminine" things like talk about emotions and notice when someone is suffering. He has never asked me to be any more or less, or any different, than who I am -- never asked me to fold myself into social expectations for women.

Today, we juggle parenting; our usual calculation is that he does 75% of the childcare and I do the other 50%. He's one of a decent-sized handful of fathers we know who stay home with the kids while the moms go off professing and doctoring and lawyering and traveling the world in business.

I have a hunch that real, radical social change will happen when more men -- a significant number of men -- take the hands of their sons and daughters, and settle in to the day-to-day challenges and joys and plain old slog of parenting.