A new book tries to answer a cultural question with hard science – “Do Fathers Matter?”
I haven’t done a lick of research, but I’ve essentially become my late father since hitting my 40s. I root for the Yankees, make odd noises when I bend to pick something up and mutter mild profanities under my breath that drive my wife batty.
He certainly mattered to me.
Author Paul Raeburn takes a more serious approach to the subject. He investigates not just human cultures in various spots across the globe but the animal kingdom for signs of fatherly importance. The book, subtitled, “What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked,” suggests a radical rethinking of what fathers mean to society. It scratches the surface on the subject, given that researchers are just starting to investigate their impact.
Yet anyone with a dad of substance knows just how much fathers figure into our culture. And while it’s good to see a scientific take on the subject, real-world examples may be the best proof of that fatherly fallout.
My Dad didn’t just keep a roof over my head until my 18th birthday. He modeled the kind of behavior I imitate on a daily basis. I treat my wife the way my father treated my mother. He was kind to her, doting when appropriate and he practiced random acts of romance to keep their love alive.
My wife and I recently celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary, due in no small part to watching Dad do all of the above during my formative years.
Dad strained to treat his children equally. My brother and I were very different boys, and we’re just as unique today. Yet Dad made sure not to favor one of us, even though my interests matched his to an unerring degree. We both spent hours dissecting the special effects on the classic “Star Trek” series.
He served as an impartial referee during our near-daily fights. I hated hearing Dad say, “It takes two to tango,” when my brother and I scrapped, but I’m bringing a similar treatment to my own two sons when they break out their dancing shoes.
I’d never be confused with Casanova, but my father’s love lessons helped me navigate the murky dating waters. Dad taught us not just to be chivalrous but how and when to be mysterious to the fairer sex. My brother didn’t always listen. I jotted down every tip.
Finding my life partner may prove the toughest task I ever complete, and I’m not sure it would have happened without Dad’s philosophies.
Dad did leave me with some less than noteworthy tics. The swears he let off during a Yankees thumping are just one example. His penchant for directing family members to the very precise gift he wanted on all major holidays was far from ideal. Nobody’s perfect.
Do dads matter, the aforementioned book asks? One meant everything to me.
Photo credit: Christian Toto