Several columns past, I took to my bully pulpit and excoriated men who are married with children for being fathers first and husbands a distant second (maybe even third behind sports fans). My point, for those of you who are behind the curve here, is that children don’t need fathers who are striving, as are so many of today’s dads, to be their kids’ best friends. They need fathers who are dedicated primarily to their wives, and in so being, show their kids what being properly married looks like.
Allow me to repeat what I say as often as circumstances permit: Nothing puts a more solid foundation of security and well-being under a child than the knowledge that his parents are in a committed, vibrant relationship. So, the better the husband, the better the dad. It doesn’t work the other way around. The more energy a man pours into being the best dad in the history of humankind, the greater the disservice he is doing his kids.
I shared my email address with the audience (firstname.lastname@example.org) and received lots of feedback from both men and women. Surprisingly enough, not one respondent disagreed (which doesn’t mean no one disagreed). Some of the emails were rather poignant, like the dad who told me that the column had come as a slap in the face and that he’s now a born-again husband. Yay! Then there was the email from the woman who told me that had I written the column five years ago (and assuming her then-husband would have taken it to heart), she might not be a single mother today.
By no means are women without sin when it comes to their family priorities, however. These days, the most common family dynamic is one in which two married people, once they have kids, begin acting as if they vowed on their wedding day to be husband and wife “until children do us part.” That, by the way, goes a long way toward explaining why the risk of divorce spikes after the last child emancipates.
I am qualified to speak authoritatively on this subject not because I am a psychologist, but because I am a member of the last generation of American children to be raised by people who were married first, parents second, and a rather distant second at that. We early boomers didn’t need our parents to tell us they were in much more of a relationship with one another than they were with us. In our families, we were second class citizens, and we knew it, and we were fine with it. I have yet to find someone my age who, looking back, would rather have been a Big Deal Kid. What a burden! That, by the way, goes a long way toward explaining why the mental health of today’s kids is so very much worse than the mental health of kids in the 1950s, who figured out early on that not being the center of attention was the much-preferred arrangement.
Being denied the center of attention by the two people who were occupying it meant we were afforded a very libertarian upbringing, which translates to figuring things out on one’s own, which translates to all manner of enduring benefit. America needs, perhaps more than anything else, a resurgence of minimalistic parenting. It begins with embracing the authentic meaning of “Children should be seen but not heard.”
Oops! Out of space. Stay tuned. I’ll do a deep dive into that much-maligned aphorism next week.