I have started to think revolutions always occur some 40-60 years before we know it. That’s because that’s how long it takes for people to grow into positions of power. Hence Obama’s unprecedented leftism, which is a product of the radicalism in the 60s and 70s as he grew up and came of age. The new Democratic left is something that was fostered back around the time the people in office were children or young adults, so although it seems “young and hip” to old timers like Joe Biden who were living and breathing that ideology as youths, it comes off as dated to me, and probably really just incomprehensible to people in their 20s and below.
With that in mind, I think it’s a great thing that more and more men are spending time with their kids and teaching them male values and problem-solving techniques. Unlike most people of my generation, I, too, was exposed to this as a very young child. I spent a great deal of time with my retired paternal grandfather, who treated me like his best friend. To this day he lives on in my dreams and fondest memories. He probably influenced me as much as anyone to put all the effort I could into being an involved, caring father for my children. He was far from perfect, but according to what my aunts and uncle told me after he died I got the best he had to offer.
Today, more and more children are lucky enough to have some of the same. Fathers are spending more time with kids, and more than ever are at home with them. Although the Census Bureau suggests that only 3.6% of men are stay-at-home dads, I suspect that’s an underestimate, because many men who work from home or who own businesses may be spending more time during the day with children than their wives, many of whom have conventional jobs.
In New Rochelle, N.Y., at-home dad Bryan Grossbauer takes his children, 2-year-old Finn and 9-month-old Georgina, outside twice a day for yard work or a hike through the woods. He wasn’t bothered when Finn recently picked a route through a big puddle and took a fall. “He walked back home happy as a lark, covered in mud,” says Mr. Grossbauer, a former actor and teacher.
He takes pride in pushing the kids to solve problems for themselves. Recently, Mr. Grossbauer stood back and encouraged Finn to figure out how to fetch a ball he had tossed into a milk crate nailed to a tree, just out of reach. After 20 minutes of frustration, and begging his dad to get it, Finn found a stool and retrieved the ball—a lesson in self-control and perseverance, Mr. Grossbauer says.
His wife, attorney Erin O’Callaghan, says her parenting style is different. Leaving Finn’s muddy clothes on the floor by the laundry room for hours “just doesn’t bother him the way it bothers me,” she says. Also, he lets the children “run and jump and climb and get themselves into precarious positions that I might not even allow,” she says. She is also more “ready to get involved” when one of her children is frustrated or starts crying, to comfort and guide them to a solution.
There really is a very marked difference between how mothers and fathers treat children, and it appears that children need both forms of interaction. Mothers tend to infantilize children, whereas fathers encourage them to grow up and be independent. I suspect mothers are very important for psychological well-being, but fathers are crucial where dealing with the outside world is concerned.
Parenting experts confirm this:
Kyle Pruett, a leading child-development researcher and co-author of a 2009 book, “Partnership Parenting,” says Mr. Grossbauer’s and Ms. O’Callaghan’s differences, typical for many couples, can benefit the children. Dads’ hands-off style tends to instill problem-solving ability, while the more engaged style typical of mothers often instills a sense of security and optimism, he says … Over the long term, having an involved father is linked in research to better self-control in children, less risky behavior and better grades, says Dr. Pruett, a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.
Unfortunately, access to fathers is often restricted to the upper classes these days, as working class and poor families are characterized by father absence, which should be considered a major national crisis. Intentionally separating fathers from children through policy is a crime in my book — one for which feminists should pay every bit as dearly as the deprived children and fathers. There may be grounds to bring it to the attention of the United Nations as a major human rights violation for which the US deserves sanction.
However, the fact that articles such as this one are appearing is a good sign. There may be a trickle-down effect as men of higher socio-economic status realize how important it is for all children to have a present father and begin to stand up for the rights of all American men in this regard.
Curiously, the author of the article managed to find one man who was bothered by not being included in stay at home moms’ playground conversations:
One father in the Journal of Consumer Research study lamented that when he took his kids to public parks, “moms would talk over me as if I was not even there.”
Funny, but in all the time I spent with my kids at the park, it never bothered me one bit when the moms yapped with each other or on their cell-phones, which they did constantly; I was glad they left me alone. I’d just sit there in the sun reading a book, looking up from time to time to make sure the kids were staying nearby. Every now and then the mothers would initiate a conversation with me, often remarking on how well-behaved my kids were (other kids often made scenes and fought over toys, then cried for mommy). I’d tell them it’s because I didn’t treat them like babies — I expected them to work out their problems themselves, and if they couldn’t do so playtime was over. The mothers acted like this was some entirely new way of dealing with the problem that they never would have thought of. To me, it seemed an entirely self-evident solution.
So, I hope that as more men spend time not only bonding with their kids but also teaching them how to relate to the world and others, we are raising a generation of children – boys and girls – imbued with positive, practical masculine values. It may take decades before that bears fruit, but if, as an old man, I see that I made some small contribution to it, I’ll lean back and smile in my rocking chair.