Saturday, July 7, 2012

"Go ahead! Jump!"

I could cite a bunch of miserable statistics about the effects of fatherlessness on children, but I won’t. Statistics can be manipulated.  But pick your favorite site, and the news isn't good. 

If father is a good thing, vital for the emotional development and well-being of the family, what do we lose when we don’t get that?  What are the spiritual implications of father/no father?  What does father bring to the table in a family, besides the bacon?

I was fascinated to learn many years ago from the depth psychologists how a newborn is wired to receive certain signals from the father.  Voice, touch, presence—the infant needed to receive certain things, and at precise stages of its development.  A missed developmental goal could create all sorts of havoc; not a fatality, but an increased risk.    

At later stages of development, the child listens for the father’s voice telling him “Yeah, go ahead and jump off that roof, I’ll catch you,” while mother’s voice cries out, “Get down from there!  It’s dangerous!” 

More generalizations but here’s a classic scenario: the child falls and scrapes a knee.  Mom comes running to the rescue, with band-aid and hugs, soothing and comforting and making sure the child doesn’t need stitches.  Dad, assuming he notices, says, “You’re fine – get up!” 

Mom wants to keep Child home, safe in the nest.  Dad kicks the child out, to discover the big wide world out there, and charges the child to go, explore, discover, overcome.  Then Dad can relax and enjoy his empty nest, while Mom texts hourly to make sure Child is okay.    

It was Dad who took us for driving lessons each summer, before we were legally allowed, finding the right back roads where we wouldn’t be disturbed, and couldn’t hit much more than a broken clamshell.  Mom was terrified to drive with us even when we were of age!  

When I first discussed moving off the island, Mom blanched; Dad lit up and suggested I try the West Coast—jobs were plentiful out there!

Generalizations I know—but 1 in 3 kids in America today will never get the driving lessons, the boot out, or the invitation to jump off a roof.  What else will he or she miss?        

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