An Open Letter to Young Fathers
This is an open letter to young fathers…
You have embarked on a monumental journey. Maybe you already have long been on this journey. Maybe you have already seen and felt fatherhood as the gift that it is. But, then again, maybe you have been discouraged, and only had flashes of the pride and joy of being a father. Fatherhood is an amazing privilege, and I cannot think of anything more rewarding and fulfilling than being a father. My aim here is to reach out to young fathers and make sure they are not deprived of this great feeling by pointing out some of the obstacles to experiencing it along the way.
The experience of being a young father is like that of any father when it comes to all the great things about being a father. There is the overwhelming sense of pride you have in your child, the love and joy you experience in the presence of this brilliant being that you have been a large part of bringing into this world. Then there can be the part where, as the father, you are an afterthought.
As you may already know, the journey of fatherhood is undervalued by some, or in some cases not recognized at all. There are a lot of people out there who do truly appreciate fathers, and there are a multitude of marketing campaigns that are ongoing, promoting the importance and value of fatherhood. Unfortunately this does not always translate to the masses. Otherwise why would there be a need to support fatherhood through media campaigns? Certainly there are deadbeat dads out there who need a kick in the butt. There are also so many fathers out there who feel discouraged by the way they are viewed through the eyes of presumption and over-generalization that young men do not really want to step up to the plate and be great fathers. I believe that minus this alienation that there is the potential for men to feel so much more empowered as fathers and motivated if that genuine moral support were more readily available to them.
People may not neglect the importance of your role as father with malice. They may do it unconsciously. One example I experienced many times was when when my son's teachers would communicate important information about him to his mother and not to me, assuming that I as a father or man might not care so much about that information, or that his mother would be responsible enough to pass that along to me… even after stating that it was important that I receive this information as well, and that it is important to me. This is pretty common actually, and has been an experience of many men I have spoken with. Just because it is common, it doesn't make it any less disheartening and hurtful. This is an especially pertinent issue when it comes to split families. It may help to hear this from somebody who experienced it firsthand, and know that you are not alone in what you've been going through.
The social part of fatherhood can also be complex when you are in your 20's. Socially there is a dark side to being a young father that older, more settled fathers don't experience, or at least as strongly as young fathers. When you are in your 30's it gets easier. It can be really boring at times, but in your 30's you may be better equipped and actually welcome some boredom. It is easier in your 30's because your peers are also settling down into a slower pace of life, reeling from a long work week, looking to just relax and take the weekend slow (that is a generalization, I know, but generally true).
When you're 20-something and try to hang with the 30-something fathers the disconnect can be even worse. For example, when I was 28 or so I went to a Halloween Party with the local mom's and dad's of the 3 year olds in the neighborhood. I dressed up as a Disgruntled Youth, as Eminem's 8 Mile was popular at the time, which I thought was funny and so did my wife. But NONE of the other parents, who were all about 10 years older, got it. I think they thought I was really trying to be myself, and really wanted to be Eminem or something (those pesky youth!). It felt very lonely, and I felt very out of place. At the time I thought it was a problem with me, but over time I was able to realize that they were just really uptight people who were out of touch and so pretentious they wouldn't, or even couldn't, even make a real attempt to connect with me. I tried, but realized that these were people who would never be people I chose to hang out with if I had the choice. But, because these were the kids my son was playing with in the neighborhood, that was what was available to me at that time. Where were the other 28 year old fathers?!?!? When you are 30 something, at people like this will at least act like you are one of them… Sometimes older men are just dicks to younger men. They may not always mean to be, or even know that they are. There are definitely exceptions, but it does happen a good amount. The few fathers who did reach out to me I really appreciated. It felt great just to be listened to and recognized for what I felt a lot of pride about- being a father. There could be numerous reasons older men don't do this with younger men. Likely it may be emotionally painful for them to remember what it was like to be 20 something and by relating to you it may open up the floodgates to those painful memories. They may feel awkward and not know how to relate to you. They may not want to relate to you, feeling they are already drained by work and family life. Bottom line, it's very likely nothing personal, and more a reflection on them than it is you. Keep that last sentence in mind, and repeat it over and over to yourself when you face those in the world who are unsupportive of you.
To be continued...
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