Here she is! Hennessy. The pooch that came with the wife. The pride of my life.
All of the sudden, as Jennifer and I became one in holy matrimony, I was instantly a father. Oh my. How to handle such a responsibility? Could I be the man I needed to be for my new daughter? Will she accept me? Will she care about me, like me … mind me?
With fatherhood (and yes I’m being somewhat silly here), comes a great degree of responsibility to what I would call “fathering.”
Fathering, as opposed to mothering, is a way of being wherein strict standards are the root of the relationship. This is not gender specific though often males hold the stricter hand over their female counterparts. (Yes, experiences will vary). The fathering – whether done by daddy OR mommy – will be dedicated to testing the young one, so a daughter or son receives and passes the tougher lessons in life in order to handle a harsh world out there. The mothering – whether done by female OR male – holds more of a vibe of unconditional love. No testing. No harshness. Just mommies left or right breast upon which to snuggle, to be hidden away from the harsh world. A father will test and make life harder. A mother will bring reassurance and try to make life easier.
How’s that for some generalizations that – on some level – are absolutely true? Admit it! I mean, who did you run to as a kid to get a “there, there, it will be all right” after getting a tough grade, knocked down in a fight, or the raspberry on your leg after sliding into second? Not dad. It was mom. We ran to dad when we scored the winning run, got a good grade or kicked someone’s ass in a fight. And even then we might have heard “Is that all you got?” Shit, fathering can sure come across as harsh as life sometimes. Perhaps that’s the point.
Well, let’s put it to the test, shall we?
Enter again, Hennessy. My pooch, my new daughter, my new opportunity to be a father … and a chance to offer some fathering. Enter a setting: the partially closed door of my office. Enter scene: Hennessy would like to get through that partially closed door to get into the kitchen. She really wants dinner in the kitchen, however there is this barrier of this office door. Even though the door isn’t closed all the way, it still stands as an obstacle for her. It’s part of the harsh experience she must endure in her life.
Upon seeing this poor pouting face on the other side of the door, what is there to do? What does her mommy say? “Oh, open the door for her, she’s hungry.” What does her asshole daddy say? “She can do this.” In fact, I came up with the brilliant idea of closing it just a little bit more. Did I do that to screw with her? Nahhhh. Well maybe a little. Did I do it because I didn’t care about her? No way. No … way. I actually knew she had it in her to be able to move that door aside if she really put her mind (and snooter) to it.
On this side of the door, there was mommy and daddy. “Come on Hennessy, come on.” For so long she would pout and pretty much pretend she could not do the task. For so long she would get up and start to push the door further open only to lay down again and quit. Jennifer was pretty much believing that was enough “torture.” I was believing we had just started the conversation.
Fathering, if done right, is a way to believe in that child, son, daughter or pooch, knowing they have it within them to grow and learn … to reach their highest potential. Kids won’t get there without some challenge and a bar that is raised over time. Fathering is a beautiful endeavor that has fathers so loving their children that they won’t perform tasks for them or sell them out with a paved path, a lower bar or an easier life.
For Hennessy, she finally figured it out. Just like we knew she would. Just like she knew she could. Only after a couple experiences at the partially closed door, she learned how to completely get past that barrier, jump that hurdle, obliterate that obstacle … and open that door. In fact, now the door can be completely closed and she doesn’t hesitate to swiftly shove that door wide open.
It didn’t take much. Just the love of a mother and the challenge of the father.