Reprinted from May 7, 2009, “Something Within” blog
Here on the week leading up to Mother’s Day the spotlight should be on mothers, not fathers. But permit me to return to something I stumbled over in the last blogpost which bears some more thinking about out loud. (After all, I’m at that age when I gotta say what’s on my mind when it’s on my mind because it’s likely to evaporate in thin air, never to return anytime soon.)
Warning: I’m still turning this one over in my head. It’s still at the hunch stage.
“This is your curfew. Don’t make me have to come looking for you,” my husband said to the-teenager-who-lives-in-my-house. To her date he turned and said and without blinking: “Get my daughter back here on time, and bring her back the way she left.” Which is cave man, I believe, for “She belongs to me, not you; and don’t you forget it.”
I’ll stick my neck out and even go so far as to say that fathers are essential.
It was probably right then and there, in that encounter at the door on Prom night between father-of-the-girl and boy-who’d-come-to-take-the-girl-out-for-a-magical-night, that I got it. Fathers are not nonessential personnel. Now it’s not like I didn’t know this already. Right? Intellectually, anyway. But I really got it that night. I got it because I saw the look in the young man’s eyes. He’s never looked at me that way as the mother of the girl he likes. Something primal, primeval, and primordial (something as female I don’t get and can’t replicate) was exchanged between two males.
No offense or disrespect to those of you without fathers or those without fathers you’d wanna own in public. No offense or disrespect to those of you raising children without financial, emotional, or physical support from the father(s) of your children. No offense or disrespect to my readers who are in same sex relationships and are raising children together.
My point remains: fathers are essential. Not just in the lives of daughters. For sure. But especially in the lives of their daughters. And we don’t need research to tell us this. We see the consequences of father-absence everywhere in our communities. It should be obvious that fathers are important to the psychological health and development of children. So I don’t expect here on the blog to have to debate this point. (Although I suspect that I probably will.)
But here’s the point of this blogpost. No where is a father’s absence in his daughter’s life more telling and more perilous than when it comes time for her to start dating boys. Sure, there are life lessons about what to look for and expect from males that are best passed down from a father to a daughter. But there’s more. A boy may respect a girl’s mother, but it takes her father to strike fear in his heart. For certain, it’s not fear enough to quiet his hormones and keep him from testing how far he can go. But it is a kind of fear that only men seem to be able to instill in other men. Call it cave man law. “She belongs to me, not you; and don’t you forget it.” It’s about possession. Power. Ownership. Which translates into male honor. Sure. Sure. Love is in there somewhere. A father’s love for his daughter. The boy’s love (aka lust) for the man’s daughter. But possession and control seem to matter more to the male species. At least from what I can see and from where I sit on the porch.
Remember: I’m just thinking out loud here.
So, here’s what dawned on me this morning.
We live in an era where the vast number of our daughters are being raised in female headed households where there’s no father (and no other male guardian around) to come to the door when young bucks come knocking. And many of those who come knocking are themselves unfathered males who’ve never seen fatherhood in action. Which means that they are clueless about what fathers are supposed to do. Which means that when they do meet girls with active fathers who glare in their direction they are likely to ask,”Why yo’ daddy sweatin’ me?” “Why yo’ daddy trippin’?” “Who yo’ old man think he is?” “You better tell that boy what the deal is.” My father and my high school boyfriend never had much to say to each other when the latter came to pick me up. But, then again, they didn’t have to. “Hello.” Hello.” You doing alright?” “Yes sir.” “Bye. “Bye.”
What this means is that generations of boys and young men are coming up who know nothing about what it means to have to go through another man to get to that’s man’s daughter. No fear of having to answer to a father (or father figure) for the wrong done to a daughter. Not to mention the girls and women who have never known a father’s protection. Perhaps all of this means nothing. Perhaps I’m guilty here of one of the things I criticize a lot on the blog: romanticizing patriarchy, reinscribing traditional (patriarchal based) family dynamics. Perhaps I should have stuck with quilting this morning instead of trying my mind and hand at blogging.