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BY Matthew Archbold
Babies are born every day; thousands, in fact. If one can believe the internet about such things, 370,000 babies are born each day worldwide. It appears that making babies is easy. Sadly, making fathers seem much harder.
Perhaps we’ve forgotten how. It’s as if some alchemy passed from generation to generation for thousands of years has been lost and cannot be found. And the world aches for what it has misplaced.
I’ve noticed that on the sidelines of children’s games there aren’t as many fathers as there used to be. When I was a kid it was a joke among parents that one kid yelling “Dad” made dozens of heads turn. I don’t see as many heads turning anymore.
We, as a society all must conspire (in the kindest way that word can be taken) to help form young men into fathers. But it’s something we’ve forgotten how to do. I’ve read many places that when a woman is pregnant she changes. Or when she holds the baby for the first time she truly becomes a Mom. It’s not like that for men. I don’t know why. We’re not sudden transformers. We’re battle ships, dangerous and slow to turn.
I know that for me it wasn’t one moment that changed me from Matt into Dad, it was the act of caring for and serving another day after day and night after night (especially nights) that changed me. Acting selflessly actually made me less selfish. In other words, just acting like a Dad made me a Dad.
I don’t say any of this to pat myself on the back or elevate myself. It’s just we fathers are increasingly rare.
There are many reasons why men fail to be fathers, maybe even 370,000 of them. Some say it was the 60’s. Others say it’s rap music. Some radical feminism. Many blame divorce. But I think the problem is so far reaching now that we can honestly answer “all of the above.” I think though that much of it has to do with a lack of faith. When men stop believing in God it’s strange the things they will believe in, including the myth that sex has nothing to do with reproduction. I’ve known a number of men genuinely surprised when babies are conceived. One actually asked, “how did this happen?” At the time I figured the question was rhetorical. But I wonder.
There must have been in the past a sense that playing with fire can get one burned. Now we expect to play with fire consequence-free. Please excuse me for comparing having children and a family to playing with fire. But in a way that’s what it is. Fire destroys but it also has the ability to purify and make room for rebirth. That’s about the best definition of fatherhood I can come up with. Love for my wife and child has absolutely destroyed the old me and allowed me to rebuild into someone I could be proud of. I’m far from perfect but I’m better for being a father. Much better.
To be honest, I was bored to tears with me. I’m friendly by nature but I tended to skim and bounce along the surface of life which is fun but we’ll just say it lacked depth. Since becoming a father I don’t skim or bounce. Some might simply see that I’ve disappeared from the surface. But I’ll tell you, it’s under the surface where all the interesting things happen. It’s where life is.
I’ll share a quick story. When I was a newspaper reporter I always dreamed of being a real writer, writing columns read by thousands of people in which I spoke of important things. But I never had anything to write about. I had nothing to important to say. When my wife and I had children and I announced to my editors I was resigning to care for my children I believed I was giving up on my dream of being a writer. Ironically, it was focusing on my children that gave me something to write about and I think I’m finally speaking of important things.
But in the end I don’t turn my head when someone calls “writer.” But if someone says “Dad” I turn. I am a father. A grateful father.