What makes a good father?

Reflections on fatherhood for Father’s Day 2017

What makes a good father? I’m sure almost everyone asks themselves this question at some point, whether it’s in curiosity, or panic, or even self-congratulation. Since Beloved Husband first became a father almost ten years ago, I have had the privilege of seeing what makes a good father and I have some thoughts on the subject.

When he learns he is going to become a father, perhaps he feels fear and excitement and anticipation. A good father takes all of these feelings and uses them. Maybe he reads the baby book every day, maybe he talks to the Bump, maybe he near kills himself, trying to make sure Bump will have a safe and secure home. Maybe he goes out searching for the one and only food that Bump’s mother can keep down, whatever time of night it is. Maybe he holds her hair back as she’s sick AGAIN and cools her down because dammit, he can’t do much, but he’s determined to do what he can. And maybe he walks up and down the hospital room all night while she finally sleeps, holding his newborn in his arms. Because he’s a good father.

When the baby is here, Daddy sees this squalling, red-faced little creature and recognises the fragility and potential and commits his entire being to protecting it. He baby-proofs every damn plug socket, every possible source of disaster, and double-checks everything. Twice. He sacrifices sleep, sanity and self-image, thinking nothing of putting a silly hat on or pulling odd faces for hours because it makes the baby laugh.

As the baby becomes a child, there are a hundred new challenges to face. A good father will make mistakes – because he’s trying his best and you don’t get it right until you’ve got it wrong a few times. Maybe he’s too soft, maybe he’s too strict, but he’s trying his best and he’s throwing himself in with everything that he’s got. He teaches his son and his daughter to be strong and to be gentle and to love fiercely and to think and to throw themselves into the world, even when it’s a scary place. And when it’s a scary place, he teaches his children that he is there for them, that they can come back and huddle together for warmth until they are brave enough to go back out there.

I don’t think a good father is perfect. I think a good father recognises his frailties and his faults, and he is unafraid of letting his children learn from these so that they can make their own mistakes instead of repeating his. I think a good father has feet of clay, because really, who wants a golden statue for a father?

I think my children are lucky enough to have a good father.

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