What Is a Dad’s Most Important Relationship?

It’s his relationship with his dad, Lome Aseron writes.

Fatherhood is an initiation into life-altering relationships. No matter how much parents and grandparents warn us about the changes to come, we don’t truly understand the impact of becoming a dad until it happens. It’s as if we’re looking up at the rope hoisting a grand piano as it fails, thinking, “I wonder if that’s going to hurt?”

The most important relationship for a new dad, however, isn’t the one with his child. It isn’t even the partnership with his spouse or significant other.

The must crucial fatherhood relationship is with his own dad.

One of the first decisions I made upon learning of my wife’s pregnancy was to sell my fast, sexy Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo for a family-friendly car. It was a sensible decision, but practicality wasn’t my primary motivation. I wanted to prove that I would, unlike my dad, fully embrace the responsibilities of fatherhood from day one.

Early parenthood entails snap decisions based on little expertise under the duress of sleep deprivation. If we want to be emotionally present to make those decisions with clarity and confidence, we need to eliminate unnecessary volatility. Our judgment must be unhindered by outside influences.

Our father and his parenting choices have the potential to lord over our experience as a parent. Failure to reconcile our relationship with our dad puts at risk a golden opportunity to let go of an obstacle that keeps us from being totally ourselves. That doesn’t mean that we have to forget what our dad did, it just means we have to forgive it. If we don’t, we’re letting him run the show.

Originally appeared at New Dad for Life.

Photo: technowannabe / flickr

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About Lome Aseron

Lome A. Aseron is the father of two amazing sons, Joaquin and Mico, and a husband to a magnificent wife, Janine. He tries to capture (hopefully with some success) the beauty and joy of fatherhood at NewDadforLife.com and LIFEclectic.com.

Comments

  1. “The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.” Coach John Wooden.

    I submit that men who are great husbands to their children’s mother are very seldom bad fathers; they are very likely to be very good fathers.

  2. Thanks for your comment. That could be true, but it’s not universal. One of my closest friend’s father seemed to be a wonderful husband and partner, but when it came to his kids, he was distant and removed. Though I spent countless hours at my friend’s house, I rarely saw his dad. When I did, he was often interacting with my friend’s mother in a very loving and affectionate way. My friend would say that it seemed like there there wasn’t enough love to go around. Also, I think fathers who focus too much on being a good husband/partner run the risk of short-change themselves. If becoming a dad means that we’re just a super husband, we can miss out on the joy of fatherhood. I think our partners want more than that. They want us to be engaged fathers as well as engaged partners. And what about parents whose relationships doesn’t last? I know too many good fathers who, for one reason or another, couldn’t make the relationship with the mother of their children work. I appreciate your thoughts, but I think there’s more to being a good dad than being a good husband.

    • Being a good father is an aspect of being a good husband, if you have children together. They are related/interwoven. It is a natural outgrowth and by-product. By way of analogy, a healthy lifestyle is a composite of a number of things. Likewise, being a good husband is a composite of things; being a good father being one key aspect, if you have children together.

      Regarding your friend’s father, a man who is “distant and removed” from his children can’t possibly be a “wonderful husband and partner.” He’s probably lousy at both. For example, you noted that you “rarely saw his dad.” A “wonderful husband and partner” shows up more often than “rarely.”
      Regarding the link between the a good father and a good husband, “a wonderful husband and partner” is not going to leave one of the most important life tasks that he and his wife share all to her, showing up only rarely.

      A wonderful husband is a life partner to his wife, ensuring that they work as a team on tasks of importance; he’s not a boss of a subordinate, delegating all non-secular activities to her, including interacting with the children they are collectively responsible for.

      ” I think there’s more to being a good dad than being a good husband.”

      I agree. There is no doubt. However, I never said that that was ALL there was to it. However, (if you are married to your kids’ mom) being a good husband to your kids’ mother is a fundamental aspect of being a good father. If you are truly a good husband, being a good father will come.

      “And what about parents whose relationships doesn’t last? I know too many good fathers who, for one reason or another, couldn’t make the relationship with the mother of their children work.”

      That’s one of many reasons why being a good husband is so important. Good husbands (and wives) are far more likely to make their relationships last, enabling full time, non-shared parenting.

      That doesn’t mean you can’t still be a good father but he’s relegated to part-time fatherhood only. You can make the best of a bad situation but it’s a bad situation and you have less time to work with, and don’t have a seamless partner to work with any longer. It’s not impossible but it’s a much bigger challenge. Hence, the connection between being a good husband and being a good father. BTW, the same goes for mothers.

      • You make some fine points, Eric, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that my friend’s father wasn’t a good partner. I remember his parents being quite fond of each other and both having a twinkle in their eye in each other’s presence. In fact, the parents’ seemingly healthy relationship made the father’s general absence all the more stark. I only know what I saw, of course, but they are going on nearly 50 years of marriage. My friend’s mother seemed quite content with the situation. The expectations for being a “good” husband (whatever that means) are just too different from being a “good” father. For instance, I know couples who spend fair chunks of time apart pursuing their individual interests and seem to be quite content. Although you may be correct that good husbands/wives tend to make relationships last, there are times when relationships cease to work or one partner decides they want something different.

        • If Partner A leaves all the hard, decades-long, emotionally draining, but most critically important work to Partner B, by what definition is Partner A a good partner, even if Partner B is satisfied?  What quality of mother would be “quite content” and have a “twinkle in her eye” toward a man who neglected his children? I would have a very cold bed of I did that.

          I am in no way implying that your friend was ever abused but you do realize that there have been women who knew their husbands were abusive of their children but they behaved just as you described that couple as having behaved.

          “Although you may be correct that good husbands/wives tend to make relationships last, there are times when relationships cease to work or one partner decides they want something different.”

          Have you ever seen those 1950s cars they have in Cuba?  Know why?  They can’t get new ones.  It’s not possible.  So, when the old one “ceases to work”, they diagnose the problem and fix it.  That’s their only option.  Marriage is best approached that way.  If married people approached marriage in that way, there would be far fewer part-time mothers and fathers.

  3. Personally, I’m totally with you in that their relationship was not something I would strive for. However, they seemed very happy with it and I don’t feel I’m in any position to make a judgment about it. His mother, by the way, was very attentive, so I don’t think her decision to bear the lion’s share of the child-rearing says anything about the quality of her parenting.

    In thinking more about your original comments (and in light of my friend’s example), I would certainly agree that an engaged husband/wife will almost always make an engaged father/mother. However, I still contend that a husband or wife can be in a happy relationship with their spouse and not be an engaged parent. I appreciate your comments and your steadfast commitment to the institution of marriage.

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