I don’t like to buy into stereotypes about fathers, but there’s a reason my own dad often proclaims, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad.” My 66-year-old dad, a high school special education retiree who returned to work after one summer of vacation, works with teens with learning disabilities and behavioral problems. He works with many foster parents and even more one-parent households. Single-parent families, largely composed of women and children, are a rapidly-growing family type in the U.S and have been for decades. In “A Father’s Touch,” Maurice Hamington was addressing primarily fathers who are already at least part of their children’s lives, if not still in the same household.
My parents have worked with children from broken homes every year of their careers (my mother also works in special education, but teaches elementary school children). They raised their five children in a loving, nurturing way. However, I have long observed the different ways my parents interact with their own kids. Although it’s changed some since we’ve all moved out, during my teenage years I noticed how my mother almost needed us to be dependent on her; she was very actively touching, nurturing and loving. I didn’t get close to my dad until I was 16 years old. For years, he always made sure to tell all of his children that he was there for us if we needed him. But he was more laid back about showing us how much he cared. He wanted us to be independent but to know that it was okay to come to him when we needed him. I see their different personalities in their decisions about what grade levels to teach.
Considering how many children are separated from their fathers, it makes me wonder how much of a lasting effect Hamington’s ideas would have, one step at a time, probably over a lengthy period of time. As fathers become more involved in the habitual care of their children, their children grow up to value caring for other people and have a stronger affinity to empathy, Hamington claims. Because it remains a choice for these children to care for others when they become adults, we can’t know how much of a difference this would have on how men value their interpersonal relationships. But, their children could be positively affected by the security they find in their fathers’ touch.
If there is, in fact, the need for a “moral revolution”, if men are “morally deficit,” a point which I would contend, this deficiency could come from the lack of father figures in the lives of young boys and men. Over a period of time, more men applying the ethics of care in their relationships with their children could have a positive and lasting effect on society at large.