Buckle-up. This might be a bumpy ride.
In my last post, I explored the topic of keeping your kids Catholic in a world gone mad. For the six people that “liked” it on the Facebook social plug-in, I say, “thank you.” Despite its relative anonymity, we had an interesting conversation unfold in the combox. For starters, I relented on a minor point: it is not a “facile” task to raise your kids Catholic. In fact, it is very difficult.
That said, I had asked what we could learn from someone who had already sojourned the difficult transition from infancy to pre-pubescence to puberty to the-in-between and finally to adulthood. She went by the handle “Perinatal Loss Nurse”, and by the end of the conversation we all felt a collective “loss”. Of course, I am boldly speaking for the “we”, but what emerged was a very difficult but common story of a mother who really did everything she could, and yet somehow her kids decided to walk away from the faith.
My heart breaks.
Then I asked, “Anyone want to comment about the role of fathers or the lack thereof?”
What followed was what I was looking for. Really, I knew it was lurking. Now, I hope I don’t offend “Perinatal Loss Nurse” or her husband. She seemed open to sharing, so I will share with you what she said:
“I bought my husband Steve Woods’ book on Catholic fathering (a great book) as a gift but he didnt open it til after the implosion. When he finally did, the first 3 or so chapters describe fatherhood in terms of being a good husband. Reading that book must have felt like getting stabbed with knives, he could only read a few pages at a time, at one point he said “when did you buy this?” ..it was years earlier…too bad he didnt read it.”
(What I’m about to say is not a direct commentary on Perinatal Loss Nurse or her husband. I don’t know enough of the details. Rather, her comment is simply a seque to what is next.)
In a long-forgotten post of mine, which ruffled a few feathers, I talked about the utter flaccidity of the modern male in his pursuit of a bride. Well, I’m here today to tell you that it doesn’t get much better once he drags her back to his cave. It all started a long time ago, and I am even willing to grant that many of the reasons a male today finds himself in such a neutered position are caused by forces external to him. I’m not here to give you a long history lesson, but I will recap for you the history of manhood in a brief picture show of pop-culture’s take on “being dad”:
A few of these shows spill over into the 2000′s, but I think you get the drift of what has been happening to the idea of “dad” over the last 30 years. If you were going to use a few adjectives or verbs to describe the dad of the last three decades, you would use: idiot, farting, inept, pleasure seeking, out-of-shape and irreligious. A New York Times columnist rightly identifies the not-so-over-the-top stereotype as “The Doofus Dad“.
I’m with him.
Where the heck did Steve Douglas of My Three Sons go? What happened to decisive leadership, paternal mentorship, and a stern yet loving hand of correction? Tragically, the forces of secular feminism in our culture have embraced the impotent man, no longer able to impregnate his family with the vital male (shriek, gasp) leadership for which it longs. Instead, we now get shaved-chest dad, HBO-subscribing dad, cut-the-lawn-on-Sunday dad, or check-out-that-lady’s-chest dad. And sadly, this idea of manhood and fatherhood has too long permeated American culture whereby now it has become acceptable even justifiable for men to act like brute animals; or worst yet little children. If that wasn’t enough, the secular feminists joined in the chuckle, dancing on the pole of careerism, thereby ensuring the family took a permanent back-seat in our society.
Child: “Mommy? Daddy? Where are you?”
So what do we do?
I can tell you. This is easy. Unlike raising kids, taking responsibility for your own life is easy. Okay, maybe easier. The point is that as men, we have to step up to the plate. Do it. Stop acting so weak, so powerless, and so immune to the world that is going on around you. Monthly fishing trips, ESPN, CoorsLight, and late hours at the office won’t surround you in the hospital when you are on your death bed. Hopefully, your family will. Life is not about the sum-total of all the stuff you can collect, but about the sum-total of all the souls you lead to heaven. That job starts in your home.
Invest in them.
Pray with them. Live a holy life in front of them. Ask for forgiveness. Know your faith. Go to Confession. Teach the faith to your children. Read books about parenting, and ask questions about being a dad…and about being a good husband. Be a good husband. Worker harder than you ever thought was possible. Ask for help: from the Lord, Our Lady, and St. Joseph.
In a phrase, be courageous.