Remembering our dads

January 26, 2019

One of the best reads of last week was on a topic not frequently discussed. The human dad.  While most of our discussions and concerns revolve around mother and motherhood,  Anna Machin has written a  long piece on the marvel of the human dad and let me introduce that to you in this post. Why the human dad is very special? What is so unique about him?  The primary reason for curiosity is that while motherhood is universal, the number of species for whom father hang around with child and mother is very few . It is estimated that it happens only in the case of  5% of mammals. Among the big apes, only the human dad invest his time for his child. It was this uniqueness which attracted Anna towards this topic. It is very important that we understand this phenomenon to appreciate the role of the father in bringing up the child.

To begin with, what were the most important factors which made the human dad to stay back with the child in the first instance?  Here Anna points to something peculiar about the various stages  in the life  of a  human baby . As we all know ,  the human baby happens to be one of the most helpless infant among all animal  species . After birth , it needs continuous care for so many years to develop various faculties.  It was this peculiarity which slowly pushed the father to the centre stage.  Unlike other animals which has three stages ie infant, juvenile and adult, human baby pass through five stages such as infant, child, juvenile, toddler, adolescent and adult. The increased size of the human brain resulted in a short gestation period and hence babies are born before fully developing their brains.  It also means that babies need utmost care for so many years after their birth which a mother alone cannot provide and obviously the father had to step in.  Over a period of time, dad happened to stick to one female and one family and this worked well for the perpetuation of the species.

Apart from this caring angle ,  Anna observes  another important feature.  That is the role of father in teaching certain essential skills to the children. During adolescent  period children pick up many skills from fathers (  this was particularly relevant  in the hunter gatherer   society where every father had to necessarily teach his boys  skills needed  to get the food for  survival) .

The research   on the peculiar  roles of father throws many interesting  results. The dad was not evolved to be a mirror image of mother.  He is not a male mother.  On the other hand , the father’s role is to compliment that of mother’s. Researchers  also observed differences in the brain activity of father and mother when  they watched videos of their children. The mother  -child attachment and father –child attachment also works in different  planes. If the mother –child attachment works as exclusive and inward looking based on  affection and care , the father-child relationship faces outward. Of course , in the changed  scenario where the traditional roles  of mother and father are undergoing rapid changes , there is bound to be variations  in some of the  findings. Our families are becoming smaller and single parent families are on the  rise. The status of women in the workplace is also getting redefined.

One wish of Anna while closing her essay is very significant. There is a need for fathers to be more involved with their  children. When father and mother play an almost equal role in the domestic front ,  it sends a powerful message to all  sons of today.  If mothers  used to bear major burden of child rearing in the earlier days , it is going to change and both will have to share the responsibility. As children increasingly face increased social tensions , it is very important  that both parents step in to  prepare the child for the new challenges. At the same time, father and mother needs to be aware that there are specific skill sets each one is expected to hand over to their child.    

While I encourage my readers to have a closer look at this interesting essay  from Anna Machin, it will be really worthwhile if we also think deeply on the role of our father in our lives. Most of us remain more intimately connected with our mothers and many fathers do not develop an emotional attachment with their children. But I am sure that many of you will have a hundred tales of intimate relationships with dads . However, as I was reading the essay, I was thinking that perhaps fathers need to be understood more carefully. How we are connected to him?  What skills we have picked up him?  Do we observe him sufficiently?How much is our freedom with him? If you are  away from  home how  much you  miss him  ? Before thinking all these ,  you can give a  big hug to him (  if he  is near )  after reading this essay( link below) on all human dads.

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  • Reply
    Fr Jijo
    January 29, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Good piece of writing, Bobby.
    As always,it is the biological necessity that made the natural crisper gene editing on the fathers to stick to their mates and kids in the human species. That social condition of the hunter gatherer is almost non existent in many communities. The new situation is also editing the genes of our species in untold ways, I believe.

    • Reply
      Boby George
      February 7, 2019 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks you , Father.

  • Reply
    February 8, 2019 at 7:20 am

    There’s this social idea that being a father is very different from fathering. Any male with reproductive capacities can do the latter (and most fall into this category, unfortunately!), but only a man with commitment and love can do the former (much more rare than we are willing to concede). Then, there’s the issue of same-gender parents that complicates the issue. Or, single mothers. Is being a “good father” now a question of what adult can best shape a child for the complexities of the human world as it is today…

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