The relationship between a dad and his son is the original, “old school” male bonding experience. This is a very simple truth that is often overlooked. Having an active father in a baby’s life provides a strong environment for healthy growth in all arenas. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, however you look at it, when dads are there, it is like fertilizer for a healthy life. There is no in vitro substitute for the influence a father brings.
This is not just about a dad and his son; it is about mom, too! It may “take a village to raise a child,” but the village begins with having your husband by your side, and covering your back. When I hear someone say, “Children don’t need a father in their lives,” I know this statement is not coming from a dad or from a mom who has raised kids with a dad.
If this simply means “It is possible to raise children without a father,” then, obviously this is true. The same goes for a mom. From a possibility perspective, “Children don’t need a mother in their lives,” is equally true. We just never hear this.
Practically, sharing in the tasks of raising an infant brings husbands and wives closer together. It isn’t healthy to project all our needs for encouragement, joy and affirmation onto one person. Human relationships flourish as we join together with others for a common purpose. We can share work, share interests and hobbies, raise pets, and such, yet raising a child becomes the most primal, instinctual place for growth. Our capacity as men and women expands as we raise children together.
Now, dads, this doesn’t mean you have to get all weird on me. I don’t want to see any breast feeding apparatus like Robert De Niro, as Jack Byrnes, in Meet the Fockers(2004)! Yet, sharing in those basic infant care tasks has a ton of psychological and emotional influence, for you and your son. Here are some examples:
Holding your son closely and watching him drink from his bottle is about as close as you will ever get to seeing pure peace.
Sharing in soothing your son during nighttime fussing is not just for the sake of relieving your wife’s sleep deprivation; your son is learning that you are there to bring security into his life, as well.
Changing diapers may have been a bit too much for some of our fathers to handle, but we step up. Because it is the politically correct thing to do? No, because we learn so much in this simple action. We learn that if we can take crap from our sons at an early age, we can take crap from them later! One of those lessons in “unconditional love,” let’s just say. O, and remember to have another diaper handy to throw over him just in case…
Taking a nap with your son lying on your chest is a great excuse to get some rest, and your son can get used to the rhythm of your heart, as he has his mom’s for so much time in the womb. An added bonus is, while you are snoring because you are sleeping on your back, she won’t poke you. Instead, she’s thinking, “Isn’t that precious…” Saw away, boys!
Now is the time to sing, pray, and give blessing to your son each night. Faith is not a “woman’s thing.” A habit formed from the beginning like this will have huge dividends as he grows older. Both for him and for you (I will spend a whole chapter on the topic of spiritually nurturing your son).
Yes, spending lots of time with your infant son is as much about you bonding with him as it is he bonding with you. I can’t help but think of those old film clips I saw when studying Psychology, of ethologist (study of animal behavior), Konrad Lorenz, walking with geese following him. He is showing an example of “Imprinting” (“in which a young animal acquires several of its behavioral characteristics from its parent.”)
Your son is not a goose, he isn’t your clone, but as a dad, you have to realize how the time investment you make from day one will significantly increase the effectiveness of your influence in the coming years. Your journey has just begun. Honk! Honk!