The Reproduction of Fatherhood
I have too long sat on the sidelines watching on as an issue so near and dear to me was left unattended. Thanks to all of you who commented, tweeted, called me, texted me and emailed me with questions and insight about this important topic.
This week, A Son’s Cry expands on the notion of the “reproduction of fatherhood”. The meaning of this phrase goes beyond the obvious. Of course, fatherhood is a reproductive activity, but the term “reproduction of fatherhood” refers to something far more interesting. Stated concisely, the “reproduction of fatherhood” refers to an assertion that fathers tend naturally to father in the way in which they were fathered. Author Nicholas Townsend aptly described this double edged sword when he stated “for it is by reproducing himself in his children that a man becomes a father, and by becoming a father himself he simultaneously carries his own father’s reproduction to another stage”.
Although the reproduction of fatherhood affects all children, it primarily refers to the father-son experience. Research from the mid 90’s suggests that as men are transformed into fatherhood, their feelings towards their own father changes. Such changes come in one of two ways. Men either tend to acknowledge the wonderful times they had with their own dads and commit to replicating that in their own fathering, or they express clear discontent with how they were fathered and an immutable intent to reject the path modeled by their fathers.
Bringing this closer to home, I can speak with gusto as one who is determined never to father in the way I was fathered (alcoholism, apathy and abandonment). Many fathers, like me, have resolved to break the generational trends in their paternal lineage, starting a fresh legacy of fathering for their sons. They are trying to replant the seed from which fatherhood will continue to be borne in their family line. Given my above definition for “reproduction of fatherhood”, this means that many fathers are fighting against that which is natural in order to orchestrate change in the cultures of their families. This is courageous and necessary, but yet there are some who opt to neglect and abandon, leaving their sons exposed to becoming a negative statistic and affecting multiple downstream generations of men.
With a clear understanding about the “reproduction of fatherhood” and the crucial role it plays in how fathering is done, we are prepared in the next couple weeks to examine specific circumstances where the reproduction of fatherhood is devastating and detrimental to our kids.