Some thinking about fathers and fatherhood

Some thinking about fathers and fatherhood

The anniversary of my father's passing is coming up in a couple of weeks, and as always, it has lead my brain down a path of thinking that is even deeper than it usually is.

I'm going to tell you a story about my dad to let you know where I'm coming from.

My father was in Viet Nam during the Viet Nam War. He met my mother while on leave and they had a date. Don't ask me how they met: that story is lost to the mists of time and some of the details are missing, such as dates and places (I'm not even sure that he met her while on leave; he may have already been discharged--a lot of the dates just don't add up).

Whatever else happened, my parents made love out of wedlock, and I was the result.

Now, the way I hear the story was that my father went back to VN, and got a letter that my Mom was pregnant with me.

When he was discharged a couple of months later (that is a long story in and of itself), he came back to the US and married her in November of 1968. I was born in April, 1969.

Twelve or so years later, I learn in Health Class that a human baby takes 9 months to gestate. I did some quick math and something didn't add up: there are only five months between November, 1968, and April, 1969.

I remember this bugging me. I had two options as I saw it:

1) I was born premature;
2) I had gotten the wedding date incorrect.

The third option (that I was conceived out of wedlock) was something I had not considered.

I remember that we were going home from my cousin's house late one night a couple of weeks later, and I asked "Ma, was I a preemie?"

"No," she replied.

"Then were you married in November, 1967?"

"No, we were married in November, 1968. Why do you ask?"

"Because I learned a couple of weeks ago that babies take 9 months to be born, and November to April is only 5 months. It doesn't make any sense."

She chuckled and said, "No, you were conceived before we were married." I remember her pausing for a moment as if to consider what to say next. The next thing I remember only the gist: my father did the right thing and married her and that this was proof that he loved me.

This dovetails with something I saw discussed on Facebook the other day: the responsibility of men in conception. That conversation was started with the idea someone posted on Twitter (I can't find it now), that in lieu of laws prohibiting abortion, there should be a law mandating performing a vasectomy on men who conceive a child out of wedlock. The author proposes that this would solve the problem.

Maybe, maybe not, but it does point out a problem prevalent in our society; let's call it "Lack of Responsibility."

The saying goes "It takes two to Tango," and way too often, I see a woman getting the short-shrift when it comes to child care. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that a man can deny that he is the father of a child barring a DNA test, but a mother can't.

This brings to mind Maury Povich ("You are not the father of this child!").

I remember watching an episode (purely by accident, I assure you) where a woman had come onto the show for the sixth time (or something like that) trying to find the father of her child. Apparently, this woman had a lot of partners (Slut shaming? Maybe. Sue me.) and she brought these partners on the show one by one, and Maury's team would have the prospective father tested and the result was inevitably "You are not the father!"

On this particular episode, they revealed the negative results of the DNA test, and the jackass ran around the studio in excitement and laughing with elation.

I found myself looking at this scenario from the point of view of the child. No one wants me.

Men: THINK. I know daytime television is not a bastion of taste, but this reaction is repugnant. It lacks empathy for the child (who is blameless in all of this). Your reaction to this news may be harming the child. Not once have I seen a man turn to the child and say, "I may not be your father, but I would love to have been. You are a fantastic child." (Admittedly, I rarely watched the show, so my sample size is very small).

And this in a nutshell is Lack of Responsibility.

Men, we have to take ownership in our role in conception and rearing. We have to be a little more proactive in contraceptive use and if we fail in that task, we need to man up and pay the consequences of our behavior.

In short, it's time for us to grow the fuck up and take responsibility for our actions.

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