• Metaphors About Fathering

    "The most important...work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes."
    -Harold B. Lee

    Fathering Infants

    FatherWork with infants builds the foundation for a child's trust in the world. When a house has a firm foundation, it's stability is increased. In the same way, a child's future rests on a foundation of trust built over time. Fathers are crucial in building that trust as they make daily choices to care for their children by providing for their children's needs and showing their love and concern. When fathers can work together with mothers, children's foundations of trust are formed by sharing the exhausting work of child care and financially supporting the family. By pouring their lives into making their children feel safe and having their needs met, generative fathers lay the beginnings of a rich and secure life for their children. Your child's sense of trust will be solidly formed when you involve yourself from day one.

    Fathering Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers

    FatherWork with toddlers and pre-schoolers calls fathers to create an atmosphere of affectionate attention for their child that is adaptive, yet continuous and consistent. A healthy toddler's inner world is filled with many conflicting feelings - independence and dependence, confidence and doubt, initiative and passivity, and self-awareness and confusion. Just as a seesaw with an adjustable fulcrum compensates for a stronger pull on one end, fathers can adapt their parenting position to compensate for the general shifting emphasis toward his child's independence. However, the position of his fulcrum of love and support may change day to day as the child moves back and forth between these conflicting feelings. Fathers need to respect and support their child's initiative, autonomy, and self-confidence, but at the same time recognize their child's dependence and need for guidance.

    Fathering School-Age Children

    FatherWork with school-age children requires an attentive heart that is willing to meet the many challenges young children face. Some of these challenges are similar to school playgrounds that are full of difficult stretches, slippery slides, exciting whirls, and many ups and downs. Just as children stretch their large motor capabilities as they strive to climb higher or swing harder on various playground equipment, fathers must stretch to meet the changing capabilities and needs of their child as they choose to respond attentively and appropriately to them. School-age children are caught up in a whirlwind of rapid developmental changes physically, socially, cognitively, and emotionally. Fathers who choose to provide gentle guidance, warm appreciation, and a patient heart will become a friend forever in the child's playground of life.

    Fathering Teenagers

    FatherWork can be especially challenging when it involves teenage children who are stretching their wings towards greater independence. During these years, generative fathers can be the wind beneath the wings of their adolescent children as they fly farther and farther from the nest exploring a world full of opportunities and dangers. As teenagers search for a stable identity and choose a personal value system, fathers may feel unnoticed and distant from their teenagers. But as fathers work to build a strong and trusting relationship through the early years and continue to tell their maturing youth they love them, their teenagers will sense that quiet wind lifting their youthful wings and appreciate its strength and guidance. Although fathers walk a step behind their teenages during these years, their children can still recognize their dads as one of the true heroes in their lives.

    Fathering Adult Children

    FatherWork is a lifelong commitment. When children are young, fathers are a shortstop , a coach, and even a team player in their child's game of life. As the innings progress and the child matures into adulthood, this relationship is not dissolved. Generative fathers learn to play different positions in their child's life; they now become an outfielder. An outfielder is not always in the action of the game, but they play an integral part. A generative father still gets to view his child's life, even if he is waiting for a fly ball for part of the game. Successful fathering is like a baseball game; participation is necessary throughout the entire game. As a father, it is up to you to be there for your children even as they grow into adulthood. By letting them know you will be part of their team, you allow them to play their best while remaining part of their lives.

    Fathering Special-Needs Children

    FatherWork with special-needs children should and can be as wonderful and varied as special-needs kids themselves are. Fathers of special-needs children are ordinary men doing both ordinary and extraordinary things since parents of special-needs kids do the same things other parents do but usually have added burdens (and, often, added joys). Fatherwork with special-needs kids can be like the Special Olympics. Fathers can coach children to develop skills and confidence, provide opportunities for accomplishment, give encouragement and supportive cheering along the way, and present them with rewards for effort and accomplishment. Every special-needs child deserves a father that runs and jumps with her through the challenges of life, one that enthusiastically hugs him at the end of each little success, one that hangs medals on his neck with pride and love in his eyes, and one that, through his constant encouragement and love, places a continual stream of flowers in her hands. Your child (and all special-needs children) needs the coaching, cheering, encouraging, and assisting that you uniquely can give.

    Fathering Non-Custodial Children

    Just as a person listening to the radio must carefully tune into a station in order to understand the information, so must non-custodial fathers consistently be in tune with their children's lives. Even though thousands of miles can separate him from his children he can still tune his heart and mind toward them, by avoiding changing stations so as to avoid the pain of not being with his children on a daily basis. These fathers must make sure that they always have their radio turned on and tuned into their child's life. If they do, they can share in the beautiful moments of joy, as well as the heartache. However, if they are not tuned in now, they will realize that when they want to be heard and listened to, no one will be at the receiving end; rather they will only hear static.

    Fathering Adopted Children

    FatherWork extends itself beyond human bounds of creation and into the hearts and minds of children. Many families choose to graft branches into their existing family tree or may need to graft in order to have a family tree. As the new branch is grafted in, special care must be taken to ensure the new branch "takes root" within the family tree. It is essential that the nourishment that is provided from the trees deep roots is passed on through the newly forming network of internal connections, these are connections of love, understanding, and support. Fathers, you are a source of these essential elements for your child. You will find that as you give of yourself, the branches of your family tree will flourish and return to you the type of life giving love and support offered best by a family.

    Fathering in Economic Hardship

    FatherWork in economic hardship calls for creativity, sacrifice, and resourcefulness. Sometimes a father might feel like he is running the Boston Marathon as a three legged race. When he steps up to the starting line, his partner, financial stress, ties a rope around their legs. In the distance, this father can see the finish line that inspires him--caring for his children's needs. The gun goes off and everyone else seems to be sprinting by leaving him in the dust. As a father works to manage financial stress, he is able to move more quickly and can even lose this partner. It might take longer and have to be run (or even walked) in a different way, but the finish line can be met. His children's loving faces will cheer him on to cross the finish line and join them in celebration. Fathers then will receive the reward of knowing that his children have a chance in life because of his committed work. Hard work, simple acts of love, and sacrifice will show your children that you love them as you struggle to overcome economic hardship.

    Fathering and Employment

    FatherWork encompasses a man's stewardship to provide for and nurture his family. While a father's occupation may serve as a source of challenge and self-worth, the purpose of his employment must not be forgotten -- a father works to provide for his family. The purpose of a father's job is to ensure his family's survival and by so doing open the windows of opportunity for loving, nurturing relationships to flourish. Simply put, though a father's job may be a means of financial support, his career should always be his family, and often the balancing of time and resources between one's family and one's employment is a struggle. Much as a successful business company wisely manages its resources, so must a generative father wisely manage his time, energy, and commitment between his job and his family. Fathers, as you invest your time, energy, and love into building and strengthening your family you will find that being esteemed and "promoted" in the eyes of your children is far more rewarding than the fleeting glory and praise obtained by your labors in the workforce.

    Relationship Work

    FatherWork is important in creating bonds between fathers and their children. Much like two people rowing a canoe, fathers and their children must learn how to work together. At times, the father will have to paddle stronger or lighter to compensate for their child's paddling capacity, adjusting to their child's social, emotions, and physical abilities. Just as those traveling the water in a canoe must communicate with each other to accomplish their goal, fathers and children must communicate with each other to accomplish their goal, fathers and children must talk with one another in order for their relationship to take them across the waters of life. There are times along the waters of life when you will encounter rough waters, but as you work together you will pass them by. As you talk with your children and establish good relationships with them, together you will enjoy your canoe and the many places which it can take you.

    Development Work

    FatherWork involves adapting creatively to change in children, fathers, and the circumstances in which they live. Developing children need their fathers' care and fathers need to give that care for their own healthy development. But the universal constant of change, predictable or un-, in children, in adults, in circumstances, quickly outdates yesterday's caring response and demands new, adaptive, and creative responses to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Development work calls fathers to provide supportive conditions, resources, guidance, and love as children journey towards maturity. Generative fathers should be a treasured traveling companion for their children on this long and challenging trek, at times standing close together, working side-by-side, at other times observing and encouraging from a safe distance behind, but always a constant hand nearby to gently assist in holding the rudder when the course of life is uncertain, and an anchor of security in a sheltered bay when children need a rest from the strong winds and high waves of change.

    Ethical Work

    FatherWork involves working to secure children's survival and development. Like the constant beating of the heart, a generative father's steady, committed ethical work makes a child's abundant life possible and is the heartbeat of a healthy father-child relationship. Although these ethical choices can sometimes be uncomfortable, difficult, or even require sacrifice, generative fathers make them because they believe it will benefit their children. This undying commitment to meeting children's needs provides the strength necessary to continue the beat of fatherwork every day. With fathers' commitments to meeting children's needs followed by choices that reflect these commitments, the future of all children will be enhanced. As you choose to meet your child's needs, you will feel the pulse of that commitment and see the rich life that is now possible because of your committed work to care for your child.

    Fathering and Faith

    FatherWork involves turning one's heart to a child in faith, hope and charity by acting in ways that bless and keep (Malachi 4:5,6). Faithful,generative fathering consists of a father exercising faith in God and faith in his child(ren), hoping for all that is good for children and working to make those hopes a reality and showing pure love for children by giving them many good gifts (Matthew7:11). A father of Faith recognizes that "his" children are entrusted to him by God and therefore he views his stewardship overthem as significant and sacred. A father who consecrates and dedicates his life to his children will find a profound joy. Through continual love and service, wise direction, and patiently bearing with children through life's challenges, a father can turn his children's hearts to their Father in Heaven and be God's instrument in bringing them an abundant life blessed with peace.

    The Essence of Fathering

    FatherWork involves continually and adaptively being for one's child; the essence of fatherwork is constant, active responsiveness. Thus, generative fathering, like a great river, is both constant and moving. Children need to be able to flow along the river of growth that generative fathering provides. Children need the stability of the constant presence of a father in their lives combined with flexibility to meet children's changing needs. As a great river brings travelers along their journey, generative fathering provides opportunties for meaningful growth and assists a child move through life with confidence and joy; as a river provides sustenance on the journey, generative fathering provides a child sustenance and lifegiving love; as a river provides fun, excitement, and adventure, generative fathering nourishes a child through fun, humor, and adventure; as river-goers get on and off the river but always retain, in memory, the feel of quiet movement and exciting rapids, children of generative fathers depend on their fathers to both be a constant presence and yet to allow them to decide how often they avail themselves of their father's influence; as great rivers begin in mountains and end in oceans, generative fathering begins in the peaks of high principles and flows down until its journey is over; as great rivers are fed by smaller streams, generative fathering is nourished by other's efforts and encouragement. You, as a father, are called to be for your child what they most need for you to be as they move through a challenging and sometimes dangerous life.

    Fathering and Physical and Athletic Development

    FatherWork is being involved in the lives of one's children. As a father becomes involved in the physical or athletic development of his children he assumes the position of coach, and a good coach is much like a good father. A coach commits himself to spending many long hours of practice with his players in preparation for the big game, drills are used to sharpen skills, strengths and weaknesses are identified, special plays are formulated to build upon the strengths of the individual players, and words of encouragement are exclaimed as the players struggle to refine the old and learn the new. Generative fathers recognize this time with their children to be an opportunity to connect, a time to influence and be influenced by the next generation. Fathers, your team has the biggest game of all to play, the game of life, and they need your help to be ready.

    Fathering and Moral Development

    FatherWork in the area of moral development must be an effort of endless devotion. A wise shepherd knows that he cannot force his prized sheep to always remain on the safe path, instead he strives to guide them along the path with his staff of kindness. The shepherd's first concern is for his sheep, they are his work and his love. His fulfillment comes through guiding them to the meadows and streams which will bring them the richest joy. A generative father feels the trust of his child and feels the profound responsibility to teach, guide, and set an example to the best of his ability. Like the wise shepherd, a generative father's concern and guidance are constant for both sheep who need little correction and for those who frequently get lost. Frustration comes and goes but hope remains constant. No father knows where all the dangers are or where the wolves lie in wait but as you strive to guide your children with a staff of kindness and a loving example, you WILL bless their lives and find with them the joy of peaceful pastures.

    Learning and Application ActivitiesPlease complete one of the following:

  1. Create your own fathering metaphor, and explain it's significance. Send us your metaphor via email.
  2. Share one or two of the metaphors in this module with a creative friend or co-worker who enjoys "playing" with words and images. Discuss the principles it teaches and how it can be used to encourage generative fathering. Write a brief (about one page) "report" about what you learned from this experience to us via email.
  3. Review in your mind the professional literature in your field about fathering. What are some of the metaphors used or implied in that literature to describe fathering? Send a brief (about one page) "report" about what you learned from this review to us via email.