Speaking to the women at a recent CANA Family week, Gilles BELIN, a father, introduced some lines of thought on fatherhood and its secrets. The paternal bond is based on the conjugal bond: it takes a man and a woman to make a father!
Mind the gap
As soon as the child arrives, there is a gap between you and us! Even if we fathers prepare for this great event, even if we get involved, there is nothing we can do… We are not the ones who are pregnant, we are not the ones who give birth. Unlike you mothers, when the father takes the child in his arms, he gets to know him, but he is a bit of a stranger. It will take time for this baby to become his son, his daughter. The father will have to adopt his child and recognise him by an official act. To continue the reflection, I would like to share with you four qualifiers that characterise being a father for me.
Fatherhood in four words
The father is a witness to something other than himself. The origin of life is not in the father, he is not the creator, but the procreator. Ephesians (3:14): “Therefore I fall on my knees before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named.”
He is responsible for this new life. But to be responsible is to be exposed, to be vulnerable. Being a father undoubtedly involves a certain amount of relinquishment. It means letting go of certain certainties or ideals, accepting to lose one’s bearings.
He is the guardian who leads the child so that he can rely on him.
He is the facilitator. The father is the one who opens the path and leads the way. He is not a second mother! He is there to give the child love, a name, a place and a particular role in human history and in society. He embodies the rules of life. “It is good that you, my child, is who you are, and not necessarily who I would like you to be!”
Separating and sending
The father severs the maternal fusion in what could be mortifying if it persisted. He intervenes to open the child up to the outside world. He takes the child through stages, moving him from childhood to adulthood, from intimacy to the social world. He takes the child from childhood to adulthood, from intimacy to the social world, to something bigger and more open than the small world of intimacy with the mother.
Isn’t it the vocation of every parent to let go of their child? I have to let him/her live his/her life, so that he/she can write his/her own story.
And with regard to all this, the father himself goes through stages (depending on the child, and the period of life).
Heritage and its footprints
All these facets are imprinted by our personal history, our education, our family heritage. I have inherited a way of being, of doing, with wounds and shortcomings that sometimes prevent me from connecting and being in touch with my wife and children. It is important to know this, to take it into account, to work on oneself…
Two key questions
Faced with the difficulties encountered as a father, here are some questions that are worth asking, because there is no fatherhood without hope that looks beyond the wounds and failures. Nor is there fatherhood without the experience of forgiveness.
- As a father, how do I take my place in relation to my child?
We men, perhaps because we don’t know how to do it, may willingly leave our place to the mother, but still feel resentful, powerless or missing out.
- How can I also take my place in relation to my wife?
The life of the couple as it existed before the arrival of the child no longer exists. A new “mother-child” duo is formed and sometimes the father is not part of it. He may feel excluded, abandoned, jealous and frustrated in his sexual life.
Two main suggestions
What to do about the difficulties inherent in being a father?
- Let’s spend time with our family, let’s show our children that they are valuable to me, let’s congratulate them.
- Let us enter into an exchange and sharing with our wife. Let us dare to tell her our frustration, our emotions. Let’s trust each other as a couple. Children do not need “perfect” parents, they need “real” parents and therefore necessarily “different” ones.
It takes a man and a woman to make a father
Fatherhood cannot be exercised alone; it takes a man and a woman to make a father. The secret of fatherhood is unity in the couple, in peacefulness. The paternal bond is established through the marital bond. What a child receives from his father passes through the happiness that a father brings to his mother.
In order to become truly a father “after God’s own heart”, let us allow ourselves to be fashioned by the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. He saw and did all that the Father taught him and made us sons of God.