I have had many fathers in my life–my own being but one of them. I admire good dads–kids take a lot of patience, myself included. Having not known any of these men before they became fathers, I cannot say for sure whether they were any different before they had kids–but I can hazard a guess that that is the case.
My own father has had a massive impact on my life–not limited to the fact that he provided 23 of my chromosomes, including the X that made me female. That’s just where it started. I’ve seen the pictures of him playing with me as a baby–there is a lot of love apparent in them. And there are a lot of pictures, since I am the eldest child. He was the one who taught me how to build model cars, and will still volunteer to help if I want to build one now. I was the one he taught all the things that traditionally one would teach to boys–fixing the roof when it rained, changing the oil, filters, and tires on a car (I know a lot of guys who never learned this), building, and the painting that comes with, as well as helping me with my math and science homework, especially when we got past my mom’s level of education on those subjects. He and my mom both taught me that there’s nothing I couldn’t do and to not be restricted in what I do or think just because I’m female.
My father told me once that he only really started to see and recognize my sister and I as fully intelligent persons at about seven or eight years old–because that’s when we were intelligent enough to start debating and discussing abstract things with him. Not that we weren’t human beings to him before that point, just that we could be recognized as independent, as separate from our parents.
Now, this is not to say that I agree with my father all the time. That is by far, not the case. He believes that you can’t love adopted kids in the same way you’d love your own biological children–not that he has any experience with this, since both my sister and I, his only kids, are biologically his kids. I believe that adopting kids is a responsible way to have children especially if one does not feel a biological imperative to give birth or partner a person who can give birth. On some issues I stand much further to the left than he does–birth control (including extramarital sex), the environment, and pre-21 alcohol consumption, just to name a few. He does not identify as feminist or even pro-feminist, but the beliefs he holds and the way he helped raise my sister and I puts him squarely in that camp.
Now, I will never be a father–that second X chromosome, the one my dad gave me precludes any genetic possibility of that and I believe that my body matches my mind, gender-wise, so no changing of that. I am content, in a way, to watch the fathers in my life and how they act towards their children, how they raise them, what values they instill in their progeny as they grow from babies to adults. I look at them and see active paternal involvement in the lives of their children–both minors and adults–which is something that was rare as few as two generations ago. We are the children of one of the first generations where a father was expected to have a hand in raising their kids–we are still dealing with the traditionally culturally ingrained idea that fathers don’t have to do this, but it is showing up in small ways.
I, for one, am glad I had my father in my life–I feel sorry for those who haven’t, or had one that was not a decent human being.