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What Makes a Successful Father? A Single Woman's Perspective

A cousin of mine responds to many of my posts via email, preferring the privacy of a one-on-one with me to the open forum that commenting on blogs can be. Recently she sent me a comment that was so potent that I couldn't resist making it a post unto itself. With no further ado, I present my first guest blogger: Miss Jackie B.

It was hard for me to answer this poll. Is "successful fatherhood" being defined as someone who provides financially/materially for his family, or as someone who can build a loving and nurturing relationship with their children? Or both?

In my humble opinion, what makes a "successful" parent is the nature and quality of the relationship the parent has with his/her children in that it's loving, supportive, nurturing and promotes in the child a healthy sense of self, well-being, security, self-love, and independence/autonomy. This doesn't necessarily have to do with a job or money or things we can "give" our kids that we believe will make their lives "better". Many people grow up in a home being materially well-cared for, but feeling emotionally neglected/disconnected on some level, or, too overprotected/sheltered. This impacts the child's self-image which impacts their ability to relate with others. And many grow up without the accoutrements of so-called "middle-class" living but have strong, healthy kinship/community connections which contribute to a strong sense of self and the ability to create strong interpersonal relationships which is critical for successful adult living because the emotionally healthy child grows into an emotionally healthy/functioning adult who can have healthy relationships, with others including their spouses and children. I'm not saying that a child doesn't need food and adequate clothing and shelter to be healthy (notice I didn't say the latest kicks or violent video game), but I think that parents give their kids so many "things" because it satisfies a void within themselves. All kids really desire is their attention, time, and connection to their parents, and there are various ways to do that. My fondest childhood memories are around certain rituals I had with my parents --- such as my dad and I eating breakfast after my piano lessons on Saturday mornings at the redwood diner. We'd talk and listen to our favorite songs over the jukebox. Also singing in the car with my mother, harmonizing to songs we liked. I can't remember all the "things" they might have bought me, but i remember those and similar memories.

And yes, the relationship between the parents is important as well b/c it's a model for how kids learn how to relate to others. How loving, respectful, healthy is it (which doesn't necessarily have to do with being married per se)? How do you talk/relate to each other? Is it combative or kind? Sarcastic or genuine? Manipulative/controlling or co-creative? I think it's interesting how our parents punished us as kids and teens for lying, cheating, being rude, unkind, inconsiderate, etc. when parents/adults act/speak the same way in front of their kids, both about and to each other (ever see how parents act at Xmas time in toy stores when the "must have" toy is about to be sold out--the vision of seeing on the news adults fighting over a Tickle Me Elmo is disheartening to say the least). And the b.s. about "do as i say, not as i do" is exactly what it is, b.s. Parents are supposed to lead by example--actions speak louder than words--and kids/teens don't have the emotional or cognitive maturity/ability to discern between what's "good" and "bad" behavior when their parents exhibit both to and in front of the child. It doesn't mean you can't disagree in front of the kids, but how you go about doing it in a way that that doesn't undermine the relationship (and therefore send overt and subtle messages about functional/dysfunctional relationships to the kids cuz yes, they pick up on that energy) is important.

At any rate, what makes a successful father or parent are the qualities that he exhibits in his life and with his children, which is an "inside job" if you will. Things that money or a new job can't give you.

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