Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles and special men out there who make a difference in the lives of their loved ones. I have two children, a nine-year-old and a 19-year-old. This Father’s Day I know will be different for them, me and for all us, given the many challenges that are impacting families right now.
I know fathers are playing a more significant role during COVID-19 for many reasons—one being that many have more time. Let’s face it: There are significant numbers of people out of work, and this means that fathers and mothers may have more time to devote to their families. This is perhaps an unintended consequence of the pandemic. Parents also have more stress.
This Father’s Day let us support fathers who may need to be reminded of their importance. Having my own kids made me effective as a parent and as an educator. I was more aware that I was shaping other human beings. I feel like I am more of an expert than I felt while I was going through school, getting all those fancy degrees and writing a book. Being a parent influenced my practice as an educator instead of the other way around.
Having children also made me see that being a parent is complicated. There’s no manual you can read to prepare you to shepherd another human being into adulthood and the world. After I had my first child, I thought I knew what to do, but I almost had to start over with my second. They were so far apart from each other. The second baby had a different disposition than the first. And by the time I had her, I was different, and the world was different, too.
I think research has highlighted for us the important role men play in the lives of young children—particularly in the areas of intellectual performance, self-confidence, and motivation as well as persistence in school programs. I know from personal experience the ways in which I nurture my own children are different than my wife does—our roles are different, but each are critical to our daughters’ well-being and development. Likewise, grandfathers and other significant male role models reinforce these benefits as they support the growth and development of the young children in their lives.
It is perhaps interesting that fathers play differently with their children; I read an article recently that highlighted the difference in play for moms and dads. For example, a father’s play may be more physical and less predictable than a mother’s. Moms may be more nurturing and thoughtful in their interactions. While these differences are well-documented, both are critical to the development of the child, and we need to talk more about this range of interaction.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also share some thoughts about men and the need for more of them to consider early childhood education as a career. I love our field and know what the power of more men having involved would mean for the field. But knowing that and figuring out how to improve the numbers is a different notion. First of all, I think there must a demand by our field. Societal factors push us out of the field, so our society has to play a role in bringing men back—better pay and benefits, earlier training programs such as the high school Child Development Associate® credential, and mentorship programs that introduce the field of teaching to young men early on when they are making career decisions. That is work that I am interested in shepherding at the Council.
This Father’s Day, let’s recommit ourselves to what we’ve known all along: Men matter in the lives of young people, dads need appreciation, and our world will improve as more men consider a career in education, especially early childhood education.