Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Marriage, Family, being a Father, and Certainty

"What do you want to be, when you grow up?"

Little boys, asked that question, were at one time, expected to respond with something like "a fireman" or "a cowboy."

Little girls, for most of my life, were most certainly not supposed to say "a mommy."

When I Grow Up, I Wanted to be A - - -

When I was young, I wanted to be a daddy.

That's not quite accurate. I simply assumed that, if things went right, I would be a dad. Sure, I'd have some sort of a job to earn money: but what I'd be would be a husband and father.

I also, since my late pre-teens, wanted to be a writer: but that wasn't quite in the 'what I want to be when I grow up' category. I thought - and think - of myself as a husband and father who writes. Not as a writer who woke up one morning and realized that he'd fathered a child.

I haven't been "young" by any reasonable standard, for quite a while. And I still wonder, sometimes, 'what do I want to be, when I grow up?'

More accurately, I feel, sometimes, that I somehow messed up, and missed what God wanted me to do with my life.

That's a feeling, and I don't assume that my fidelity to God's will depends on my feeling one way or another.

Shouldn't That be "A Parent?"

I think being a father is important. I think being a mother is important, too. I think being a parent is important.

But I'm a male human being. When I became a parent, I became a father. My wife is a female human being. Her version of "parent" is a mother. I realize that the idea of human beings coming in two sexes, and that there are functional, practical differences between the two isn't popular in some circles: but I'm stuck with the way things are. I've discussed that before. (May 12, 2010, September 26, 2009)

Given the way America has been for about the last 40 or 45 years, I'd better say this: I think mothers are important. Even if they don't make lots of money doing it.

I realize that assuming that a woman would want to have children and take personal responsibility for raising them is 'oppressive' or 'servile,' or 'demeaning.' Or was, back in my 'good old days.'

Some folks did - and some folks probably still do - think that boys are more important than girls, that boy stuff is cool and girl stuff is stupid. When someone over the age of, say, 10, still feels that way - I assume it's more that person's problem, than some fundamental property of girls and the women they become.1

Marrying and Raising a Family

Aside from a desire to write - which I didn't see so much as a career as something I could do - I didn't have a drive to 'be something' when I grew up, other than marry and raise a family.

I didn't see that as narrow, or confining, or a waste of my abilities. I saw being a husband and father as a reasonable goal. Which, finally, I achieved.

I'm even fairly sure that I was 'meant' to do this. Nothing terribly mystical: just that one day, when a young woman I knew was over, I came up the basement stairs and saw her, sitting at a table. I had a quite definite, quite silent, none-too-gushy realization that what that vignette represented - domesticity - was what I very much wanted.

No angel choirs, no blinding lights, no industrial-strength spiritual ruffles and flourishes. Just that sudden, rock-hard, cold realization of what my goal was.

I haven't seen that young woman in decades, by the way. The goal did not, at that point, involve any particular woman. Which is another topic.

Satisfied With My Decision? Certain?

I live in a small central Minnesota town, married to a woman who grew up here, and the father of four surviving children. I am satisfied with the choices which led me here.

But I'm not - in the emotional sense - always certain that I made the right choices. I've read that some folks never doubt themselves, never question whether or not they made the right choices. Perhaps they never had reason to.

I can't get inside anybody's mind, except my own - and some of the doors in there are sealed shut. Yet another topic. The point is that, even if I hadn't read Matthew 7:1-2, I might have realized that I simply don't have enough information to decide whether others are right or wrong about their self-evaluations.

Me? Sometimes I really don't feel certain that I've done anything right. The key word there is feel.

I've lived a distinctly imperfect life, and made some fairly daft - and occasionally downright wrong - decisions. The ones that led me to marriage and family, though: when I calm down and look at what I decided, and why I made the decisions, I'm fairly confident that I was right.

Which is about as good as I expect it to get.

Related posts:

1 If you're not surprised, shocked, or offended at the idea that a man can think that mothers are important, that women are people, and that a woman being a mother is okay: You probably don't need to read this footnote.

I've been called a male chauvinist pig.

Some of that epithet's true. I'm male.

The rest, not so much. I can understand why that label was used, though: my ideas about the nature of men and women are counter-cultural.

I think that, ideally, kids are better off when they have access to their mother at times other than evenings and weekends.

Remember, I said ideally. Some mothers were abandoned by the sorry excuse for a human being who fathered their child. Others are part of a family where both parents - and sometimes the older kids - need to work, just to keep a shelter around them and feed the lot.

Other women work because they want to feel actualized, or like money, or because hubby wants a bigger fishing boat.

And there are other factors. One of my sisters-in-law is a medical doctor: and pretty good at it. Healing runs in the family: she's the first to have made a culturally-recognized profession of it.

What do I think about her being a doctor? Her life, her call. And, apparently, her calling. I'm told that she was intent on being a doctor from a very early age.

There's a pretty good discussion of some aspects of women, work, and families from an American and Catholic point of view here:
There's a more general discussion of marriage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1601-1666.


Brigid said...

I gotta say, I'm pretty glad you made the decisions you made that lead to you marrying Mom. I happen to like being here.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Yeah: That's one reason I don't have a problem with those decisions.

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