Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pater Familias

I know that stacks of books have been written about the male psyche and people's relationships with their fathers, so I'm certainly not breaking new ground by writing these few paragraphs.

However, I was prompted into thinking about this again by a recent telephone conversation with a friend in Switzerland, who said she had determined that her husband (and father of their son) was more or less a misanthrope. He doesn't sound "abusive" in a serious way, just cranky and moody a lot, with a dim view of several generalized groups of people. (Interestingly, I have heard that there are people like that in the world.)

She mentioned that their 4-year-old son just that morning had said something like, "Yeah, go, daddy. I don't like it when you watch soccer on TV at home because you yell and sometimes say mean things to mommy." She obviously considered this a red flag and apparently would be talking to the guy about his behavior and not wanting the child to have that kind of role model or relationship with his dad.

Anyway, our conversation was lengthy and ran the gamut of topics dealing with male aggression, moodiness, the gender differences of depression, relationships in general, and so forth.

In the end though, it made me wonder, just because I've heard so many similar stories over the years: Is the misanthropic, "asshole" dad more the rule than the exception?

I do know a lot of people who have great dads, even if they've only come to realize that fact after years of strained relationships or misunderstandings. Sometimes the dads are not very communicative, and certainly not touchy-feely, expressive paragons of modern psychological "self actualization," but still, they would be assessed by their kids as "nice guys."

My father (technically stepfather)? He's an asshole and we have no relationship. We certainly haven't even talked or been in contact for a good 7 years or more, and I don't expect or want that to change. I don't have "unresolved issues," either. I'm fine with things as they are. I admit my situation is perhaps stranger than most people's parental relationships.

So what the hell is it with the dads who are either just "cold" at best, or mean, nasty, abusive, and to be avoided at all costs at worst? Seems a shame for that to be the case, and I pose the rhetorical question to these men as I would to my own father: "Why the heck did you have kids at all?"

Sad as it may be, if my friend's husband doesn't shape up, I'm afraid their son won't be the last kid on earth to grow up saying, "Go away, Daddy!" and really meaning it.


Huntington said...

Interesting (to me) that you should post this the day my dad had his second heart procedure. There was a relatively low risk-level, but I'm still relieved that he came out of it fine and that this will likely add many years of higher quality to his life.

As you know, I belong to that category you mentioned that sees my dad as a "nice guy," and that I had to go through a lot to get to that understanding. And while I don't doubt that the way I see him now has a lot more to do with my changing than his, I also see that he's tried to be less of the asshole that I thought I saw when I was a teenager. There's something to be said for someone who continues to try to grow at every life stage, and my dad definitely has done that.

Doesn't mean he can't still be an asshole sometimes, but then that's true of everybody.

Non-sequitur: the fact that you were talking to your friend in Switzerland brought the first words to "Super-Trouper" to mind. I know, I know; we all gotta live somewhere, but phone conversations with friends in Europe sound so cosmopolitan in the ABBA style!

kusala said...

We all have to fulfill our Agnetha potential somehow.

"You were sick and tired of ev'rything /
When you called me last night from Luuu-cerne..."

m00nchild said...

Agnetha! Go to my blog and click the "Should Be Me" link in the right column. :)

On a more serious note:

My stepfather never had kids. He just inherited me and wrecked me. I guess that was enough.

And back to a lighter note:

I fortunately possess a self-actualized repair service.

kusala said...

I actually consider myself more of a Frida (she does sing lead on Super Trouper after all), and was going to type "fulfill our Anni-frid" potential, but somehow "Agnetha" just worked better in that sentence.

Huntington said...

You are such a Frida. You know there'ss somet'ing going on.

MaineCliffDweller said...

Control freak mean dads have children so they can be lord and master over someone. My dad was and is "the nice guy" alcoholic dad and always was. My partner's dad was the lord and master type who shoved and pushed and slapped and beat his ideas and ways of doing things into his children.