WHAT A FATHER MUST NEVER DO
Things that Fathers and Daughters
Ought to Know
much is taken for granted by both fathers and daughters
some things, in fact, that ought not be taken for
granted in the sacred bond of love and trust that should bind
father and daughter.
responsibilities of fatherhood should be connatural to a
man, but somehow have become terribly vitiated, and have frightfully
dwindled over a generation more concerned with gender
and power than the far more vital notion of
gender and love, especially as it pertains
to, is enacted within, the relationship between parents and
children and most especially fathers and daughters.
So many women ask
fundamental questions that, at first, perplex a father. They
perplex us because we take some things for granted and fail
to understand that what we have understood in our relationship
to our own children is not necessarily perhaps even largely
the shared experience of other fathers and daughters. A confusion
has set in. The notion of what is normative seems, sometimes,
to have vanished totally. And this is a stunning more than
a stunning, it is a frightening realization.
What ought children,
especially daughters, expect of their fathers? And what should
fathers expect of their daughters? These are questions that
should not have to be asked even as we now find it
terribly urgent that they must be asked.
between fathers and daughters are deeply wounded, broken even
We cannot expect
the children to be answerable for this horrific state of affairs.
But we can ask the fathers. And if the fathers no longer clearly
understand their role in the lives of their daughters, then
let us presume to articulate it for them. Please God that for
most men and women who read this, it is redundant and unnecessary.
But for those who still ask deeply painful and recurring questions
that linger from their childhood relating to Dad and his relationship
to them, let us at least explain what a father ought never
has given fathers, by nature, what can only be called a "beautiful
abhorrence" toward any notion of anything remotely sexual with
their own children (and all children). It does not
or must not even enter the consciousness of a father. It is
not that the father detests anything of the child or her sexuality
(of which he is the holy guardian); nothing of a child
is abhorrent, or detestable, to a father absolutely
nothing except the notion of sexual intimacy
with the child.
father has sexually abused you, understand this and understand
it very, very clearly: IT IS NOT, WAS NOT,
IN ANY CONCEIVABLE WAY, YOUR FAULT!
You did nothing
to invite it. You are not IN THE LEAST, IN ANY WAY,
RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. It is your
father's fault. Not yours. You may still love your father
and find yourself unwilling to ascribe blame to what
he may have done. You may deny it. More than likely you fear
it. But this is the point: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT
IN ANY CONCEIVABLE OR POSSIBLE WAY.
Children are innocent.
That is the immense beauty of children. It is an innocence cherished
by God Himself Who is Father to "Jesu, Innocens Patri"
... "Jesus, Innocent of the Father" ... the Innocent One whose
Holy Innocence is most closely approximated ... by children.
Any father who has changed a diaper knows the absolute beauty
of this innocence. If there is one single factor motivating
chastity in men, it is in having had a daughter. He sees in
other women the innocence that is in his own daughter.
It does not distort another woman's sexuality it ennobles
Physical remoteness from your child will come much to the
anguish of your heart even as you delight in her becoming
a young woman in her own right. Until that time when budding
womanhood makes the rough and tumble playing that fathers enjoy
with their daughters, to the glee and laughter of both do
not be scrupulous in your affection for your daughter.
Kiss her. Hold her. Caress her head. Comfort her. Tickle her.
Bite her (gently!). Chase her! Let her beat you up! Play with
her! The days will come when remembrance of such beautiful love
between father and daughter will pass, with anguish, into memory
although it will never leave you.
in the face! Especially with a fist, or even with an open hand!
A spanking on the rump will never hurt
a child and will correct behavior not amenable
to all your reasoning and pleading. It is simply the case. Is
it "punishing" the child? Yes; for unacceptable behavior that
must be curbed for the good of the child (and there is
such a thing as "for the good of the child"!).
A blow to the face, the back, the chest, the stomach is something
else. It is terribly frightening to a child. Not because of
the physical pain, but because of the horrific violence
that they see behind it, that they find in you! It
is a fearful, frightful, terrible violence that, to a child,
is the harbinger of things worse yet to come.
can be beaten through this violence in my father ... what
could he, what could this terrible violence, do to me if
he really got angry? What if he could not control
it, even as he cannot control it right now? Will
he Kill me? Mutilate me?"
Striking a child
is not inexcusable it is despicable. You are so much
bigger, larger, taller, stronger than they are. They will perceive
themselves as hated, and deserving of hate. Who, after all,
violently strikes someone he loves? Is it ever
an expression of love?
If you try to bring
up a virtuous child, then they will come to know enough of hatred
from the world they do not, must not, find it in you.
You are the giver of love! Nothing
must overshadow that. Nothing must obscure it, diminish it,
or mar it. Your child's ability to love and be loved later
in life will largely depend on your ability to communicate your
love for them and their "loveableness" to you. If
your own father does not love you ... who,
then, could ever possibly love you ...?
Do not slap a child in the face! This shames and humiliates
the child. It is violence pretending to be less than violence.
You cannot be "graciously" violent!
Alcohol is one of the greatest precipitators of violence in
a family. This holds true for mother as well as father. Do not
deceive yourself that your drinking is something of a social
grace, that it is "sophisticated" and that for you fathers
it is a "man's right" to get drunk once in a while.
You never have that "right"! You shame
yourself; your mouth becomes coarse and foul, you become violent
and something terribly frightening to a child and then excuse
your violence by blaming it on the liquor. Do you love your
children? Toss the bottle and drop the pretensions. Real men
do not dishonor themselves through violence and shameful excesses.
They avoid them. Love of their children compels them! And if
love will not suffice, then honor will or at
least ought to.
abuse your spouse! This goes for women as well as men! Do not
let your child witness this which should never be
seen because it should never happen! A child seeing
a frightened mother, a humiliated father, grows fearful and
insecure. Those entrusted with their care do not even
care for each other!
"How will they
possibly care for me? What is more, both are big,
and I am little! What if he or she did that to me?
They can do it to each other. They can do it to me!"
Want an insecure,
recessive, child? Beat your spouse and humiliate them before
not Manipulate Your Child!
Threats of any
sort are just veiled forms of manipulation. You are teaching
your children to use other people to their own selfish ends.
The worst and most common form of manipulation is emotional.
You tamper with, leverage, your own child's greatest vulnerability:
their emotions. Fear, sorrow, shame, guilt, to name a few
you use these cleverly to force the child to conform to your
own ultimately selfish ends. Invoking fear, shame, guilt if
you find a word more condign, more suitable than "despicable",
write me is one of the most harmful things you can do to your
child. Children should not fear. Children should not be brought
to shame. Children should not bend, be broken, under guilt no
matter how justifiable you think it is.
There is appropriate sorrow for a child, but children are sinless
and therefore guiltless. Don't lay your burden on your
child and then hold them accountable for your own deficiencies
or inadequacies. Accountability and emotional
extortion are very, very different.
God Himself has given them their innocence. Who are you to take
it away? He does not hold them "guilty". Who are you to stand
them in the dock? God has shared His Fatherhood with you. Who
are you to misuse it? To abuse it? Love your children!
God Himself does! Are you greater than God?
a Father ... is being a man
not an excuse
is the most dignified and honorable vocation possible to a man.
God may give kings thousands of subjects ... but He gives you
and, yes, even kings something far greater still: children.
Worldly success, power, esteem, wealth, "trophy houses" ...
these are so many cheap monuments to your own immature and distorted
sense of grandeur. Tomorrow they will pass to another. Despite
your illusions, they have nothing to do with "you". If you think
they do, and lose them, you have lost everything.
Not so with
a child, with children, who cleave to
you when all else is taken from you. Flesh of your flesh, bone
of your bone, they are inseparable from you from your very
identity! You are a father forever their father not
only in time, but in eternity. Nothing can sunder this or
deprive you of it. Children are from God, and belong to God
Who has dignified you with a participation in His own
The world is made for them contrary to your own self-centered
In fact ... so
is the Kingdom of God, into which no "man" will enter
Geoffrey K. Mondello
for the Boston Catholic Journal