Father and Mother
I was with lots of people over the weekend and had several interesting conversations as usual. One of them was an “aha” moment for me about a basic and vital difference between how a father parents and how a mother does.
A father is always in the now with his child. When he plans an activity for the child, his first question won’t be, “What’s in it for my child or how will my child benefit from this experience?”, which means he probably won’t be thinking if another activity might be more suitable for the child. He will probably think, “What can we do together?” and that will be it. It is that simple. He has filled up their time together and is probably feeling quite accomplished and fatherly. That’s the end of that.
A mother, on the other hand, will always take the long view and see into the future, especially if she is a Waldorf mom. A father might decide that he will pass on to his son the family tradition of eating balut for the first time at the manly age of 3. This milestone will be very exciting for him and terribly horrifying for his wife. The mother will probably freak out on the father and will not be able to understand where the bleep he is coming from, to think that their little child should be eating bird embryos: Wasn’t he just that (albeit, human) not that long ago??? She is taking the long view and asking multiple questions that have everything to do with the well-being of the child physically, emotionally and spiritually not just today, but into the future. She is railing against the whole idea of the “balut”–the Filipino delicacy that make our foreign brothers shudder, and not with pleasure. She is also hurt that the father would be so inconsiderate as to introduce something so potentially traumatic to the budding digestive system of their child, etc., etc., etc.
And never the twain shall meet. The mother is thinking divorce and the father is starting to fantasize about the childless, nubile nymph at work, whose uterus has never been home to anyone. When did the vibrant, exciting, sexy woman he married turn into such a difficult hag? Marriage and parenthood. Ahhhh. So much fun.
I’m not writing this because I have an answer, or even a plan of action. I don’t. But realizing certain things and seeing them in a new way might lead us to take a step in another direction, vastly different from one we were convinced we ought to take before. Perhaps the first step is backwards and away from the realm of the personal. When you are married everything becomes personal, but there are lots of moments when stepping back and landing on a space of objectivity would serve the family, difficult as it is.
In this situation, everyone is coming from a space of love. Yes, one could argue (I know I would) that if you truly loved your child, you would put your sense of tradition aside and see what a 3-year-old really needs in his body, and not put your needs ahead of his. But that is the mother in me speaking. Though we all long to be married to “future man” (who probably won’t choose us anyway, but what the heck), that time is far away and right now we have present man who, though he doesn’t always display it, is still very attached to his club and other stone weapons. But if we just put all of that aside, perhaps we can see that the father is coming from a space of love and is simply moving in a very different way than we mothers do. It is his way. That is how it was in his family and that is the only way he knows how, at least for now.
So will you then accede and let your child have his first taste (or gag) of balut? I wouldn’t dare suggest an answer. Each of us will have his own final approach to this one, but if we first establish that everyone is coming from a space of love, the thought immediately brings us to a different space. You might still divorce but, hey, not today. Today you have chosen to step lightly and realize that the space of love may yet bring you to a space of authentic convergence. Would another egg do? Maybe? Or could another tradition come in its place? Couldn’t you save the balut ritual for when your child is 40? Hey, what about casting aside the old and creating new family traditions, together, that do not involve any kind of exotic, questionable fare?
Today, maybe, you will find your own path and that can be very exciting and no longer frightening and marriage-threatening. A father will never see things the way a mother does, just as a mother could never be the one who will allow their child his first exhilirating jump off a cliff and into the deep blue sea. It’s just not a mom thing to do. It would kill her. The challenge is to find that space where everyone can journey comfortably and respectfully with one another. It is not an easy task and we all know it wasn’t meant to be, but those who have found their way authentically and lovingly–and together still–through this thorny maze fill our world with a picture of humanity the rest of us would be hard put to replicate.