This weekend, Levi came down with a fever. It was a strange one; no other symptoms or complaints, just sore eyes, a bit of lethargy, and an elevated temperature.
I don’t do great when my kids are sick. It’s a rare occurrence, thankfully, but when it does, I become an anxious mess of a parent, the kind that imagines and prepares for every possible scenario and has terrifying visions of febrile seizures and the like.
So it was an amazing gift to me when Kevin stepped up and said, “I’ll take care of Levi. You take care of Lucy.”
Kevin sacrificed his own sleep to hold Levi for most of the night, persevering through getting kicked and pins-and-needles arms. He stayed home from church, and the two constructed an epic-fort for Levi to rest and watch Daniel Tiger in. And when we talked to my parents on the phone, Levi happily reported that Daddy got him chicken noodle soup, that Daddy laid out a blanket on the floor so we could have a picnic lunch together.
While mothers are often credited with the gift of caregiving, it is clear to me that a father’s tender love for his child, particularly in times of vulnerability, creates an amazing bond between the two.
The Role of Daddy’s Really Important
Traditionally, Dad’s major responsibility was to provide financially for the household. But I’d argue that a father’s emotional provision is even more important for a healthy family.
There’s something vitally important about Daddy being involved. We all know it, although none of us exactly know why.
I have this theory; mothers are biologically designed to be attached to the child through pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. They, for lack of better terms, must love their child; they’re hardwired to.
A father’s involvement is more voluntary, and I think children know that. When a father chooses to care for their child, the child feels a different kind of love and belonging. I believe a father’s love and attention enhances the child’s view of worthiness. When Daddy chooses to play with, snuggle, dress, feed, read to, talk with, and generally care for his child, the child feels especially valued, because he knows Daddy doesn’t “have” to do any of those things.
It’s all a theory, of course, nothing scientifically proven.
What is proven, though, through various studies is that paternal involvement can impact everything from a child’s health to his behavior: children without involved fathers have a higher infant mortality rate, are more likely to suffer from asthma, obesity, and are generally less physically active than children of involved fathers. Children with absent fathers are more likely to be incarcerated, show delinquent behavior, be violent, abuse drugs and alcohol, suffer from anxiety and depression, and be antisocial. Both girls and boys are affected when Daddy’s not involved, but boys, it’s no surprise, struggle more.
Children need their Daddy.
Supporting my Children’s Daddy
I have the tendency to be critical of my husband. As a stay-at-home-mom, I often feel stretched and exhausted with parenting and housekeeping around the clock. I get weary of seeing little progress or productiveness in my daily tasks. There are days when I just want a break. There are days when I resent his ability to go to work and drink a cup of coffee or pee in peace.
There are days when I, unfairly, take my stress out on him. On those days, neither of us are great parents.
It is crucial for me to find ways to support my children’s Daddy. I need to remind myself daily to be grateful that he is so great with our children; to be thankful that he takes part in taking care of them, changing them, waking up with them in the middle of the night, reading to them, playing with them, letting them “help” him with projects around the house.
He is doing something for them that I can’t do, no matter how loving, considerate, or selfless I am as a Mom; he’s being their Dad.
The Greatest Work He’ll Ever Do
There’s something special about hearing Levi say during the day, “I love” or “I miss my Daddy”, of seeing him want to do everything Kevin does with enthusiasm. There’s something special about seeing Lucy giggle and toddle over to Kevin with excitement, arms raised up in anticipation of being received into strong arms.
He’s doing amazing, invaluable work in the lives of our children. He’s showing them that they are worthy of love and attention. He’s earning their trust.
And that is the most important work he will ever do.