Monday, November 14, 2005

What A Dad Means to a Boy: the Hero

I just started a series on what the natural family means to a boy. First, let’s look at what having a dad means to his son. There are four components that came to mind in thinking over how having a dad affects a son. Here’s the first.

The hero. Having a father means a son has a ready-made hero. To a son, a dad is endlessly amazing. When young, the boy is ¼ his dad's size. Dad can chop wood, he can drive a car, he can throw a football far. More than fathers know, I suspect, boys find their dads heroic. There is something right in this. As the philosopher Anselm noted centuries ago, there is a homing device planted in our brains that directs us to the existence of something beyond us. We see ourselves, and we see the existence of those who are bigger or stronger or smarter than us, and we realize that there must be something even greater than impressive humanity. Aquinas also picked up on this, theorizing that the existence of qualities, or degrees of good, better, and best, points us to see that there is something transcendent and great out there. Our fathers are the first representation of God to us. They are the first to fit into the “hero” category eventually filled by God.

One can spot boys who do have heroes, or fathers, and those who not. The boy with a heroic dad has a sparkle in his eye. He has one to emulate, one to adore, one to be involved with. This is part of the beauty of the "heroic father" role. Far from the heroes the boy sees on tv, who amaze him, but who are so far away as to be almost imaginary, dad is right there. He’s the hero who lives with you, and plays with you, and loves you. By contrast, the boy who lives without a heroic dad misses out, and you can see it in him. He goes to Little League practice, and he sees dads who love their sons, and inside himself, he weeps. He has heroes, too, but they are far off. This lack of a role model will profoundly affect him as he matures, for he will have learned the opposite lesson of the boy with a loving dad. For him, heroes exist only on tv. Far from a living, breathing being, the hero is far off, and the boy is alone.


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