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parenthood

Phase 2 of the Father-Child Relationship (years three to nine or ten): Consolidation of Affection and Solidarity with an Eye to the Future

Tags: , , , , , , , adolescent sexuality, boys, child well-being, community, culture, family, fathers, generations, love, MARRI, marriage, men, men, mothers, parenthood, parents, Pat Fagan, sex, sexuality, Uncategorized No comments

From age three onwards the infant gradually becomes a boy.  And this is most noticeable in his play.  

All children love to play. Most boys like ball games: Kicking and throwing. They love horseplay (as long as it does not get too overpowering… a judgement call by the father, child by child). The goal is confidence in Dad as source of fun and protection. The horseplay is for the enjoyment of the child– not the father. It really helps consolidate the boy’s sexual identity as male when done with common sense.

The observant father now will begin to spot the different inclinations of his children (and draw on his wife’s observations as well). Their inclinations and strengths become occasions for father to affirm his son in these (be they quarterback-football or tiddlywinks or drawing).  To be affirmed in his strengths by his father is one of life’s great experiences for a boy. And it lasts a life time.

Gradually, over the next years the father tells his children about his own inclinations and gifts: What he enjoys doing, what he is good at, what he likes in his hobbies, his friends, his fellow workers (learning about persons and life). What he loves about his life: His wife– their mother, about his children, and his friends. He does this not to boast but to illustrate to them that it is good to revel in the gifts life has granted him so that they too will revel in the gifts life has granted them. He follows this with his own reveling in their gifts. Thus, he grows confidence deep inside his children. This capacity for confidence and appreciation is the foundation of a great sexual relationship with his spouse later on—twenty years or more from this phase.

Children love to be read to, and the books the father chooses will have quite an impact on them.  If he knows books, he can direct their reading. His wife also plays a big part here. If they don’t know books they can use my wife’s “A Mother’s List of Books”[1] which contains decades of experience in choosing books that are interesting (they have to be enjoyable for the child) yet model good character (or at least not undermine it as most modern children’s books do, especially on the role of the father).  If you do not believe me: Go and check out the books in the children’s section of your local public library.  The tentacles of NOW reach deep into all crannies of child formation including this one… and have for a long time.

If ever in doubt classic fairytales are a good bet. Young children love them— that is why they have survived.

Though they love having stories read to them they are absolutely taken with stories their father creates for them— no matter how corny, no matter what his level of skill in creating or telling them. What they love is the love he is showing them. They will ask for more and more. And father can compose the outlines as he travels and works.

During this phase another great theme and attitude is laid down by the wise father: Modesty. 

Father will lightly form their attitude towards the bodies of others: Privacy of all in the bathroom, especially those of opposite sex. Boys do not enter their sisters’ bedroom, nor girls their brothers’. None enter their parent’s bedroom. Even with parents present, they knock and wait to be invited. 

A boy learns from his father that nobody else ever touches the private parts of his body… except Mother or Father when ill or the doctor in his office. No one else! And he is trained that he should tell his parents if anybody tries . Anywhere! Anyone! Father or Mother or both will deal with that person. And if an adult is the one who touched them his parents will ensure that person goes to  jail. And they will make sure their child knows that they are never at fault or guilty in such a situation. It is always the adult, never the child.  It is a pity, but in this day of sexual license and sexual abuse parents have to both protect children more and teach their children how best to protect themselves.

The boy is taught by his father to treat his own body well: Not touch his penis except at toilet and washing. He learns to keep it private: Hence these parts of the body are called “private parts.”  (This is laying the groundwork for teaching him about masturbation when he is comes into puberty.  Self-control during puberty, in turn, is remote preparation for the male being a great lover of his spouse later on. This is not neurotic anxiety but quite the opposite: It is preparing his son to be great in bed — without talking about it at this too early stage).

It is a pity but during this phase fathers now have to begin preparing their sons to handle pornography — by shunning it the first time they see it and coming to him with any question the experience provokes (and there will be all sorts of questions).  Father gets across that the body is sacred —-  always sacred, but that some wicked people exploit this.  He lets his son know his confidence in him that he will know when a picture is not right, and to always feel free to come to  him – or his mother – for they are the experts on the body. Again, with the breakdown in sexual mores and taboos this initial education in pornography is now needed as early as eight years of age… maybe even sooner!  It is a judgement call best arrived at by discussion between both parents.

Somewhere along the way… listening to his questions about babies and where they come from— father or mother give enough information to satisfy the questions asked, but do not go overboard. A light touch builds confidence in the son— confidence in approaching his parents on these issues— that father (or mother) will be his guide on this and he can always come to his father with any questions.

With an eye to the coming teenage adolescent years:  Making friends with other families you really like. 

When children are young they make friends with ease. Put them together and they play easily. Wise parents avail of this phase so that their children have good friends BEFORE they reach their teenage years.  Then when puberty hits, they have the friends of early childhood as their peer group in adolescents – all from good families, families who help each other through their children’s adolescent years. These early friendships will transfer easily to the teenage years and from these will grow many of the deeper friendships that emerge in adolescence, and among whom mixed groups will be natural  among the brothers and sisters of those they played with in single sex groups during this phase two.

Parents who neglect to do this will realize their mistake when it is too late to do much about it and their children have made friends the parents are not happy with, but at time when it is too late to do what could have been done with ease five years earlier: Shepherding them towards good friendships with children whose parents know how to cultivate character.  This has nothing to do with family income or status, but with the character of parents who know what character is and how to form it in their children.

The next phase covered will be early adolescence.


[1] I know it is a plug, but her  booklet is a classic — owned and used for decades by thousands of mothers across the country.  Email her at tafagan@juno.com for more details.  It is a plug.  But if there were a better one to plug I would do so.  There is not!

Radical Assault — Radical Insight

Tags: , , , , , , adolescent sexuality, child birth, child well-being, children, culture, family, family structure, fathers, feminists, MARRI, men, men, mothers, parenthood, Pat Fagan, Uncategorized No comments

The study of how to rebuild society leads initially to the study of how it was dismantled. That leads to many pathways but the central is the Marxist highway, which, though beginning with the commune in the French Revolution really got its start with Das Kapital by Marx and Engels. There they pinpointed family and religion as the two major obstacles. It took a hundred years of study for their intellectual offspring to figure out how to cause a collapse from with both those institutions.  They found one solution for both problems: Sex gone wild, as most graphically illustrated in Mallory Millet’s famous reportage on the pre-founding of the National Organization of Women. Men are suckers for it, and women too – in a very different way.

It is noteworthy that when a marriage or partnership disintegrates the children normally stay with their mother. This springs from the fundamental nature of female sexuality: Her sexual biology is overwhelming in its impact on her boding with her children. Once conceived, her child changes all her biological systems as they regroup to grow the baby in her womb. She gets to know that baby as it grows and takes over so much of her life during those nine months.

Then comes the trip down the birth canal and the eruption of pain and trauma of childbirth, an experience men cannot conceive of nor write about. It ends in the joy of holding her newborn and the instant conclusion it was all worth it. This experience alone would bond both so deeply. But it is followed by an even more intimate form with months of breastfeeding that makes the breast forever central to sexuality for both male and female.

For men, biology does not do anything comparable. A man bonding with his children is essentially an act of his will: A decision carried out repeatedly as he deliberately gets closer to his child. 

In the architecture of family and of society and even of civilization and culture the woman’s irreplaceable contribution is biology; man’s is decision, or will – or good habits.  

If the family is an arch the woman is the blocks while the man is the keystone. 

Pull out the keystone and the arch (the family, society, even civilization) collapses. 

The US feminists of the 1960’s, building on the 40 years work of the Frankfurt School and its Marxist allies, had finally figured out how to cause the collapse that Lenin envisaged: remove the father from the family. (For them the traditional intact married family is the “patriarchal” family).  The “litany chant” at the opening of the study group that led to NOW illustrates the method of removal: Let sex go wild. 

The Supreme Court was a key target and delivered the goods: The right to sex outside of marriage in 1972, to abortion in 1973, to contraceptives down to age 16 without parental consent, to homosexual acts in 2003, to homosexual marriage in 2015.

With each decision the place of the male in the family was notched down and down and down, with increases in all the “toxic masculinities” the APA is seemingly concerned about.

The Marxists figured out that if you remove the father from the family society will gradually collapse into the waiting arms of the all-controlling socialist state envisaged by Marx. 

In the mid and late 1960’s some of America’s brightest (but not best) decided to take down the most powerful nation on earth. They have achieved much.

How to restore and rebuild? 

By replacing the keystone in the arch: Good fathers raising boys to be great husbands and fathers. The man is key. He is civilization. He is the keystone. 

(Women have nothing to fear in this order: It is the work of both. Equally. Just very different roles, stemming from very, very different biologies. But totally complementary biologies — if only we can get the “act of the will” right in both male and female, mother and father, husband and wife).

Rebuilding Our Nation One Son at A Time

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The way to rebuild our nation is to do what all good men have always done: raise their sons to be great husbands and fathers.

As his newborn son is placed in his father’s arms for the first time, the young father (even if he cannot formulate the words) says to his son:

I give you my heart always and give you my time early in your life—  to bind you to me with affection (when it is easy to do).  On this foundation we will build the rest. Nothing else compares to this, not a successful business, nor great honors —-nothing else — except loving your mother.

My greatest task is to make a great husband and great father of you.

I will teach you what paths to walk so that you will desire to be good.

In your growing years I will be your guardian and protector.

I will protect you from sexual abuse.

I will teach you how to protect yourself from sexual abuse.

I will protect you from pornography within our home.

I will teach you how to protect yourself from pornography anywhere you come across it.

I will teach you how to treat your own body.

I will teach you how to regard the bodies of women.

I will teach you how to listen carefully to women and hear what they mean .

I will teach you how  to treat all women, so they will know you are a man of good intentions.

I will teach you how to spot and win the sexual battles that will take place inside your head and your heart.

I will teach you why you should not masturbate. (Your wife will thank me — without ever telling me).

I will teach you how to have the sexual control you will need for your marriage bed.

I will teach you how to date well, and how to select and court a great wife from among all the beautiful women you will meet.

My little one, because of all of this you are going to make a great man of me.

As men put this into practice, by taking sex-ed out of the schools and back into the home where it belongs, all of society will adapt around this strategic shift.  By exercising this basic natural right, every father will cause society to rearrange itself around his actions — in ways that restore social order.

The solution is simple though taxing: Fathers raise their boys to be great husbands and great fathers.

Three Short Periods That Shape an Individual’s Journey Through Life

adolescent sexuality, child well-being, culture, economics, family, family structure, love, MARRI, marriage, mothers, parenthood, religion, sexuality, society, young adults, youth No comments

Three phases are foundational to a sense of well-being throughout life: The child’s early experience of his mother, the teenager’s decision about sex and God, and the newly wedded couples agreement on suffering. The first and last involve the two most important persons in his life. The middle- the teenager’s decision -is personal, private and alone, or alone before God. All three phases shape life way into the future by shaping the individual’s capacity for the wellbeing of spouse, children, friends, family, and colleagues at work.

The child who experiences the constant attention and affection of a self-giving mother during the earliest phase of life, is blessed beyond measure. That mother is giving him a great introduction to “reality as a pleasant place to be.” Life is good, life is warm, life is full. Well taken care of, that baby is ready to take life on! Depending on the mother’s capacity, both from within herself and from the environment around her (her own early experience of her own mother, her husband, her home, her support from family and friends), she fills her child’s emotional heart- his relational “cup”- full, half-full or quarter full. Less than full means the child will have a corresponding limp in human relationships for the rest of its life– without realizing it.

In a recent conversation with friends who live in Spain we mulled the mother-child dilemma in that country where almost all married women are expected to return to work four months after the birth of the child. Many fear that moment because of the pain of leaving their child so soon. By any research calculus, four months with mother is way too little as a norm. Spain is undermining the relational capacity of its children and guaranteeing fragile marriages and difficult parenting twenty-five to thirty years from now.

It cannot but be that most Spanish children will limp relationally to some extent, but it will be hard to spot because most other Spaniards will have been similarly affected. For almost all Spanish couples — even the middle class and higher — a culture of shame exists for husbands if their wives do not work. (The poor and the working class can’t afford the luxury of such shame.) Caring full-time for children at home has become rather socially unacceptable. In Spain, the marketplace is more honored than the child. The market now significantly shapes Spanish children’s relational capacities.

The next period to shape life takes place in the inner sanctum of each teenager’s heart. Between the age of fourteen to sixteen most teenagers decide very privately which path they will walk on matters sexual – ‘adventurous’ exploration of sexual relationships, or chaste abstinence until marriage. The other decision, rather interlaced with the first, is whether they will walk with God or without Him. Should they take the both paths the wrong way, they set themselves up for much unhappiness, broken relationships, even broken marriages, thus visiting suffering on their future children and grandchildren. Some learn their mistake before they go too far down the road. Others find chaste abstinence is possible, especially with friends who walk the same path and who go to God frequently in worship. Oh this “it takes a village” helps a lot. Though chastity leads to significant prosperity and happiness in marriage and family for decades to come, most teenagers are not aware of this, nor that, though they are free to choose, they are not free to choose the consequences, that the consequences are hardwired within them.

The third period bridges the year before and after marriage. The most basic wisdom young couples need concerns suffering. Their orientation to it shapes their future. Those who expect life together to involve some suffering and are prepared to back each other up (“for better or for worse”) will survive and thrive. Those who premise marriage only on “happy ever after” (our modernist norm) are in for a quick disillusionment, one that ends many marriages. The best definition I have come across of a great marriage is “a couple with the capacity to solve an emotionally dividing problem”. Stated differently: a couple who can confront the suffering that life throws at them and figure out how to move towards a solution they agree on.

Though all the social science dots are not yet fully connected across the three periods, enough of them are to link the first period to this last. A husband and wife whose mothers “filled their cup” in infancy are much better formed to be great problem solvers together.

Which brings me back to poor Spain! It takes the national wisdom of a child-friendly culture to deal well with family, love, suffering and children. St John of the Cross, who helped reform religious and institutional life in Spain in the late 1500’s and whose writings are explored by believers of all faiths, is one of the great teachers of the connection between love and suffering. Spanish life could do with a re-infusion of his insights. Then the rest of the world would learn from Spain, for many Western nations, and many good couples, struggle, during the first phase of the child’s existence, to solve the dilemma of mother, child and marketplace.

Parenthood

happiness, parenthood 1 comment

Margolis and Myrskyla’s parenthood study initially gained notoriety from a misleading claim that parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment, and even the death of a partner. To draw this conclusion, researchers compared the dissatisfaction, allegedly due to parenthood, to the dissatisfaction due to divorce, unemployment, and death of a partner of an entirely different sample. This assertion can be refuted with basic logic, biology and research.

  1. Simple logic is proof enough to discredit this assertion: Parents are always eager to talk and brag about their kids, but rarely does that kind of joy and praise come from someone who just lost a parent or has recently become unemployed.
  2. Biology and social science also substantiate this logic. During childbirth women release a package of hormones associated with euphoria—oxytocin, endorphins, adrenaline and noradrenaline, and prolactin. Oxytocin and prolactin are also released during breastfeeding.
  3. Other studies have found that overall parents (especially fathers) report relatively higher levels of happiness, positive emotion, and meaning in life than nonparents. Dr. Arthur Stone, author of a study on parental happiness published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, put it this way: “[Parents] have higher highs. They have more joy in their lives, but also they have more stress and negative emotions as well.” All in all, Stone and colleagues assert that it is a matter of choice: people who want kids will derive more joy out of parenthood, and those who desire to remain childless will derive happiness from that. 

Margolis and Myrskyla’s study is limited in scope and should be appreciated only at face value. The researchers found that life satisfaction increases leading up to and in the year after first birth, that satisfaction decreases from the baseline level after the first year of birth, and that those who have a second birth gained more in life satisfaction around the time of the first birth than those who do not bear more children.

Margolis and Myrskyla are correct that these findings lend insight into the low fertility rates afflicting many countries. The fertility crisis is a consequence of a growing abhorrence for anything that requires self-sacrifice, even if it could produce long term joy. It is far more likely that the true cause of this shortage in births is the rise in non-intact families and decrease in religious practice.

Children raised in non-intact families face parental rejection, which can make giving to others more difficult. These children are also less likely to want to have children of their own. Religious practice on the other hand, improves fertility rates. Religious worship contributes to a sense of selflessness: religious people contribute more to charity and are more likely to volunteer their time. Not surprisingly, very religious women are also more likely to want more kids and to have more kids. 

Overall, parenthood is a rewarding, joy-filled adventure if the parents are willing to share their life. Although a couple’s first birth can, and frequently does, bring unanticipated stress and marital discord, it also concurrently brings much happiness. Future research should control for and then highlight the benefits of religious worship and intact families, and the likely dangers of self-centeredness. A revival of the intact married family that worships weekly is an essential, natural solution for the fertility crisis. It will make parents happier, children more abundant, and countries richer.