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Thinking of Fathers on Father's Day - Livin' the Good Life

Jun. 16th, 2013

01:12 pm - Thinking of Fathers on Father's Day

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Still reading Love at Goon Park, and I got to the part where the scientist, Harry Harlow, died in his 70s. This was a man who was a husband and father, but what he really loved was his work. He was OBSESSED with his work, and all he thought about was his next experiment or how a current experiment was going. He was much more involved with his fellow scientists in the lab than he ever was with his children. In fact, they barely knew him because he was always gone. Away at the lab early in the morning, at the lab late at night, returning after his children were in bed, or off traveling on a lecture circuit... that's all he did. And though he was a very influential person in the academic world and helped change the destructive thinking of the day, being "hands-off childcare", he was, himself, a terrible father. HE knew from his many experiments how poorly his baby monkeys did when they were ignored and isolated... how they became antisocial and miserable. And yet, he ignored his own children. To be fair, he was from my grandfather's generation, born in 1905, and fathers typically left all the childcare to their wives. Culturally, he was right in line with other fathers of his day. But, I would think that the disturbing results of his experiments with baby monkeys would have made him want to be a different kind of father. It is common knowledge now that a father's involvement and attention is important to the healthy development of their offspring. And it was partly due to HIM that we believe that today. Ironic.
MY father, though also from the generation that tended to leave the child-raising to the mothers, became quite involved with me after he and my mom divorced. I felt very well appreciated and cared about from age 10 on. Until then, my mom was the sole care-giver. I think my dad was more comfortable with me when I was more mature. He liked to talk about things that interested him, deep subjects, and I was completely game for that by 10 or 11. He also noticed and indulged my interests. When he divorced, he went through a lot of soul-searching and I like to think he decided to make some changes and start focusing on his children, helping them grow up to be their best. That is what I like to think, and I believe it's true.

Comments:

From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 17th, 2013 03:53 pm (UTC)
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Very odd about that Harry Harlow. I wondered if he wanted to be more involved/nurturing but he simply did not know how. Or maybe he thought he was being involved (compared to other fathers at the time) but hardly made a dent. I don't know, I'm just trying to figure this out.

I remember my maternal Grandma thought my Dad was a Saint for changing diapers. She thought he was the best dad ever. I guess that means my Grandpa didn't do any of that.

GH
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From:lestermom
Date:June 17th, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC)
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Yes, Harry was an odd duck. Very unbalanced. But some of the oddest characters in history made significant contributions. It's hard for me to respect people who don't practice what they preach, though. Harry is one of those people. I wish he'd just stayed single so he wouldn't hurt a whole family like he did. It'd be interesting to have a chat with his children!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 17th, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
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So does the book say much about what kind of a Dad Harry actually was....or does it just say he practiced as others did for that time period? How many children did he have? And I wonder where his wife fit into the picture with these new beliefs he didn't practice? I guess I should read the book huh?

GH
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From:lestermom
Date:June 17th, 2013 11:29 pm (UTC)
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It didn't say what kind of dad he was, other than he would occasionally take his son to the lab with him. I really think the kids were his wife's job in his mind. And I do think it was a generational thing. He was married, had two sons, divorced, remarried, his wife died of cancer and he was heartbroken. Then he REmarried his first wife. She was partly responsible for getting this book together. (She wasn't the author.) I think he had kids with this second wife, too. Both of his wives were scientists, by the way. That was how they got to know each other.
I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if I didn't know the history of the guy it was about. I would have just liked to have read about the experiments and nothing else. Oh well.
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