Thinking of Fathers on Father's Day - Livin' the Good Life
Jun. 16th, 2013
01:12 pm - Thinking of Fathers on Father's Day
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.