I've always held the belief that, in modern society, there's not much of a difference between the roles of mother and father. Yes, the women carries the child for 9 months and often is the sole source of nourishment for the first few months after birth, but aside from that there's nothing the father can't and shouldn't be expected to do. But the truth is there are always going to be small differences in the roles. Typically the mother is, most often, going to be more of the natural nurturer. Not that the dad is incapable of this, but, with us, our girls naturally gravitate toward Gina when they're upset and if she's available. If she's not then I can step in and fill the void, but I know I'm just the consolation prize. And that's OK, the father has his own natural role that's specific to him. I was reminded of this by an article I read yesterday.
A first time father to be was driving with his pregnant wife when a car in oncoming traffic swerved into their lane. Destined for a head on crash that would have killed both of them, the father slammed on the brakes and turned the wheel hard to the right spinning the car perpendicular to the oncoming menace and ensuring that he would absorb the brunt of the impact from the side. He was killed, but the maneuver worked, saving both his wife and their baby inside her. As I digested this story over the past 24 hours I thought about whether his move was intentional or instinctual. Was he intending to take the brunt of it himself, or was he trying to move the car out of the path all together? I then put myself in his seat. Every good father would answer the same way with such a hypothetical: absolutely we sacrifice ourselves for our children, but how do we know what to do in a mere fraction of a second? What if we freeze? What if we suddenly become selfish? And that's where we are wired differently. A mother is wired to nurture her children. To sooth them and to hold them. To warm them and to tend to them. We fathers aren't always graceful with this. We don't always know what to do when there's a fever or an owie. We don't know the right words to say when they've had a bad day. We don't always have the right words of encouragement that they need. But we won't hesitate to jump in front of a truck, dive on a grenade or fight off the wolves. Yes, a mother will stand between her children and a charging bear, or cover them with her body to protect from falling debris, but when the father is there, this is his role to fill. For some dads the only thing we have to offer is our own lives for theirs, and that's a gift they will never have to ask us for. It's our duty, it's our pleasure as fathers.