To be a father

To be a father… Fatherhood is even harder than being a mother. I think, whilst the state of being a mother is supported by the genes and is a universal natural condition, being a father is an art with a predominant cultural dimension. In other words, being a mother is an inborn knowledge whilst being a father is something that has to be learned. In psychiatric practice for example, when questions are asked about the father it is essential to also ask questions about the grandfather. In the eyes of the child the father is a role and function machine. He is like a mountain you can lean on. He is the one who brings home the money. He fights. He protects. From what I observed in my patients, communication problems with the father are at the forefront in the mother-father-child triangle. I have also observed that there is a connection between personality disorders and a feeling of great distance in the relationship with the father. On the other hand, excessive familiarity also presents a danger. Particularly in children it can lead to sexual problems. I also read that it is held responsible for various eating disorders. Then the relationship between father and mother is being monitored. If the father is violent towards the mother he is a bad father, if he does not, he is a good father. Clever mothers refrains from talking badly about the father. I consider these mothers clever because they do not increase further the weight of the child’s already present expectation to communicate… In divorced mothers this sensibility is even more important. After communication, the second serious problem can arise from the father’s expectation for the child to succeed, in other words how high he sets the bar. Remember the film “Shine”… The film where the young man fails to win his father’s favour and eventually enters a psychosis. At this point, I believe that through love and encouragement the father should keep alive the potential that is present in his child. For example, giving the child a present which lies within child’s field of interest is invaluable. If a child is interested in fish, is it not very impressive to gently touch his forehead as if to say “I understand you” and quietly leave a small aquarium in his room? Who knows, this small present might in the future be the earliest memory of a famous aquaculture scientist. Or books and bookcases bought for the future literary expert… These are moves the effect of which I personally saw in my beloved daughter. What is important here, and I would like to emphasize this, is to take the child’s perception of success as reference, not that of the father. I would like to touch upon one other point; in my opinion an ideal father is a father who always takes his child serious, as children rarely joke. When my son was 4-5 years old and was misbehaving, I said to him: “Young man, I don’t want to hurt your pride! I shall never forget the effect my words had on him. He immediately gathered himself and stopped misbehaving. Aggression towards the child is an unforgiveable fault. And it does not remain without being reciprocated. No child that loves a father who uses violence against the child. Any expectations of such a father to receive respect and love from the child are in vain. Also, such a child will not want to reward the father, and will fail to achieve any real success, or even if he does, he will not be happy, he will be unable to be happy. In short, it is at least as important to be a father as it is to be a mother. And it is more difficult than fulfilling the function of a mother because it is something that has to be learned, in other words it requires an effort. If we go even further, the father instils a feeling of justice. If there is a brother or sister this feeling becomes even more important; a democratic relationship teaches morality and conscience. Sometimes the father is someone whose value is unfortunately only recognised after his loss. May no one ever have the experience of receiving the ill-wishes of a father, but in this cold world may they always feel the warmth of the father’s home and hearth…

Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan