A baby’s birth does not make you a father
I decided to start a new hobby. Writing. I decided to risk entering into this peculiar world where people’s fun is to put words together in a sequence that makes sense, forming sentences. The sentences, in turn, come together in a unique sequence forming paragraphs that make sense. These, finally, come together in a specific sequence to form a text that makes “a lot of sense” (at least for the writer). This constructed text, therefore, is unique, as if it were the writer’s fingerprint, because even if the available words are the same for everybody, in this sequence, these words, sentences and paragraphs can only have been written once, in a single way, like the curves on the skin of your finger.
This construction process is very complex. It starts very slowly, with the first word. It is scary to choose the second word, the third, the fourth because there are thousands of them, all available to you, but only one makes sense. Notice that the chosen verb was to construct and not to create or to form, for example. That’s because constructing is somehow slow. We do not construct a house or a machine suddenly. It requires planning, studies, efforts, perseverance. On the other hand, as the construction phase is done, the products are more perennial, lasting, firm.
So, writing about what? What unique fingerprint should I leave to the world?
Of course! Fatherhood! After all, it has everything to do with constructing things (very slowly) that make sense.
In this text (and in this publication that is born today) you will not find what is commonly discussed in parent forums such as funny stories about dirty diapers, rushing to the hospital for the baby’s birth and other jokes in general. I understand it is very pleasant to talk about these situations, because they are all part of the “fatherhood’s imaginary”, but the proposition here is different. We need to move forward and go deeper into fatherhood issues.
To start understanding the idea, let’s say this is a text (and publication), written by an engineer, father for the first time at age 34. The good engineers translate, transform, and give function or purpose to mathematics and physics. They generate applicability and practical utility for these fundamental sciences.
Nevertheless, what do engineering, writing and fatherhood all have in common? Construction!
We men do not become fathers by a woman’s pregnancy or even with the child’s birth. These acts make us genitors (the ones who beget), but in no way make us fathers. Other male animals give life to their creations, but that does not make them fathers.
Fatherhood, like machines, systems, structures and texts, does not occur naturally. It must be constructed, piece by piece, word by word.
I am not going to venture into the conceptual aspects of fatherhood, it is not the goal here, I do not have this knowledge and it would be like discussing pure and applied mathematics, very conceptual for an “engineering text”. Engineers are more practical. However, some thoughts are important.
Mothers are run over by motherhood. They enter into the motherhood through their body, the new being grows within them. They have nowhere to run (at first). On the other hand, there is no change in the body of men during pregnancy. We did not become fathers in pregnancy. Men enter into fatherhood by speech, when they assume their position (and function) to say no to the child, to separate the child from the mother, to dictate the rules.
Until a certain age, the son (and the daughter) thinks his mother belongs to him, that her body belongs to him. He thinks he and she are the same. The father makes the son definitively renounce this place, so that he can walk with his own legs, so that he can be born as a subject. It is basically the first interdiction, of many others to come, that the son receives from his father.
Fatherhood is a function (of the Latin, functĭo,ōnis ‘ work, execution’) that we must exercise — the so-called paternal function. It is exercised, in an active way.
Fatherhood is therefore a choice. In this sense, every father is adoptive. How about you? Have you adopted your child yet?
This text opens the publication The symbolic father — reflections on the construction of fatherhood. It is the first of many others to be published on the quest of fatherhood’s construction. You are welcome to join this journey.