Editorial – Father Bears

It may not seem that Father’s Day and mother bears have anything in common, but they do. A lot, actually. Two completely unrelated events got this train of thought going.

The first was an article about fathers being present at their children’s births. A bunch of New Age baloney, according to an article in The Telegraph. Fathers are pretty much useless for anything other than the conception, assembling the crib, and driving to the hospital. And whatever you do, keep them away from the prenatal classes. They’ll just get underfoot and they don’t want to be there anyway.

The second incident was a passing comment about the unique bond that mothers have with their children. A relative noted with supreme confidence how it was so very true that, because women carry the unborn child, they automatically have some kind of inscrutable lifelong bond that a father can’t even imagine. ?Just like animals in the wild,? the wisdom went. ?The way a mother bear defends her offspring so ferociously.?

To put it politely, hogwash. To start with, the argument falls apart the minute you start talking about mother bears. The image of a female bruin fighting tooth and claw to protect her young is a romanticized one. I wouldn’t want to test the odds, but It’s not uncommon for a mother bear to ?try and warn you off or escape and collect her cubs later,? rather than stay to fight.

And even with this mythically maternal creature, the bond between mother and offspring has a fairly short shelf life. The cubs are cared for until they’re around two, but when the female is ready to breed again all bets are off. The cubs are driven away?and you can bet the mother will compete just as ferociously with them when it comes to food or territory for her new litter. It’s normal animal behaviour seen in most other species, including humans sometimes. So much for the magical, mystical bond of motherhood.

Yes, pregnancy and labour are experiences that men can’t have. But the kind of outdated thinking I encountered recently made me realize that modern men are stuck firmly between that proverbial rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, they’re supposed to be caring and empathetic partners, plus deeply involved with their children on an emotional level (unlike the stereotype of yesterday’s stoic breadwinner). On the other hand, we perpetuate the myth of the supreme, unassailable bond that only mothers can have. Dads can go through the motions, but they aren’t actually allowed in the club.

The truth is that there are lousy parents of both sexes, and great ones as well. For every mother who would throw down her life for her children, you probably don’t have to look far to find a father who would do the same. Maybe, instead of Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, there should simply be a Parents? Day. Because arbitrary body parts have nothing to do with healthy relationships or good parenting skills. Those come from the heart.

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