Fatherhood – An Art Unto Itself
By Lori Hope Baumel
Originally appeared in Around Wellington Magazine on June 1, 2015
(Painting: Girls at the Piano, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1892)
I came from an era where if a man changed a diaper he was worthy of a standing ovation. With the rise of feminism in the 60’s the baby boom generation experienced the growing pains of whose role it was to take on the various jobs required to raise a family. Yes, fathers cooked for barbecues (to protect us from the dangers of the hot grill?) and coached the baseball games. When it came to bathing, feeding, food shopping and all things domestic – that was Mom’s job. Well, as Bob Dylan said, “The Times They Are a Changing” – and it’s taken over fifty years to do so.
Yet, I will admit, I find that this generation is experiencing inherent confusion. We just haven’t quite organized what our roles as parents are. Baseball, once the predominant sport of extra-curricular activities has expanded to basketball, skating, lacrosse, hockey, swimming, and a plethora of choices. Here in Wellington, children from all over the world come to study the equestrian arts like jumping and dressage. And, of course, we have mastered the role of the “Soccer Mom” with year round competition and extraordinary recreation facilities.
Progress is good. What was once “The Boys Club” has become “The Boys and Girls Club.” Athletics have gender-integrated teams. Although it was a bit of a novelty back in the late 90’s, my son had several girls on his hockey team. We’re finally reaching a point where both men and women with equivalent skills are being recognized as capable for the same jobs. Equal pay in the workplace has a long way to go, but with a strong enough fight we will get there.
So… what role do fathers still have in today’s society? First and foremost, they must teach their children to respect their significant other. How do they do this? By demonstrating it. Couples raising children have to have an understanding. If one chooses to stay home with the children, it doesn’t mean that doing so is any easier than choosing to work full-time.
Then there’s the mere physicality of being a man. Biologically speaking, men tend to be more muscular and taller. Yet, with the rising emphasis on plant-based diets and exercise a woman can now prove to be just as strong. Intellectually, women are finally being recognized as equally capable in the most intricate of fields. Fathers should be encouraging their daughters and sons to become proficient in much-needed computer and science skills.
All parents should understand that exposure to the arts is an essential ingredient to the development of a well-rounded child. In previous columns, I have extensively discussed how to expose your child to the arts. Therefore, that topic has been covered (see the Around Wellington “Cultural Corner” archives for more). If, by chance your child chooses to pursue the arts as a profession it should not be discouraged.
On the other hand, if your son or daughter chooses to become a “starving artist” that does not mean you have to pay for it. When a child is truly talented, many colleges offer scholarships to entice a student to attend. As in any field, if no scholarships are offered, it has to be clearly understood that student loans can be applied for. When your children have to pay for it, they might think about how seriously they want to pursue a particular career path.
Gone are the days when a man must be forced to take on the role as “the sole provider.” Double-income coupling is more common than single-income. Nowadays, many people are choosing to hold off or not “reproduce” at all… that’s okay too! Our children should not feel compelled to make us grandparents. It’s their life and they have to live it their way. Raising a child is no easy task!
Finally, studies have shown that physical affection should be encouraged. Once again… gone are the days where giving your child a kiss or hug is demeaning for a man. Affection is the sincerest form of approval. To this day, my husband gives his father a hug and a kiss upon greeting him. Why? Because my husband saw his father and grandfather do it. It didn’t make them any “less of a man.” It fills my heart with joy to see my sons greet their father in the same manner.
I consider myself to be very fortunate. My husband has split all of our responsibilities 50/50. He has played the role of provider, coach, chauffer, scoutmaster and so much more. Those who know me well know that I simply adore my husband. I can vouch for my children by saying he is loving and wise. He has demonstrated respect for gender equality at home, in the workplace and in the larger world. That attribute is an art unto itself.
Live… Go… Do!
Here’s my “Top 5” (plus a bonus) for June 2015
Yes, the party’s over and we had a great run. By the time this goes to print, the final episode of one of the most iconic shows on television will be just a memory. For those of you who missed the ride and want to take the summer to glide through the decade of events from 1960 – 1970 (coupled with incredible story lines), start from season 1 and enjoy the show slowly on Netflix or a variety of on-demand platforms. Binge watching is NOT advised. This is the type of series that requires a few days between episodes to think about the responsibilities of men and women in America and how their roles changed “post Korea to Vietnam.”
(Adult themes – viewer discretion advised)
Let Broadway come into your home. On the evening of June 7, 2015 you can see the best of New York City Theater from your own home screen. For nominees and information go to:
3) An intriguing summer read based on the true story:
“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.
Soon to be made into an HBO movie by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. It’s a story inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we’re made of.”
– Rebecca Skloot website
For a wonderful slide show about Henrietta Lacks and more information on the author, Rebecca Skloot, go to:
For videos explaining the importance of HeLa cells go to:
4) It is summer movie time!
I always look forward to the smell of popcorn and summer movies. June is the time to ignore the serious critics and support your local theaters. Amongst the June releases will be Jurassic World, Spy and Ted 2. Light fare and fun for the whole family.
For the full June Film release schedule see:
5) Free entertainment here in our own town:
The Wellington Ampitheater
12100 Forest Hill Boulevard
The Wellington Amphitheater is a 3,200 square foot facility located adjacent to Scott’s Place, a Barrier-Free Playground. The facility includes a state of the art sound and lighting system for events such as concerts, plays, school functions, and movie nights. The Wellington Amphitheater was funded by a Palm Beach County grant and can accommodate up to 1500 persons. – Village of Wellington website
6) Hey, it’s summer! Here’s a list of much more to do from an incredible resource…