On fathers

A pair of osprey live nearby, nesting on a high platform at the river’s edge. They’ve probably been there longer than we’ve been here, as they usually mate for life and return to the same nesting area each year. We’ve watched them collect sticks and Spanish moss to renovate their nest each spring. Sometimes we see them catch a fish – a huge swoop to the water, talons extended; they take a fish and, on the rise, reposition it so that they can fly more aerodynamically back to the nest!

The parents work together. She incubates the eggs and he protects the nest and delivers fish. After the chicks have grown a bit, both parents hunt and bring fish back to the nest. 

We have deer wandering the neighborhood, but the bucks are uninterested in the fawns and leave the parenting to the doe. Their contribution to the deer world is mating – with lots of different does – to ensure a strong deer population.

No lions roam here, of course. But they’ve always intrigued me. And, while I love “The Lion King”, the reality is that lion dads are basically lazy and greedy. They not only wait for the females to do most of the hunting, they’ll kill their own cubs to protect their territory.

Parenting behavior in animals is hard-wired into their DNA, essential for survival. To us, it might appear cute or sweet, or brutal, or maybe just bizarre. I guess we project our own preferences and fears and emotions onto creatures so unlike us. Do we want them to be more like us? Or do we want to be more like them? Hard to say.

But humans?We get to choose. The choices might be hard, even heart-breaking, but we get to choose what kind of people we will be, including what kind of parents.

My dad?Well, happily he’s always been more osprey than lion, though he’d like to think he’s got a fierce roar. 

I’m one of the lucky ones. My dad chose to provide, protect. He’s still steadfastly encouraging, supportive, proud, protective, and expressive. He didn’t learn it from his own father, my grandfather, but he was and is a good dad. 

To all the good dads: Thank you. 

To everyone with “deer dads” or “lion dads”: You deserved more. 

In Trouble the Water, one character longs to escape the curse of his father and another longs to know the identity of his. And they both make choices about what kind of men they will become. 

“I don’t know much about God, baby, but I know I want to choose goodness. I know I want to hold my head up and know I ain’t hurt nobody. We don’t get to choose much, but I know if it’s a choice tween good or evil, I want to choose some good. If it’s a choice tween kind or cruel, I want to be kind. If it’s hope or pain, honey, I be choosin hope.”

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