Father’s Day is almost here and my thoughts turn to the women who make it possible for men to be better fathers, but more than that, who keep men from becoming like billy goats.
Remember Mattie Ross, the 14-year-old character in the novel “True Grit,” later made into a John Wayne movie? She hires Rooster Cogburn to go after Tom Chaney, her father’s murderer, and states what is common knowledge: “Men will live like billy goats if they are left alone.”
When I read this, I decided to study up on billy goats to be sure I understood Mattie’s meaning. And I must say, after thorough research, I’ve concluded that Mattie insulted billy goats. They are intelligent creatures and left to themselves — and let’s be honest here, we are referring to male goats — for the most part, make intelligent choices. Men, OK, let’s not generalize, many men, “left alone,” live like Rooster Cogburn, in their own squalor.
I was raised with seven men, six brothers and my dad. I shudder to think what our home would have looked like without our mother. One of my brothers — I won’t mention names — once told me that when he went off to college, he loved getting his bed sheets so coated with body oils from lack of washing that he could literally slide in and out of bed.
Certainly, Dad would have enforced some sort of hygiene requirements on his sons, and I have one particular brother who would have helped him out, but the others of us, even as grown men, would have been Rooster Cogburn disciples. As we approach Father’s Day, the point is that mothers play a vital role in helping men to be good fathers! In fact, although there are exceptions to this axiom that I’m about to pronounce, the truth is: What makes good and involved fathers is a strong commitment to the mother of their children.
My dad was a great dad. He taught me how to ride a bike, throw a baseball, cast a fishing line, love music and pray. But the best and most amazing gift he gave to me was his love for my mother. Together, they created a stable (but not perfect, by any means) family, filled with all the fun and craziness of family life. Dad loved mom in good times and in bad and passed that lesson on to me and my brothers.
There is a segment of the male population that is behaving like Rooster Cogburn. We could ignore them, but they are fathering children and acting worse than billy goats in taking care of them. The real crisis, however, is not that they are absent fathers, but that they are absent partners and spouses.
Do you want to be a great dad? Be a great partner or spouse. Yes, be involved with your children, but most important, love their mother!