The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 4 (July 1, 1935.)
Mum's the Word.Only a father! Yes, my child,
Only a father, weak or wild,
Only a father it is true,
Who boards in the house with mum and you.
It must seem to the wise child unversed in the weird ways of the world that “dad may come and dad may go but mum goes on for ever.” Motherhood is a full-time job but fatherhood also has its responsibilities. And yet, how is it that fathers seem to get so little good advice on a job they do so badly, while mothers, who know their maternal alphabet from “ache” to “zip,” are honoured by tons of advisory tomes?
Dads or “Duds.”
Do fathers need advice? There are fifty million mothers who will say they do. And yet thousands of fathers are left to grope through fatherhood with not a father-expert within coo-ee to pep up their paternal patter so that they may, in time, become a credit to their children instead of a “thing of duty and a cloy for ever.”
The fact is that few fathers realise what a glorious thing it is to be a father. On the contrary, there are times innumerable when fathers wish that they had been born a bowl of goldfish rather than a father; especially during the stilly A.M.'s, when merry bachelors hibernate, and all is hushed—except the white man's burden who whangs the welkin in its father's arms, and makes a morepork of Morpheus. But there are joys and jubilations attached to fatherhood, even if, at first glance, they seem as remote as Ever-rest.
What (and why) is a Father?
First of all, what is a father? Is he just a mother's husband, or is he an entity in whose bosom there surges the fierce protective instinct of fatherhood? Do fathers fight for their young with that primeval ferocity attributed to mothers? We doubt it. The only primeval ferocity they register is when Willie kicks his football through the bathroom window. Do fathers “organise” to make themselves better fathers? Do we hear of Fathers' Guilds, Fathers' Day, or Fathers' Meetings? We do not. Any such meetings are conducted in the secret sanctums of lodges, social clubs, bars, and suchlike haunts of fatherhood, where the happy cries of little children are never heard. All of which seems to indicate that the chief aim of fathers is to forget for a few fleeting hours that they have been called to the solemn state of fatherhood. Taking everything into consideration, it seems clear that fathers are made, not born.
Do biologists, sociologists or apologists ever refer to our bounding young bachelors as “the nation's future fatherhood”? Is it ever said that in them as the fathers of posterity, reposes the sacred responsibility of the race? Not to any noticeable extent! And why? Because mothers are mothers by instinct. Not so with fathers.
Mothers are enthusiasts. They meet to chat over such problems as what makes a baby cry, or the care of the first tooth, or why baby refuses to stack up the adipose according to the book of Plunket, or any other topics conducive to the building of bonny babies.
But if you listen in to the male descanting on weak knees, lack of staying power over the distance, shortness of breath or paucity of pace, you can bet your celluloid shirt cuffs that he is speaking either of himself or his favourite racehorse.
Thousands of fathers imagine that their paternal responsibility ends at the cheque butt, whereas this is only where it begins. Consequently we make no apology for publishing this short treatise on “How to be a Good Father.”
The Sons of the Fathers.
But what is a good father? We know, of course, that a good husband is what his wife makes him, or what he makes his wife think she has made him—according to which one happens to be having the say; but the only judges of a good father are the ones who made him a father. He may intend to be a good father; he may page 61 have a heart of gold beneath a voice of brass, a hand of iron, a head of lead, and chromium-plated braces; he may conceal a jewel of fatherhood among his psychological treasures; but whatever he is, be sure his sons will find him out; his daughters will just know by feminine intuition.
He may be a big noise in the market place, but a dumbell in the nursery. For it takes a good man to measure up to Mickey Mouse, Jack the Giant Killer, or Sinbad the Sailor in the infant estimation.
Don'ts for Daddies.
Fathers! Do your children call you “pop” to your face and “pop-eye” behind your back? Are you a pal or a pall in the home? Do your children mentally put you on a pedestal or do they put you on the spot? The answer to these questions decides whether or not you are a fit and proper person to be a father. But we can help you! No case is so hopeless that we cannot give instant relief. By following a few simple misdirections you can alleviate your paternal pain. Here are a few short “Don'ts for Daddies”:
Don&t fly off the handle if baby pokes you in the eye with the potato masher or pours treacle into your boots.
Don&t try to enter into your children's play; after boasting about your athletic prowess they are bound to discover what a liar you are.
Don&t try to be funny in the presence of your children; let them retain the illusion that you have some intelligence until they are old enough to find out that you haven't.
Don&t let your children discover how little you know; answer all their questions just as if you knew what they were talking about.
And finally—if you must be a father, take a long sea voyage, lasting about five years if possible, so that your children's mother can bring them up properly; because you know as well as I know that you will never be fit for fatherhood.
Fathers' Help (?)
Not that you are to blame. Fatherhood has been neglected, while the welfare of mothers is so copiously catered for that it must be great to be a mother. She has visiting nurses to advise what to do when baby swallows the scissors, lectures on the vitamins in dill water, and “mothers' helps.” But did you ever hear of fathers' helps? When he has been up all night “Walking out with Baby,” when the mortgages are due, the income-tax is imminent, and life seems just one long dull thud, can he ring up for one of the Plunket boys to come and stroke his burning brow? No, gentlemen, he cannot. Even the fire brigade is not available for burning brows. He just carries on—unstrung and unsung.
Whilst mothers are sung to the skies, fathers are talked to the earth. There are pitifully few songs about fathers, but a whole heap about mothers. The only song we can remember about fathers is a disrespectful ditty.