It’s not Father’s Day. I was just looking at my nephew’s Facebook page and the pictures of him with his little baby girl and realized that my family, as a rule, makes great fathers, uncles and brothers. Simply great men.
The mothers, sort of prickly as a group, but the fathers,uncles and brothers, are stellar. I have a hard time relating to bad father stories, or bad men in general stories. My memories are filled with uncles who taught me geography, arithmetic, who made me giggle, who teased me, who cried and who loved. Men who achieved great things and had great catastrophes. When they were at their height, the maintained their humanity and compassion, when they reached their depth, they had dignity and humor.
We have a range, from the stern father to the easy going playful father– same for uncles. But, they always gain our respect and adoration from a young age to old age. There is a way that they all hold the babies. It’s that hug I remember from my own father. Loving and tender. Yet, you know, that wherever you are, whatever you do, they will be there for you. They will move the heavens for one of the children of the family.
When I was in college, I remember reading about certain tribes in Africa, where the maternal uncles doled out the discipline. Well, in my family, they dole out the love and support to their nieces and nephews. The common thread was teaching something to the younger ones, teaching them of a passion. Then the child, grows up with that memory of the uncle who taught you how to draw, taught you about colonialism, taught you about language groups.
Back to my nephew, I watch as he engages in the family catastrophic thinking for his baby. Imagining and anticipating any and all dangers to his child and protecting her. Talking and giggling with her. But, I know, that he like the others, will never make her feel that she is “a weak little girl”. That she is lesser than. That she is an after thought.
I don’t think my family needed a study to tell us to talk to babies. My grandmother had a saying: ” give the gift of your words to your child”. And that is what they all did. They talked to us. They passed on stories, knowledge, humor and wisdom. Now, don’t mistake any of this with sainthood. None were saints, they were human and somehow we knew it. And we all still adore that group of men, so glad to see the next generation picking up the tradition.