Should Father & Son be Friends?
June 20, 2020
(My dad, David Makow, at 96)
(Updated from 2011)
I am not the world's greatest father and I didn't expect my father to be perfect either.
He overcame many obstacles. His parents were murdered by the Nazis when he was 19. He survived the war by pretending to be a Gentile, did four years of high school in one, entered the MIT of Europe, became a physicist, and built a new life. He is 96 now. I salute him on Father's Day.
He was always a father, never a friend. Many believe that fathers should not be friends. "It is the job of parents to see that the [societal] barriers hold," W. Cleon Skousen writes in "So You Want to Raise a Boy?" (1958, p.232)
My father saw his role as keeping me "on track." Since his success was based on higher education, "on track" meant keeping me in school.
I was not allowed to get off the treadmill. Despite the fact I had written a syndicated newspaper column at age 11, which he helped me with, he never believed in me or my good intentions. He always treated me like a loose cannon.
After high school graduation, I wanted to work in a mine. Then, I planned to go to an out-of-town university known for its radical leftist professors. (I was a Lefty back then.)
My father exerted great pressure, including the inducement of the old family car, to make me enroll at the local university at once. I fell into a clinical depression. I only completed three of five courses with poor grades.
On another occasion, I wanted to use the family cottage as a spiritual retreat like Thoreau's Walden Pond. Again, no deal. Get your thesis done.
I complain he was not my "friend" yet he was, once, and it was a mistake.
When I was eleven-years-old, my friends and I were swiping copies of PLAYBOY magazine from newsstands.
I summoned up all my courage to ask my father for a subscription. He agreed. I papered the inside of my bedroom closet doors with Playmates-of-the-Month. In retrospect, this dehumanized women and undermined all my future relationships. I believed female beauty and sex appeal were the Holy Grail. I couldn't relate to women as human beings.
Nevertheless, my father's liberal response created a bond. I really dug him for it. I wish now he had taught me that I was making a mistake that would ruin my life. He was doing his best and was no wiser than I. "Sexual liberation" was the rage in the sixties.
So here I am wishing for a better friend and a better father at the same time.
Now that he's old, he just sits and watches TV. He says he isn't bored. Many old men are crotchety but my dad has never been kinder and sweeter. Happy Father's Day, dad!
Someone said men who don't want children have not finished being children themselves. That's truer now than ever. We've been re-engineered to be perpetual adolescents, part of the war on gender and family. I was a victim of this arrested development myself. I didn't have the knowledge and maturity to devote myself to marriage and fatherhood.
I left my son's mom, a feminist when my son was four-years-old. "Now, I'll have mom all to myself," he said.
I moved around the block. Fatherhood consisted of driving my son to school, cooking, and playing every sport - soccer, football, tennis, baseball, hockey - on our thrice-weekly visits.
I have tried to be a friend, to believe in him. I wanted him to become a historian. He took a few courses, was bored silly and became a lawyer instead. I don't mind. Historians who write the truth are vilified and fired.
"We're not raising grass," dad replied. "We're raising boys."
(l. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak)
In his book, iWoz, Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the personal computer, describes how he was raised in a traditional 1950's family. His mother looked after his emotional needs and his father Jerry, an engineer at Lockheed, supported him intellectually. There was no pressure but his father was always there to nurture and teach.
"My dad's and my relationship was always pretty much about electronics... Dad was always helping me put science projects together...When I was six, he gave me that crystal radio kit I mentioned. It was just a little project where you take a penny, and touch it with some earphones. Sure enough, we did that and heard a radio station...It was so darned exciting, I distinctly remember feeling something big had happened, that suddenly I was way ahead--accelerated- above any of the other little kids my age.." (27)
Fathers build men. Fathers change the world.
In the US, one of every four children has no father at home.
Related: Why are Dads Afraid to Say No to their Kids?
Makow - Feminism Deprives Girls of Father's Love
-------- "Sensible Son"
First Comment from Jim Beam-