Father for Life
A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change
By Armin A. Brott
Abbeville Press Copyright © 2003 Armin A. Brott
All rights reserved.
Excerpt from: Father For Life
How This Book Is Structured
Because fatherhood is a progression, I've structured this book chronologically. There are seven chapters in all, covering the stages of development from expectant fatherhood all the way through grandfatherhood. Throughout, I've tried to address the concerns of many different types of fathers: biological, adoptive, first-timers, experienced, the very young, those who started the process later in life, divorced, never married, and those who have kids with special needs or disabilities.
Chapter 1 discusses the issues that expectant fathers face—from the struggle to connect in the early months of the pregnancy and how-can-we-afford-this to the amazement of feeling the first kick and worries about being left out. Besides chronicling father's dramatic changes over the course of nine short months, we'll chart the growth and development of the fetus and check in with the expectant mom to see how she's doing. (Having a basic understanding of what the woman is going through is critical to understanding the expectant father's experience. After all, if she weren't pregnant, he wouldn't be having the experience at all.)
Chapter 2 starts with the birth of the baby and, in a sense, the birth of the new father. We'll see how the baby's growth and development over the first twelve months-from the blobby stage to those first wobbly steps—parallels the father's own evolution. Well deal with the growth of skills and confidence and changes in attitude toward work, family, and community. We'll also introduce an issue that will come up over and over throughout the book: the difference between expectations of parenthood and reality.
Chapter 3 covers the preschool years, the period from the child's first birthday through the end of his fifth year. As the child grows and moves out into the world, so does the father, as he deals with separation, power struggles, reexamining what it means to be a father, and changing friendships and other relationships. We'll also take a look at the costs incurred in being an involved father and the benefits received by those who make that choice.
Chapter 4 focuses on the school years, from ages six to twelve. As the child becomes more independent and steps into the larger community, the father begins to take a greater interest in making that community—and the world—a better place for his children. We'll talk here about the evolution of father's ethics and spirituality, as well as the growth in their responsibilities, interest in teaching, mentoring, and tolerance of others.
Chapter 5 covers perhaps the toughest stage of parenthood—the adolescent years, ages thirteen through nineteen—which isn't much easier on the kids than it is on the father. Important issues include coping with the child's separation from family, going away to college, divorce, having to give up control in the parent-child relationship, jealousy of the child's (especially a son's) youth and vigor, facing mortality, caring for children and aging parents at the same time, and of course such explosive issues as drugs, sex, driving, and risk-taking.
Chapter 6 deals with a period of time some call "the launching years"—when adult children are from twenty to about thirty-five. Sometimes "emerging adults" move out and start their own lives. Others either stay or come back home, continuing their adolescence for a few more years. The father's role must change from parent to adviser, and he must learn to offer advice, not impose it. He has to think more flexibly and figure out ways to help his adult children when they need it without undermining their independence. At the same time he has to deal with a potential midlife crisis, aging, the empty nest, his changing relationship with his spouse, and the early stages of becoming a grandfather.
Chapter 7 shows that a father's growth and development continues even into his final years. Here, the now-elderly dad reviews his life, looking for confirmation that he's been a good father and a good man, and preparing himself to pass the torch to the next generation. We cover the continually shifting roles and changes between the father and children and his partner, how an adult child's troubles impact parents, dealing with physical decline, the joys and struggles of creating relationships with grandchildren, dealing with the loss of friends and relatives, and even preparing for one's own inevitable death.
All of the chapters have more or less the same organization. Each includes four basic parts:
What's going on with the child. Briefly explains how the child (or fetus) is developing physically, mentally, and emotionally/socially. You need to know this because a lot of how you develop as a father is related to how your child develops—in other words, you adapt your development to his needs.What's going on with you. This is the meat of the chapter and discusses in detail the kinds of change and development you're likely to be experiencing at any specific stage, as well as the concerns you may be dealing with. This section covers emotional, psychological, and, where applicable, physical development. Why be involved? Sadly, too few men—and even fewer women—realize just how important fathers are to their children and their families. We'll talk here about the specific ways being an involved father benefits his children, their mother, the parents relationship, and the father himself. How to stay involved. Now that you know how critical the father's role is, this section includes a short discussion of specific ways you can develop and deepen your relationships with your children. The chapter on grandfatherhood also includes a lot of information on the importance of grandfather-grandchild relationships and how granddads can stay involved. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Father for Life by Armin A. Brott. Copyright © 2003 Armin A. Brott. Excerpted by permission of Abbeville Press.
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