Fatherhood is learning to let go

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3 min readJun 14, 2024

👔 Over 111 countries celebrate a version of Father’s Day, most of them on the third Sunday in June. It’s been an official holiday in the U.S only since 1972, when President Nixon signed it into law.
Issue #98: treating “get-there-itis”, the impact of modern life on our bodies, and absurdism as practical life advice
Scott Lamb

I’ve been a father for eight years, and yet strangely I feel I understand less about fatherhood now than I did before having kids. The concept of “dad” is deceptively simple, both a relationship and an identity, but once you start prodding at it, there’s so much depth there. How do we gain a deeper understanding of what fatherhood is?

This was on my mind reading Steve Majors’ recent essay in Human Parts, “Fathers’ Day: Celebrating the Straight Man who Made Me a Gay Dad.” Majors writes about his adopted daughter’s birth father — take a second to unpack that — and how he dealt with the incredibly complex dynamic of their relationship. Majors touches on what is, to many, a foundational part of being a father: learning to let go.

Two other recent Medium stories struck me recently, both of them notes from fathers to their newborns. Writer Aditya Lotia captures the strange, fierce attachment that fresh fatherhood brings, writing: “My definition of love has changed since this tiny little human started living with us.” And Ernie Jolly tries to include all the history, heartbreak, and hope of his family’s history in a letter to his newborn son. Fatherhood is, in part, about connection and love.

But there are also many other complex flavors of fatherhood. Dana DuBois’ moving story, “Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to My Stepfather, the Felon,” asks the question: What do you do when a parental pillar crumbles? “Someone I implicitly loved and trusted betrayed that trust, all his multitudes notwithstanding,” she writes. “Unlike his victims, I won’t get restitution from him. What’s lost is lost. Instead, I find it within myself. I hold onto the good I had with him, and I chose to believe it was real.”

But there’s a central piece of fatherhood — or all parenthood, really — that is hard and sad but true. It’s a job that, if done well, requires you to step out of the picture at some point, echoing Majors’ point. Will Leitch summed that up in “The Best Way to Raise Kids is Watch Yourself Recede” with a sentence that will be sitting with me for a long, long time: “We have to fade from the story so they can author their own.”

What else we’re reading

  • “Get-there-itis” is another name for plan continuation bias: “a dangerous mindset where pilots stick to their original plan despite new information indicating a need for change.” The term comes from aviation but it’s applicable to making plans in design, and really any area of life. It’s a treatable disease, says UX writer Rita Kind-Envy, but requires courageous confrontation, as well as “going back, stopping, and pausing — actions that are unthinkable in many high-load environments.”
  • Modern life is changing our bodies. I’m fascinated by the concept that “near work” — time spent focusing on things within an arm’s reach of our eyes, like, say, your phone — is driving humanity to record levels of near-sightedness. And it’s not just our vision that’s changing; the story “How the Modern World Changed Your Body” looks at how our jaws, height, weight, and other physical traits have been subtly but steadily changing in the modern era.

Your daily dose of practical wisdom: dealing with (gestures broadly) it all

Absurdism offers some surprisingly useful advice about handling the ups and downs of life: When things get hard, embrace freedom, find meaning in the chaos, and cultivate resilience.

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Edited and produced by Harris Sockel & Carly Gillis

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