Aspiring to Be Good Fathers: The Dreams of Boys

Fathers and sons
Fathers should teach their sons to share more than experiences.

Boys look up to the father figures in their lives, whether they are their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or mentors. These relationships lay the groundwork for their understanding of what it means to be a father. As they grow and develop, many boys dream of becoming fathers themselves, aspiring to embody the qualities they admire in the men they look up to. The aspiration to be a good father is rooted in a deep desire to nurture, protect, and guide the next generation, and it reflects a commitment to family and community.

As boys watch and learn from these men, they learn about responsibility, sacrifice, and the importance of family. When boys see their fathers working hard, showing kindness, and gracefully handling challenges, they internalize these behaviors and seek to replicate them. This modeling creates a cycle of positive fatherhood that spans generations.

Fathers, in turn, are wise to seek support from their peers and parents. The joy of parenting is not without challenges, more easily borne with the counsel of close friends and father figures. I find greater rapport in these situations sharing a cup of tea instead of a mug of beer. Regardless of libation, spending time together and engaging fearlessly in emotional exchange is critical to these conversations.

A reluctance to acknowledge and accept vulnerability when sharing is pervasive at all ages. Researchers report that social circles are contracting among teenage boys and young men.

In an essay published in the New York Times, Ruth Whippman writes that over a quarter of men under 30 say they have no close friends. “Teenage boys now spend two hours less a week socializing than girls and spend about seven hours more per week than their female peers on screens. They found it almost impossible to talk to their male peers about anything intimate or express vulnerability,” she writes. In researching a book on the loneliness experienced by boys, she writes that one teenager described his social circle, a group of boys who had been best friends since kindergarten, as a “very unsupportive support system.”

In contemporary society, the concept of fatherhood is evolving, and boys today have a broader understanding of what it means to be a father. They see examples of stay-at-home dads, single fathers, and co-parenting arrangements that defy traditional gender roles. This expanded view of fatherhood allows boys to envision themselves in diverse roles, balancing work and family responsibilities and actively participating in all aspects of their children’s lives. This shift promotes a healthier, more flexible approach to parenting, where emotional intelligence and equality are highly valued.

Fatherhood is not just about being there physically but also about being emotionally present and engaged. Boys are motivated to create and sustain meaningful relationships when they witness this healthy behavior in their fathers. The bond between a father and his children is unique and profound. Sons should understand they are a source of joy, pride, and fulfillment, not simply for excelling in sports or public performances that bestow their dads with bragging rights.

Aspiring to be a good father means wanting to experience these deep connections and play a central role in their children’s emotional and moral development. Boys who dream of fatherhood envision themselves providing the same love, guidance, and support they received.

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