Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers' Day!

When I started seriously studying Child Development as a graduate student in 1969, the emphasis in the field was on the role that mothers play in fostering healthy development, and it had been that way every since Freud began in the early 1900s blaming them for everything wrong with children. This total focus on mothers finally began to change in the 1970s, as woman began to spread their wings and shout “Hey! We’re only one side of the parenting equation. It’s about time dads began stepping up to the plate too!”

As a result, the science began to change, in part by documenting the ways that dads contribute uniquely to the welfare of children. We learned that dads play in more “rough and tumble” ways than moms, that they tend to allow children to be more adventuresome, and that fathers teach boys about manhood and teach girls, in the best case scenarios, that the world can be their oyster, too. On the other hand, we also learned that “nurturing” can be done as much by dads as moms—and, thankfully, many of today’s modern dads take this lesson to heart.

That’s certainly true of the young dad in this photo—my step-son, Jim—who is holding one of his premature twin babies. You couldn’t ask for a more dedicated and “hands-on” dad, in the trenches every day.

The other fellow in the photo is the proud grandpa of the twins as well as my husband, Larry. While he may have started out as the more traditional, old-fashioned father, I’m pleased to say that he has met the challenge of expanding his vision of fatherhood and is enormously proud of the way Jim is “stepping up to the plate.”

Well before the birth of the twins, however, Larry had turned the corner. In every way he could think of, he did his darnedest to be there for Jim, not only instilling in his son compassion, courage, and integrity, but also providing him with whatever emotional support he could. As a result, the two of them have one of the closest, most emotionally rich and mutually satisfying father-son relationships I have ever seen.

So, on this Father’s Day, I want to say “Bravo” to two fathers who symbolize the best that fathers can be. Let’s hope both twins—Olivia as well as Nathan—grow up to understand that it’s love and sacrifice rather than gender that matters when it comes to raising healthy and happy children.

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, PhD.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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