As the father of an adult daughter and son, plus the grandfather of four knuckle-head boys, I’ve learned some things about love.
In all the hours logged as Dad and Poppy, I’ve often contemplated how different are the roles of mother and father, especially in the overt demonstration of parental love. And it’s interesting how the manifestation of this love differs between mother and father, biologically, emotionally and experientially.
In truth, a mother’s love, at once sweet and fierce, is observed in almost all animals, not just humans. There’s a metaphor you may have heard used when something is ” … as sweet as a mother’s love.” I have been the recipient of this kind of love and have witnessed it, and there truly is no other force in nature like it. But it has troubled me that there is no corresponding metaphor for a father’s love. Perhaps this is why Father’s Day is not quite as big a deal as Mother’s Day. I’m just saying …
A human father’s love is more often associated with words that are unfortunate, like “tough” and “discipline.” As a teenager, my own father sometimes apologized to me when he thought his demonstration of “love” might seem “hard-boiled.” Interestingly, unlike a mother’s sweet love, a father’s tough love, as we know it in humans, does not exist outside of homo sapiens.
Mothers occupy the pinnacle of parental love with justification. And not to take anything away from them, but mothers don’t have to work too hard to deliver their sweet love; it’s as primal as the miracle of life. But there’s a uniqueness about a human father’s love that deserves a better rap. Here’s why:
When a father’s parental toughness is required, especially when applied to an indignant recipient (read: teenager), it requires a love that has found the courage to endure a negative response and a willingness to defer gratification, sometimes for years.
So, mothers, forgive any paternal bias you may detect, but here is the conclusion I’ve come to about parental love: The only thing in the universe that comes close to a mother’s sweet love is a father’s tough love. But the latter is the harder job, and the return-on-investment almost always takes longer.