My husband is obsessed with biking. Well, he’s obsessed with a lot of sports but riding and tinkering with bikes is at the top of his list. One afternoon, as I watched him repair his bike, I stared at the wheels and I noticed something. If someone were to take the tire off and then remove the aluminum wheel frame, the wheel wouldn’t work, but the basic components would still be in place. The spokes would still be aligned by the hub at the center. Without the tire and rim, the wheel would look like a perfectly symmetric spider.
As brilliant as I thought my insight was, I caught another. What would happen to the wheel if the tire, wheel and spokes stayed in place but the center hub was removed? The wheel would be unusable because if pressure was put on the rim, the whole structure would collapse. The rim would break, the spokes would be crushed and the wheel would be rendered almost unrecognizable. As long as no pressure was applied to the wheel, it would look like a wheel, but once even the smallest amount of pressure was applied- it would be crushed.
After years of hearing children laugh, cry and joke with their fathers, I have come to see fathers as the hub in their families. You are the center that keeps all other parts in place and when you leave, your family structure can be rendered almost unrecognizable. Many may disagree, believing that mothers are the hubs in the center of the family structure. They can be, when a dad isn’t around, but mothers have their hands full holding the children together, keeping harmony in the family and making the machinery of the family structure run smoothly. But ask a child who lives with a dad and you will hear him/her say that when it comes to the one who is tough enough to keep the whole family together, they will tell you it is their dad.
We have come to champion mothers to the point where we expect them to be all things to the family. This is not only unfair, it is wrong. Mothers can’t be what fathers can be and vice versa. We play an equally important part in the structure of the family but it is very different. Where we comfort, fathers challenge. Where we make excuses for a child’s behavior, dads allow none. Mothers comfort and give passes to children because many of us are by nature a bit gentler and more empathetic. You fathers, on the other hand, see the world (and hence children) a bit more pragmatically and this makes life more clear for children. They know what you expect, what you believe and what you want – especially when it comes to them.
Every child is born with an intuitive sense that you, dad, are the steely center in his life. He wants you to be the one who holds the whole of family life together. He wants you to be the glue, the one who refuses to let life collapse for him or the rest of the family.
So here’s my question for you. Are you willing to be the steely hub of your family for the sake of your children? This is no task for wimps. As you reflect on your value and position in the family, I implore you to take this to heart. Many of you have you been buffaloed into believing that your children need their mother more than they need you and that your job is to show up, pay the bills and stay out of everyone’s way. Don’t believe these. Just ask your kids. They know what they want and hope for you to be and it is nothing short of heroic.