While expecting our second child, my wife and I went to the hospital for an orientation to make sure we didn’t try to go to the cardiovascular operating room instead of labor and delivery on the Big Day. The nurses and staff were all wonderful, but one thing really grated on our nerves. Everyone we met kept referring to me as my wife’s “partner.” Each time, I immediately corrected them, “I’m her husband” or “I’m the father.” A partner is not the same thing.
This weekend is Father’s Day. Sadly, many children will not be able to celebrate this day because their fathers are absent, but for those fathers who do the right thing by becoming husbands–preferably before getting their wives with child–and supporting and nuturing their children within the sacred bonds of matrimonial love, shouldn’t we give credit where credit is due? A father is not merely a partner. A father can be a partner to his wife in many beautiful ways, but marriage is so much more than that.
A father is also a role model, a teacher, and a protector for his children. On the other hand, a partner is someone you find at an accounting firm or a medical practice or in fiction. Indeed, whenever I was addressed as a “partner,” I had to keep myself from laughing because I immediately thought of swashbuckling tales of adventure and Wild West shootouts. Literature and television are full of great partners:1. Holmes and Watson 2. Lone Ranger and Tonto 3. Frodo and Sam 4. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza 5. Scrooge and Marley 6. Aubrey and Maturin 7. Batman and Robin 8. Jeeves and Wooster 9. Bert and Ernie 10. Laverne and Shirley
Partners solve crimes and battle against darkness and evil, or maybe they just go bowling. This is all well and good. Indeed, children should learn that in every struggle great and small, it’s best to have someone by your side to help keep the dragons at bay. We can also find wonderful examples of partners in history. Whether in exploration or entertainment, it is often true that two heads are better than one:1. Felicity and Perpetua 2. Lewis and Clark 4. Dr. Johnson and Boswell 5. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday 6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 7. Gilbert and Sullivan 8. Rodgers and Hammerstein 9. Simon and Garfunkel 10. Abbott and Costello
However, in the greatest struggle of all–life–children don’t need their parents to be partners on some metaphorical or–unless they are ranchers–literal cattle drive. Mothers are not composers in search of a librettist and children are not a Broadway production to be rewritten or canceled according to the fashions of the day. Though life is beset with many storms, a father is not a captain in search of a first mate. Fathers should be both superheroes and dutiful servants, but if that is all, there is still something missing. Children also need their fathers to love them and teach them how to love. That’s something a “partner” simply can’t do.