ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

FATHERHOOD, PLEETHORICALLY SPEAKING

There is playful discussion in the extended Walker family these days on the subject of fatherhood.

This is not a metaphysical discussion.  We are not pondering the various roles, relationships and responsibilities of fathers.  Nor are we considering the theological implications of fatherhood as a way of understanding God and His divine interactions with His children.

No, this discussion is purely physical, and not especially godly.  It’s about, for lack of a better word, manhood.

And all of the folly that word implies.

The conversation started when Cousin Daniel started boasting in the family newsletter about how “manly” he must be because his sweet (and extraordinarily patient) wife Stephanie is expecting their fourth child – and fourth son.  Said Daniel: “Some of us are cursed with masculinity to the point that we are incapable of producing female offspring.”

This was unsettling to Cousin Jeff, who, with the considerable help of his wife, Karen, has sired five sons.  “Before the younger members of the family pound their own chests with such verbiage I would ask that they remember those who truly merit such a claim,” wrote Jeff, who went on to humbly cite himself as an example of the truly worthy, along with brother Bob, cousin Ron and Uncle Sandy, all of whom are fathers to twin sons.

“To produce two sons at once,” Bob has said often, “surely this is the ultimate manifestation of manhood, pleethorically speaking.” (Don’t bother looking up the word “pleethorically.”  You won’t find it in your dictionary.  It’s a word Bob has coined to mean . . . well, just about anything he wants it to mean.  And in this case it has something to do with manhood and the reproduction thereof – or something like that).

None of which was intended to infer that having sons is somehow better than having daughters.  Just that it is somehow more . . . you know . . . manly.

The very idea of which my son, Joe, found to be positively Neanderthal.

“Men are, by their very nature, simple creatures – physically, mentally, emotionally,” Joe said.  “For a man to participate in the creation of another man is little more than going to the genetic copy machine.  You’re re-making yourself.  Big deal.  It’s like tracing a copy of the Mona Lisa and calling it art.  How much more amazing is it if a male participates in the creation of something completely different than himself, and infinitely more complex: a female.”

Uh, you should probably be aware that Joe’s wife, Jen, is due to give birth to their third child – and third daughter – at any moment.

For myself, I happen to think there is much to be said for those who have the genetic dexterity to create both male AND female offspring.  I mentioned this to my wife, Anita, who suggested that I could take full credit for the creation of our five children – three girls and two boys, thank you very much – as soon as I could remind her of exactly where in my body I had carried the babies during my respective pregnancies.

And where they had . . . you know . . . come out.

Of course, all of this angst over the placement of a single, simple “y” chromosome has little to do with manhood one way or the other.  Nor does it have anything to do with fatherhood, when it comes right down to it.  For fatherhood isn’t about biology or chemistry or physiology or even genetics.  Fatherhood is about love, pure and simple.  Loving enough to teach.  Loving enough to play.  Loving enough to care.  Loving enough to just be there.

Pleethorically speaking, or otherwise.

-- © Joseph Walker

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