My book, Fatherhood: In Pieces, draws on thirty-five individual interviews with fathers of all stripes. One of our discussion topics focused on the roles that good dads play in the lives of their families. Most of the fathers mentioned being a “provider” and “protector” on their list of critical roles. One father answered, “Providing a refuge in a storm.” Dads, he said, should provide a steadying influence, a safe haven, a respite from the turmoil that can buffet any family member day to day.
I recalled this discussion while seeing the news coverage of the recent Texas and Florida storms that have turned so many lives upside down. It has been interesting to watch the coordination of roles played by federal, state and local authorities. Most commentators seemed to praise the three levels of government and their ability to work together. Also praised were the numerous examples of neighbor helping neighbor, and guys with boats and volunteers from across the country forming a flotilla of small rescue vessels that delivered boatload after boatload of strangers to safety.
Perhaps less attention grabbing but critically important were the everyday Moms and Dads who were busy stocking up, taking precautions, planning for the worst, battening down the hatches, loading the kids and pets in the family car, and heading off in search of a shelter or higher elevation. Many families stayed behind, and as the sun reemerges and the flood waters recede, I’ll bet there are kids today telling stories of how their dads carried them through waste deep water to higher ground, or hauled them up to the roof tops of their flooded homes, or made multiple trips pulling the family, the old lady next door, and the neighbor’s cat down the block on his duck boat or kayak.
Tragedy and devastation tend to peel away the nonsense and pettiness in which we can wallow; they remind us of what is important in life. For dads, being a provider and a protector are two of the essentials. So is providing a refuge in a storm, be it a Category 4 or the trials of kids growing up and making their way in a turbulent world.