An Evolutionarily Charged “Happy Father’s Day” to the One and Only Big Larry!

So I’m busy – too busy – and every now and again something important gets right by me – I’ll admit it! Usually for Father’s Day, I’ll call my dad – typically get him a card ahead of time – and sometimes treat him to brunch or such. This year, he got a post-Father’s Day email from me – promising something more. I’ve had no time in my schedule to follow up with so much as a phone call. I’m REALLY thinking Harry Chapin here …

Then it hit me – one thing I make time for is my blog – Building Darwin’s Bridges. It’s just a great way for me to put my two cents – on pretty much anything – out there. Make some connection to evolution, and it’s all good. Not sure how others feel, but I love my blog and at the very least, it’s a great resource for me to put some ideas related to my work out there and to get some (usually) good and useful feedback.  How about a Father’s Day blog for my dad?

Your perceptions of your parents change with age. The same person to a 3-year old may be someone altogether different to a 42-year-old. My Dad has always been a hard-working, smart, and practical man. A math major in college and an engineer by trade during his career, he’s pretty no-nonsense. In fact, in a lot of ways he’s responsible for my strong interest in evolution. When you’re told by the age of three that God, Santa, and the Easter Bunny are all social constructions designed for political purposes, what have you got left? Evolution. I think that’s really about it for kids who grow up in hyper-secularist households!

Well, you know, that all’s been fine for my development – so I grew up with a different belief system than everyone else – at least mine was scientifically grounded. This all was very much an influence of my dad.

My mom and dad left each other when my brothers and I were pretty young. For several years of that, the three of us lived with my dad. At my age now, I can totally see that as an inherently challenging thing as a parent. At the time, we couldn’t see it.

Were men even meant to parent? You know, in the evolutionary literature, this is a pretty hot topic. And certainly fathering in lots of non-human species is down pretty close to zero (see Trivers, 1972).  We’re often told that “females are the investing sex” – and a look at who does what in the domain of parenting really does speak to this trend as relatively common across human societies and cultural groups (see Buss, 2005).

So in having three boys at home – teenagers, no less, Big Larry had quite a bit on his hands. And was he perfect? Probably not – but, man alive, looking at his situation, perfect would be a ridiculous thing to strive for!  I think shooting for just “good” would be comparable to “amazing.” And he was amazing at this role. He worked very full-time and, beyond that, made sure we all had what we needed to function – and maybe even thrive!

And it worked. I’m now a professor; my “little brother” Adam is an elementary school principal; my “big brother” Seth is a high school teacher. We all have great wives and great families. We all live in beautiful houses in wonderful places. And we all owe Big Larry more than we can ever imagine for helping us set up for such successful and happy lives.

From an evolutionary standpoint, Big Larry didn’t have to spend so much time raising three teenage boys. He could have dumped us. He could have left. He could have re-married to have someone else do the hard work. But he didn’t go that route. Not a quitter is he. In fact, armed with the perspective of a 42-year-old guy, I can see that Big Larry was (and still is) a super-dad. Loyal, responsible, and there. He maybe wouldn’t love what you’ve done, but he’d be there when you got home and he’d talk with you about things – always giving his two cents – always giving you advice to help you improve.

In our family, my dad started a trend of high-investing fathers. Both my brothers (Adam and Seth) and myself are high-investing dads. Diapers? No problem. Clothes, laundry, babyfood, baths – we can do it. And yeah, we’ll watch Dora and Spongebob over and over and over. We learned from Big Larry – we learned that in spite of cultural stereotypes, Dads can be great parents. And I’m lucky to say that my dad is awesome.

Thanks, Dad, for everything – and let’s catch a ballgame together this summer! (and no, I am NOT just saying that!).

Love you, Dad – Happy Father’s Day 2012!

 

References:

Buss, D.M., “The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology”. Wiley, 2005

Trivers, R. L. (1972) Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.) Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871-1971 (pp 136–179). Chicago, Aldine.

Glenn Geher

About Glenn Geher

Glenn Geher is professor and chair of psychology at the State University of New York at New Paltz. In addition to teaching courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and conducting research in various areas related to evolutionary psychology, Glenn directs the campus’ EvoS program, one of the most successful, noteworthy, and vibrant features of a campus that prides itself (rightfully) on academic vibrance. In Building Darwin’s Bridges, Glenn addresses the details of New Paltz’s EvoS program as well as issues tied to the future of evolutionary studies in the rocky and often unpredictable landscape of higher education.
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