A friend came to visit with her five-year-old girl. The child ran around peeking into every nook and cranny; she even fell flat on her stomach to look under the beds. We watched her actions with benevolent smiles waiting to hear the outcome of her explorations, because it was clear she had a purpose in mind. Finally she planted herself squarely in front of me and asked, “Auntie, where is your father?” Which question I correctly interpreted to mean, “Where is your husband?” I told her he was at work. “But today is Saturday!” True, and sometimes men go to their lab at weekends. Actually my “father” was engaged in an experiment he conducted together with her dad; we planned a family dinner for whenever the men came back. The question was important in that it showed me that even a young child knew the basic family structure and its role in daily life. There should be two parents if possible. Naturally a modern working woman can raise a child all by herself. Come to think of it, so can a modern working man. But nobody has changed the fact that it takes two adults to make one little human, and so it is probably better if the baby grows up with two parents. A wise man said about a hundred years ago, “If you are going to have a child and do nothing for them, at least warn the society what an injustice, what a calamity you may be inflicting on it by your thoughtlessness!” I asked my little visitor why the father was so important in her life. She stared at me as if I said something odd or stupid, then explained politely, “He is big and strong, and he protects me and Mom!” Further conversation revealed that fathers can also repair and move things, then can carry heavy stuff and open “inopenable” pickle and jam jars. They can play games and read books aloud; they can help one hide from scary things. They can go places with you and best of all, they can laugh with you!
Amazing, isn’t it? My father-in-law used to say musingly that he loved talking or simply listening to toddlers because though they did not always know all the words they repeated after adults they were great philosophers. They can also talk non-stop because after all coherent speech is a newly acquired skill which they are eager to demonstrate. When our men came for dinner, very tired but happy with the obtained results, they washed up and ate up everything we cooked. Then they spontaneously got up, never ending their discussion (which was rather above my head), stepped to the kitchen sink as one, laughed briefly, quickly sorted out who was to wash and who was to dry cups and plates, and did the dishes really fast. The little girl observed them for a few minutes, then joined us women in the living-room. “You know, your father is not half-bad”, she informed me kindly. “He can do the chores as well as mine – well, almost”.