The idea in a nutshell

  • The job of a father might be to create a self sustaining child who can cope with the difficulties which come in life by creating in them a belief that ‘the child is enough’
  • In the ‘old days’ young men were given challenges by the men of their group. For example ‘go over there and don’t come back until you’ve killed a bear.’
  • By undertaking these tasks, boys became men and, when they face adversity later in life they knew that they had mettle they could rely on.
  • This idea pops up everywhere, including in films.

Pub conversations and being a dad

I am very lucky to have good friends, with whom I often get to sit down with at the pub and talk about Matters Of The Day. These friends challenge me and often make me think differently. If you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, I’ll be making them worse, while they make me better.

Just the other day I was with one friend talking about some of the challenges of life, including being a father. We were considering what made a good dad. I’ve been spending some time with another friend who has a couple of boys. Simply being around means you’re influencing them as they grow.

The question of what it means to be a good father

I watched this for no better reason that Google told me to.

The subject is about raising boys. I actually think it might have been all about raising boys in the old days but now, the lesson in it applies to both (perhaps I should say ‘all’) genders. In the video, Jung says the role of the father is to separate the child from the mother and prepare them for an independent life.

What I took from the video was that mums were kind, loving and supportive. For some people, Mum is the safe place to go when someone wants to cry, eat or complain. Everyone would like to have a kind mum.

Go over there and kill a bear

On the other hand, the job of the father (according to this video) is to counter some of that nurturing instinct. Ultimately, says Jung, the goal of the father is to make the child independent.

Fathers used to do this by sending the kid out to kill a bear. Obviously, that’s risky. But it occurred to me that the fact is, the world contains bears. You’d best be able to kill them if you want to live competently in reality. Your dad isn’t going to be around all the time. When he dies, he needs to be sure that his progeny can kill bears – or they won’t live long in his absence.

What is a bear?

I think in the old days, a bear was a bear. Or an army. Something physical which might kill you.

These days, I think bears are different. The core of it all seemed to me to be that bears represent risk to the individual or what the individual considers important. (Things can’t be at risk unless they are important to the individual) So, these days, a bear could be heartbreak when you’re young, or bankruptcy, or perhaps divorce when you’re older.

In essence, I think the job of a father is to teach self-reliance to kids – that they can overcome any of the obstacles that life will inevitably throw at them.

What is ‘Truth’?

Not sure if you’ve bumped in to him but I’ve watched a few Jordan Peterson YouTube videos too. He has influenced my thinking in a couple of ways. The one which is relevant here is that he says that the stories we tell each other are meaningful. Their components can be True, in the sense that they appear broadly through the fabric of life and mean more than we think they do. These stories come in many forms. They’re fairy tales. They’re books like Hamlet and poems like Odyssey. But they can also be told through more contemporary media. Films, for example, are an exemplar of the stories we tell each other.

As a result, having watched the video above, I thought about films which started with the child being separated from the mother.

If this idea (‘Men separate the child from the mother and teach them to kill bears’) is True,

AND IF, as Jordan Petersen says Truth is everywhere and in the stories we tell,
THEN wouldn’t this idea be everywhere, especially in films and perhaps disproportionately in films
for kids?

The answer, I was surprised to find, was ‘Yes.’ Here’s what I found. I’ll start with the end and work backwards. I think, based on films, that the job of a father is essentially to impart self-reliance:

  • Get the kid away from the mother.
  • Help them understand that the world includes ‘bears.’ (Risks to the things they value.)
  • Support the job/role/task the child picks for themselves – in a world containing ‘bears’.
  • Critically, when things get tough, tell the kid ‘you are enough to deal with this.’ (Impart self reliance.)

Remember, you can hear the voice of the father from people who are not the father.

I had a think about some stories I’d heard which included these topic. The examples I’ve used were not hard to find. The criteria for selection were specific – films which began with a child being separated from its mother. I noticed that some of them followed a consistent flow and contained common elements.

I have provided the examples in the next blog article.