In "The UnGuide to Dating," a he said/she said look at adult dating relationships, authors Camerin Courtney and Todd Hertz discuss singles and the biological clock:  guys who are ready to get married and start a family and gals who perhaps are not. ...

The Parent Trap

Todd:  The high school youth group boys I work with invented their own game when they got bored with less violent games like broom hockey, tackle football, and boxing. Fumble Rumble is a simple game with two rules: (1) someone holds on to an object (usually a ball, but in moments of ingenuity, the boys have used shoes, hats, and, one time, a freshman) and (2) everyone accosts that person.

One Sunday afternoon – just moments after being on the bottom of a Fumble Rumble pile and only a half hour before offering a sincere prayer for the Chicago Bears – a sophomore named Paul opened up to his small group when asked what he most wanted from life. “I want to raise a family,” Paul said.

Like Paul, many men have an innate desire to be a dad – usually hidden deep down under a tough-guy image, Simpsons’ quotes, and baseball stats. Granted, the desire is greater in some men than in others. Starting as early as preschool, I’ve daydreamed far more about being a dad than driving a race car, pitching in game seven of the World Series, or going on a date with Jennifer Garner.

Even though men can have a strong paternal urge, we’re often overlooked in cultural discussions about parental longings. You can just look at all the sitcoms and movies where dads are portrayed simply as dolts who hand out allowances and watch television, and know a guy’s desire for and joy in being a dad isn’t given enough credit in our culture. Let’s be honest. Cuddling a baby isn’t considered manly. But I’m not totally blaming culture. Instead, I think guys’ parental longings are probably less realized because, well, we aren’t the best at relating our feelings (surprise!). Because we seldom talk about it, I sometimes feel like I belong in a support group, shyly announcing, “Hello, my name is Todd, and I want to be a dad.”

One day after church, my friend Laura was holding her baby, Natalie. I said, “I’ll hold her a minute if you want to go get a drink.”

“No, I’m fine,” Laura said.


“Yeah ...” Laura said, somewhat perplexed.

I wasn’t sure what to do at this point. I really wanted to hold Natalie. I couldn’t even understand exactly why. But I didn’t feel like it was kosher to just come out and admit it. On the other hand, our mutual friend Jen, who’s also single, is so blatant about her desire to hold Natalie that Laura often passes the baby over like a baton as soon as Jen walks into the room. It’s OK for Jen to admit she longs for a child. But for guys, that desire doesn’t feel as publicly acceptable. I feel like I have to go watch a couple of '80s Schwarzenegger movies after holding an infant to regain an appropriate testosterone level.

But that day in church, I told Laura, “Um, could you act like I’m helping you? I just want to hold a baby.”

OK, so I like holding babies. And I want to be someone’s dad. But is my desire to be a parent as strong as the desire women feel? I don’t know. I won’t argue it is. But I do think it’s a God-given desire, an extension of my personality type, and a male need to provide for, protect, and shape another person. I also know what I feel isn’t just a feeling of “Boy, that’d be nice!” – it’s a long-time longing. And as I get older, I worry more and more it won’t happen. Sure, I don’t have the biological timetable women do, but I also fear becoming a first-time dad late in life. My friend’s dad was nearly sixty when Gene, an only child, was born. Gene’s dad lived late into life, but that still meant Gene was only in his mid-twenties when he had to bury his dad.