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Fatherhood: The Ultimate Extreme Sport

  • 2002 15 Jun
Fatherhood: The Ultimate Extreme Sport

 Spend any time watching television and you will see a commercial promoting some soft drink, SUV, or dandruff shampoo product via images of extreme sporting activities. Gusto-filled 20-somethings are seen jumping off cliffs that are scary just to look at with nothing more than shorts, t-shirt and a parachute. Others ride mountain bikes at literal breakneck speeds over rocky terrain or snowboard down vertical mountain faces of virgin snow. The message is clear: these young men are fully engaged and living life to the fullest. They are substantial and connected to the pulse of being alive.

However, these young daredevils only fool themselves, for they have not even approached the envelope of extreme. This vaulted territory is exclusively the domain of the family man. He alone lives life on the edge of what G. K. Chesterton called, “the wildness of domesticity.” The home, he says, “is the one wild place in the world of rules and set tasks.”

French poet Charles Peguy describes the life of the family man the same way:

Family life is the most “engaged” life in the world. There is only one adventurer in the world, as can be seen very clearly in the modern world: the father of a family. Even the most desperate adventurers are nothing compared with him. Everything in the modern world…is organized against that fool, that imprudent, daring fool…against the man who is daring enough to found a family. Everything is against him. Savagely organized against him.

Indeed. But what makes family life so adventurous? Well, the same thing that makes extreme sports so fun to do or watch. The “eat-it” factor is sky high. You know, the reality that the whole pursuit could turn into tragedy at any moment.

Raising a family will give you a far greater rush than anything you see on these commercials. It is scary to try to hold down a job and keep the ever-increasing bills paid up. It is frightening work to develop and protect the little human beings entrusted to your care and nurturing. It is a challenge to grow a marriage because you must hold yourself out, vulnerable and open before another person, day in and day out. The risk is great because you could really get hurt, or you could hurt others. But the payoff is great, like nothing else in life, making family life the greatest paradox of life.

And family life is riddled with paradox. It is intoxicating, yet sobering. Confining, yet freeing. Demanding, yet rewarding. Fulfilling, yet depleting. Dangerous, yet safe. Unsettling, yet comforting.

I am a man fully engaged in the ultimate extreme sport, yet no other life could coax me from it. It is substantial and it is the pulse of being fully alive. It is the kind of adventure we were all created for.

Glenn would like to hear from the men in our audience. How do you view fatherhood? What is the greatest contribution you make to the family? Do you agree with Glenn’s perspective on fatherhood? This response can be very brief—just a sentence or two—or it can be as long as you like. E-mail your responses to

Glenn Stanton is the senior research analyst for marriage studies at Focus on the Family and the author of Why Marriage Matters He is a home-schooling father with five little ones age 7 and under. To see some of Glenn's work, visit