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Men are capable providers and protectors of families. As found in one of our tenets at Big Ocean Women, we believe that “active and engaged fathers make a critical difference in the lives of their children, home, and community.” A new social media trend I’ve been seeing is women showing their husbands as the extra child, shown wandering their house asking when dinner is going to be ready or how to start the laundry. Men are painted to be incompetent and less than women when it comes to family life. Because of this, fathers have been pushed out of mind and out of sight within the home. They have become the forgotten protectors.

But I remember the fathers in my life differently. 

To shine a light on these forgotten protectors of children and families, I want to show how three different fathers in my life used their individual gifts to help their family.

First, the teacher. I remember a piano teacher who, though he didn’t have any children of his own, protected wholesome family values that lit up each of his students’ lives. Every week, I would come home with new songs to memorize, along with a warm slice of white bread. It wasn’t until years later that I realized the true meaning behind his white bread. My piano teacher, German Tchernoivanov, wasn’t the typical elderly piano teacher giving out baked goods at the end of each lesson. I learned he had been a Russian fighter pilot in World War II. He lived through Stalin’s rise to power. He faced starvation, loss, and even imprisonment at the hands of the KGB. For years, he lived on water and brown bread. The scarred, crooked fingers which had guided me through several piano pieces, had been broken during his time in a Siberian gulag. Their attempt to crush his spirit by taking his incredible musical ability didn’t stop him. Instead, he befriended his guards with his infectious joy for life. When he was eventually released, he continued to teach piano and vowed to never eat brown bread again.

I remember my piano teacher, not as a Russian fighter pilot or a political prisoner, but as a man who protected and fostered the light in his students. I remember him for his excitement for life. I remember him for his white bread. Men are teachers.

Now for the doctor. Like many fathers, my own dad is a fixer. He fixes bad days with the best hugs, sprained ankles with strong splints, and ruined homes with all of his tools. He spent sixteen years in medical school to become a professional “fixer.” During this schooling, we lived in New Orleans for a short time. Unfortunately, that short time happened to be when hurricane Katrina hit. My mom recalls that after our evacuation, I spent weeks drawing my yellow bed and princess dolls swimming underwater. As a toddler, I was so worried about our home. I knew we needed someone to fix our house. So my dad, the doctor, went and did what he did best. He fixed up the house.

I remember my dad for his ability to fix, save, and heal anything. He protected my family by providing us with a home. He put up new cabinets, new flooring, and new walls. He picked out our toys from the mud and mold and carefully cleaned each one. Fathers are healers. They fix broken things.

Another “forgotten protector” is my husband. As a new dad, my husband protects our family every day after work. He loves to lighten the mood on hard days by playing tackle football with our little boy. After a particularly stressful week with work, moving across the country, and unexpectedly losing our moving truck, my husband started a game of tackle football. Of course, having been robbed of all our belongings, this game didn’t involve a football. But watching them chase each other around our empty apartment somehow made it feel not so empty anymore. My husband filled our home with laughter. 

He reminded me that even though we had lost everything, we already had everything we needed. He helped us find a way to laugh even when going through something hard. He protected the joy in our home. Men are present and playful fathers.

These men all faced very different, yet difficult things: being a political prisoner, evacuating from a hurricane, and losing everything. And still, they taught children piano, saved ratty children’s toys from a hurricane, and wrestled with a two-year-old in an empty apartment. They protected the light in their family’s lives. Men are not incompetent. They are not the “extra child.” Men are capable and contributing husbands and fathers. 

They are teachers. They are healers. They are playful and hard working. These present providers are protectors of children and families. 

How do you remember the fathers in your life?

Lead photo credit: Elle Kate Art