Lopez: Does father know best?
Stanton: Yes. Always. Next question.
No, but a good dad admits when he is wrong and asks forgiveness. This is so important for both sons and daughters to see, this kind of strong humility.
Lopez: What is balancing grace and discipline for a dad?
Stanton: Dads are the ones who tend to see life in black and white. Kids need to learn that black and white exist. Neither the IRS agent nor the policeman writing you a ticket cares at all about your feelings on why you couldn’t pay your taxes or were driving too fast. Dads help kids understand the buck has to stop somewhere. But as Christians know, the story of the Prodigal Son is really the story of the Gracious Father. Kids need dad’s black-and-white view on the world, but they also need his grace.
And much of that comes down to picking your battles and knowing which situation deserves which and where your child is. Maybe teaching the lesson about right and wrong can happen next time. Or maybe your child needs this time to be the final straw. You need to be able to read your child with the help of his or her mother and make the right call. But not even the best dads get it right all the time.
Lopez: We talk a lot about women balancing work and family, but what about men? How do you do it successfully?
Stanton: Men absolutely need to do this. In writing about this in the book, I recall a funny scene from 30 Rock where Jack Donaghy thinks he’s dying from heart failure, but he’s merely stressed from his mother’s visit. Laying in the hospital bed, he tells Liz Lemon he has so many regrets, like “Why didn’t I spend more time at the office?” We know that the gold in our life will be the quality time we spent with our loved ones, primarily our own children. And children intuitively get that where adults spend their time, there their treasure is also.
Lopez: What has been your most important lesson as a father?
Stanton: To be honest, learning that my grace toward my children is more important than my instruction to them. I want to be a manly father to my children, but I want to do that in a gentle way. I spoke earlier about seeing good male role models on television and in movies. I grew in the age where I thought Andy Griffith and John Walton were amazing examples of good men and fathers. Not girly-men to be sure, but unapologetically manly and gentle. That is what I want to be to my children.
Lopez: What is the most important contribution your book makes?
Stanton: What I am most excited about in Secure Daughters, Confident Sons — and readers’ reviews thankfully confirm this — is the way I explore what authentic masculinity and femininity are for our boys and girls without resorting to tired stereotypes. I felt when I was formulating the book in my mind that if these two ways of being human matter — and I propose they do very much — we must talk about them meaningfully without resorting to the stereotypes that actually describe very few really good men and women. It is important, as well, that I show how gender certainly is not a social construct, because the most sophisticated science ever done is showing in grand scale how culturally universal these manly and womanly ways of doing many things really are. Androgyny is not naturally occurring anywhere in the world in any significant way. It is the social construct if ever there was one.
Lopez: Is this book a book for a middle class in crisis?
Stanton: Not to sound apocalyptic, but I think it is a book for humanity in crisis. Because to be human is to be gendered. And we are less sure at this point in time about what it means to be a good man or a good woman than at any point in human experience. We must correct this, and I try to make a small contribution to that in this book by helping both cultural leaders and parents grab a better, more balanced — and research-based — understanding of how we make the next generation of good men and women out of the boys and girls of today. That task is not optional.
Lopez: What’s Father’s Day for a man who is not a father?
Stanton: We are made to want to pass on our life into the future through the next generation, so I think it is really both a day of hope in the future or regret of the past, given the age and life circumstance of the man. I hope it is more of a day of hope.