We, as (civilized) humans, often have to control our greater primal urges.
Don’t smack the idiot rudely talking on his phone while checking out at the grocery. Allow that reckless speed demon to pass you on the freeway, even though he refuses to use a turn signal. Order the salad.
Sometimes, however, natural impulses kick in for the better. Many parents attest that when your child is born, some instincts just kick in. In nature, this is seen all the time. Females are generally the primary caregivers to their offspring, but there are plenty of species whose fathers don’t just hit it and quit it. Similarly, in the human world, any fertile male can become a father when the moment’s right — he doesn’t have to carry the fetus, change his lifestyle or give birth (lucky bastard) — but it takes a special guy to be a dad, or a dad-figure, like an uncle, a grandpa, a godfather. Like paternal child-rearing species, human dads are more hands-on than ever, and it seems they’re looking to the animal world for parenting techniques.
The Seahorse Daddy
Female seahorses transfer their fertilized eggs to a pouch on the father’s stomachs, where the baby seahorses develop until they are ready to be released. Thus, seahorse dads look “pregnant” and quite literally carry and expel their children — up to 1,500 at a time.
In humans, The Seahorse Daddy is very in tune with his partner’s pregnancy, to the point where he feels sympathy pains and may even experience weight gain. He is the first to volunteer in Lamaze class and can often be found eating ice cream out of the container thanks to those pesky midnight cravings. Once the baby is born, you better believe he rocks the Baby Bjorn.
The Penguin Papa
When emperor penguins lay their single eggs, the mothers set off to hunt for several weeks while the fathers stay back to protect the un-hatched babies and keep them warm from the frigid temperatures. The males stick together in groups and rarely move, as their eggs must balance on their feet and never touch the snow. When the eggs hatch and the mothers return, the males head to the water to eat, often for the first time in months.
As gender roles and family dynamics continue to be redefined in the human world, stay-at-home dads are more prevalent and thus, so are “daddy groups.” Penguin Papas can be found in their tight-knit groups at parks, museums and PTA meetings. Much like their animal counterparts, when their fatherly duties are temporarily relinquished, you can often find them at a nearby watering hole.
The Red Fox Father
Red foxes are great co-parents. The female stays in the den, feeding her pups, or “kits,” and keeping them warm while the male hunts and returns with food around the clock.
Males are loving and playful around their babies until it gets time for them to learn to fend for themselves. Father foxes stop bringing back food for their young and begin burying bits of food nearby to teach the little ones how to fend for themselves
If Ron Swanson was a dad, he’d be a Red Fox Father. Tough love all the way. These dads will have their kids doing their own chores by age 3, cooking by 5 and, naturally, hunting by 7. They push their children to succeed at school, sports and anything else they set out to achieve. No coddling here, but these dads do believe that if you work hard, you should play hard. Find these fathers coaching little league and, subsequently, getting banned from little league.
The Old Man Jacana
Jacanas are tropical birds with very loyal, domestic fathers. The males take care of nesting, incubating and raising the chicks.
Females are known to go off, migrate and mate with other males and the father will stay with the young — even offspring that are not his own.
Old Man Jacana is your typical Mr. Mom. He’s great with the kids, has an eye for interior design and likes to keep a clean home. Traditional gender roles mean nada to this guy. He might be a single parent or a stepdad to his wife’s children — either way, he’s got straight women and gay men a-swoonin’.
And, of course, the best one of all: mine. Love you, PK.
CONTACT JAC KERN: [email protected]or @jackern