Sonless Fathers

I typically find little interesting or of value with daytime talk shows; particularly of the Jerry Springer, Maury Povich variety. I am still amazed that the “who’s the father?” theme still has appeal.

I’m not sure how many of you remember the Jenny Jones show but it was among the fray of daytime talk shows competing for your attention during the 90s and into the new millennium. I recently saw a video clip of a scene from one of the “boot camp” episodes. Out of control children are brought to the show and a drill sergeant or some other menacing authority figure yells and screams at them; the daytime talk show version of scared straight.

The drill sergeant, up close and pointing his finger directly in the face of the ten-year old boy states, “You’re not an adult til you’re 18. Do you want me to be your daddy for the next 8 years, son?” The child pauses and the drill sergeant grunts, “HUH?” The boy politely responds, “Yes Sir”, leaving the man bewildered and needing a pause. “You do”, he responds. “Why do you want me to be your daddy?” The boy responds, “I have no daddy”, prompting the man to reach down and give the boy a hug.

Whether the scene was staged or not, which some may question, is insignificant. The boys response to the scenario speaks to a reality many boys suffer through silently or expressed through acting out; father loss. Most of us are well aware of the phenomenon of sons growing up without their father. It creates a void in the boy’s life, resentment in the mother’s and anger among the committed and dedicated men who are present and active in their children’s lives. Too little attention is given to these men and they are often the recipients of negative stereotypes despite their parental integrity.

Much attention is given to single-parents, deadbeat dads and fatherless sons; however, little if any attention is given to the lesser known demographic of sonless fathers. I am unclear if any research exists about men without children but I would imagine the numbers are few by comparison.

Personally, I have no children of my own and, considering my age, fatherhood may not be a reality in this lifetime. Other men, though they may enjoy the experience of fatherhood, only have daughters. Obviously there is a special bond between a father and his daughter. The men I know who have daughters speak to this reality.

A unique and special bond also exists between a father and his son. In the world of sonless fathers a sense of loss exists; particularly if it is not a consciously chosen path. A few years ago I recall an acquaintance, in his forties, speaking about making peace with the likelihood that he may never have children. The sense of loss was evident in his words and tone.

In contrast, I recall a man speaking about the joy of having his father and his son in his life. He spoke of how powerful and gratifying it was to exist between those two energies, sourcing the gifts and wisdom of each.

Granted, men are able to biologically father children well into old age as in the example of the oldest man to father a child; the alleged 96-year-old Ramajit Raghav whose second son was born in 2012. His first was born in 2010. Do the math.

Other parental options exists trough adoption, foster care or possibly raising the child of another family member. Some men, particularly those who may have been profoundly wounded as children, consciously choose not to enter into fatherhood fearing they will inflict the same wounds on their own children. It may be a matter of biology preventing other men from experiencing fatherhood. For others, it is a desire that just did not materialize.

I use the term sonless fathers to honor the capacity of any man to “father”. I have been fathered by many throughout my life who played a significant role in my development and maturation. I believe I have served in this capacity as well.


…it is not the same as having your own son to guide, teach, mentor and honor with each developmental milestone; none more significant than the opportunity to bless him as he enters manhood and to see the cycle begin again. The son assumes the role of father and father becomes grandfather.

The drive to procreate rests at the core of our genetic programming and much psychological reward comes from the experience of raising a child. Whether a chosen path or, in much bigger picture of things, fatherhood is just not part of the soul’s work in this lifetime, I suspect all sonless fathers experience their own sadness and grieve the loss of fatherhood in their own way. Making peace comes in many forms, especially trusting that the experiences of human life always serve a higher purpose.

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