“A man’s home is his castle,” is a sentiment with roots at least as far back as Cicero of ancient Rome. In modern times, the phrase is most often referenced in home defense situations, in which it is necessary and apt, but the idea of a home as a castle and the family head as a monarch has much deeper parallels.
Indeed, families are distinct social and political units. Smaller than a city or, generally, even a neighborhood, they are nonetheless important building blocks of society. As the world has modernized, many social and political family functions have been abdicated to higher levels of organization - to cities, states, and countries - leaving a smaller and less-fulfilling role for fathers (and other family heads).
Fathers are then disengaged (or absent). Children grow up without role models for conducting themselves as anything but subjects of higher order units, ultimately resulting in a hollowing out of civic life.
You can reverse this for yourself and your children by thinking like a King. I am being a little bit tongue-in-cheek (I’m not suggesting you buy an ermine cape or try to raise an army), but only a little. Here’s how:
First and foremost, recognize that you are leading a political unit.
If you are an American, you are - for now - still a member of “the people” and get a say in the process. Think of your family’s interests and represent them in that process: federal AND local. It is not just your privilege, it is your duty.
I often hear things like, “Oh, I don’t worry about things I can’t control, like politics.” This is an excuse. Even Kings have never been able to exercise “control” over events - ask George III, Czar Nicolas, or Caesar Augustus. What Kings have been able to exercise is influence.
You can also exercise influence over policy and events. It may be less influence than a King, Senator, or judge, but it is still more than zero. You will only retain more than zero influence if you value it and exercise it.
Read up on the issues, vote, officiate an election, run for office, write a letter or a blog post. But, above all, be your family’s advocate in the political realm.
Prepare Your Castle
As leader of your unit, you must prepare it for invasions and hard times. You don’t need to be a doomsday prepper to check a few simple boxes. If you are robbed, what will you do until the police arrive? If a water main breaks, can you make baby formula? Do your fire alarms work?
Defense and prepping are both massive subjects by themselves, but if you are going to be King of your castle, they are topics to which you must give at least a bit of thought.
Be a Diplomat
Your family unit will encounter many others. Are you thinking long-term about building and nurturing valuable alliances? Avoiding antagonizing the ones you have?
In your neighborhood and your community, get to know the people around you. It is not uncommon today for people not to know their next-door neighbors, whether in apartments in subdivisions. Can you imagine a King who didn’t the know the name of a bordering country? Laughable. You don’t need to be best friends with everyone on the street, but you should know who they are.
Perhaps even more critically for your own day-to-day happiness, think strategically about the other units you are bound to by blood and marriage. Can you improve your relationship with your father-in-law or mother-in-law? Are there things you can let slip to focus on the bigger picture? You don’t need to be haughty or condescending to recognize that a King need not wade into every minor conflict and act accordingly.
As your children grow up, are you helping them think like Princes and Princesses about it? I don’t mean that you marry your daughter off to the rich guy down the street for a country club invitation, but are they thinking long-term about who their in-laws will be? Are you pushing them to consider getting married before having kids? I have two kids with my wife and - props to people who manage to do it - I can’t imagine doing it alone. Even if they don’t get married first, having children with somebody will form a lifelong intertwinement. Will they be smart about it?
Think About Succession
While we’re on kids, think about the continuity of your family and its regal consciousness. Once you accept the crown of King of your household, think about how to communicate that and pass that “crown” down to your children.
The good news is, this crown is a state of mind. It doesn’t need to be carved up or fought over. But it does need to be cultivated. The larger units of society will not (or can not?) teach this - it will not be on the curriculum at your local public school, no matter what its GreatSchools grade. Your children will not learn it unless you go out of your way to inculcate it.
Consider classics like The Prince, The Federalist Papers, Common Sense, Plato’s Republic, etc. We also sell some books that will help instill this kind of thinking. No books, however, will be better than your own attention and discussion.
As King, you will also be the primary source of justice for your children. You must help them hold accountable those who harm them - whether minor, like a push from a sibling, or something much more severe, like an abusive teacher.
You will have to show them how to do this regally. No King will keep his kingdom acting out rashly at every insult. Control your responses, but you must respond or your children will lose faith in your ability to seek justice for them.
In some cases, you must also provide discipline (e.g. against an errant sibling). Be careful in assessing guilt. Getting it wrong will quickly lead to chaos, as your children will learn innocence is no guarantee of protection.
Remember the Circuses
Finally, good Kings also pay close attention to the morale of their people. Have fun with your family.
Make yourself the keeper of rituals, holidays, and festivals to provide your family - especially your children - with a sense of familiarity and comfort. Explore, learn, and laugh together. A few well-timed Dad Jokes are worth as much for your kids’ spirits as any day in the Coliseum could have been.
Have fun with being “King.” I’ve covered some serious topics here, but the framing is less to encourage throne room ceremony than it is to advocate for men to take pride in the role of a father.
For young men considering fatherhood, yes, you’ll have to carry a few more diaper bags than any Renaissance monarch ever did, but your role will be - must be - bigger. For your sake, your family’s sake, and your country’s sake.