I suppose I should consider starting a whole blog that is devoted to fatherhood, especially these days. The war on and for our kids is nothing short of an epidemic. We are raising wimps, are ditching our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents’ ways of raising children because we feel we know more, have a better way, and are apparently smarter. From the way we eat to the way we discipline, the blogosphere and book shelves are loaded with parenting how-tos that my grandfather’s wouldn’t recognize.
The war against men is probably where the front lines honestly are being fought. From movies, to video games, and from kindergarten through high school, our society (especially in the US) is doing everything it can to strip the masculinity right out of our boys’ bodies and souls. I have met parents who are convinced their child has come out of the womb with allergies and other food intolerances. There has been a movement away from discipline, instead allowing the doctor or child therapist to diagnose some disorder or behavior challenge that may or may not require medicine or a change in diet. Are you kidding? When did we become so pathetic? When did “wait until your dad get’s home from work” become uncool, even intolerant to say? I had uncles who were required to straighten out buckets of used nails from my granddad as punishment for fighting with each other. They were sent outside to wrestle, to play, to be rough and tough, and to test their “manhood.” Today, that would be looked at as a blatant encouragement towards violence. How many parents do we know now where mom is in charge of not only the check book, but discipline, the food decisions, and whatever else is required to keep the kids moving? Where did the dads go? (parenthetical thought…meet any mom who doesn’t allow their sons to play with guns only to have little Jimmy turn his chicken nugget or a stick, or some other object into a weapon of mass destruction? Hmmm…how do you explain THAT Child Psychologist??)
Dads, are we really that busy? Are we really that lame that we can attend a couple of baseball games and expect that to be enough? I remember signing my sons up for Scouts simply because I was thrilled to have a manual of things I could teach them! Play, paint, draw, build, destroy, jump, get wet. Let them see you upset, intense, cry, and let them hear you ask for forgiveness when you say or do something wrong. Do more! Be involved! Wrestle, play, tackle, engage, but for &%*sake, TALK TO THEM!
I read recently that if we are doing 30% right as parents, our kids will probably be OK. That made me feel better. I wonder if I am even close to 1/3 right. If I was, I too would be feel better. As a father of 4 boys, I feel it is on me. Sure, their mother’s play a big role, but there is no match for having a father involved in a child’s life.
My dad did the best he could with the knowledge he had (sounds cliche, but in this case, it is absolutely true and frankly, his own words!) He loved my sister and I. He hugged us. He disciplined us. He coached us and taught us hard lessons in worth ethic, how NOT to buy cars, and how to keep the home warm in the winter. I learned a ton from him by way of athletics (notsomuch in academics), sportsmanship, and even spirtuality. Perfect? Hardly. But you know what, he was consistent, even in his weakeness, which was somehow as comforting as my moms tater tot casserole on my birthday.
I also get my sensitivity from my dad. I have been known to cry in movies (not in the Notebook, like my dad does, but….) There are two movie scenes in particular that get me every time and guess what? They both involve dads and sons. The first is the scene in Rudy (Special Edition) where after struggling to get his dad’s respect and support to try and go to Notre Dame, Rudy finally gets accepted, brings the acceptance letter to his dad at the steel mill, and well…the tears build up and begin to stream (in my eyes) when Rudy’s dad shows his bursting pride and then goes to great lengths to make sure the acceptance letter is folded neatly back into the envelope. The other? October Sky. I love that movie for a lot of reasons but a big part is the connection I have to the sub plot between Homer and his blue collar dad. I see a lot of my family in that one as well. Frustration, anger, and eventually pride (and tears) when after a movie chalk full of father-son frustration, dad finally watches Homer’s amateur rocket fly up into the deep skies of West Virginia along with the rest of the town, and then lovingly place his arm around his son, conveying a deep sense of pride, love, and support.
Dad, I love you. We may not have gone the same path, but I respect and look up to you. Thank you for loving my sister and I, and now my four sons. You have been the source of strength in a way I hope to emulate more and more as I grow older. Thank you and Happy Father’s Day.