Friday, June 19, 2009

The Unsung Dad

Every other Friday, I write a column for my local newspaper. As luck would have it, my turn came up today -- two days before Father's Day. Here's what I wrote.

* * *


As a father for 11 years (that includes two years of raising a Labrador retriever puppy, which should be made a prerequisite for parenthood), I've found that society tends to view me and my fellow dads as second-class parents.

When fathers are absent from a family -- physically or emotionally -- everyone rages about how awful it is, especially for the children, and socioeconomic studies justify this. However, when we're there day in, day out "-- does anyone really notice? I mean besides at my daughter's dance school, where I'm usually the only male beyond the age of Huggies hanging around the waiting room.

I admit, this expectation to just be there is a bed that past fathers have made and that present and future fathers must lie in -- unless you revel in it, like Michael Lewis, the acclaimed author of "Moneyball." He writes all about his lack of interest and participation in being a third-time dad in the new book "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood." From what I've read in it, I'm not sure whether I feel sorrier for his kids or his wife.

I don't advocate the extreme of fathers walking around with fake pregnancy bellies and bemoaning their inability to breastfeed any more than I do them fulfilling the "Cat's in the Cradle" prophecy. There is a middle ground and I know several fathers today who stand firmly on it, through calm and earthquake alike. We help with the income, the housework, the schoolwork and our children's big questions in life such as "How can I get my Jigglypuff to evolve?" However, this role we generally perform under the radar, without a special "soccer mom"-like demographic label that marketers and politicians lust to capture, or the fanfare of an Oprah special edition on how we cope with having it all.

Dads -- pfft -- we can't even organize and promote ourselves. Am I right, ladies?

I admit that I occasionally feel slighted by the lack of general acknowledgment, but more and more I've come to accept my humble lot. This is because I've realized that the people who matter -- my wife and my children -- already know that dads are parents, too.

However, with Father's Day approaching, I'd like to offer some small appreciation to the other unsung fathers who quietly do their thing "-- in particular, my own.

Dad, thanks for all the years of providing me with shelter, food and a good life by working like a dog. Speaking of dogs, I know you tried many times to convince Mom to let me have one. It was a futile exercise, I know, but I appreciate you repeatedly going to bat for me.

On the subject of bats, thanks for all the catches and extra hitting practice over the years. I'm sure it all contributed to your need for rotator cuff surgery a few years back. Sorry. Thanks also for attending nearly all my games, especially junior year in high school when I spent the entire season warming up the pitchers in the bullpen.

Thanks for Sunday mornings. They started as post-church breakfasts at Friendly's, then became donuts from Beldotti Bakery, baseball cards and the New York Daily News. All influences on my life; not necessarily good ones, but special ones.

Thanks for The Talk before college and knowing that "don't be stupid" was all you needed to say.

Finally, thanks for not practicing birth control that one time, or else I couldn't thank you for anything at all.

* * *

Most of my columns (like my blog posts) garner little feedback. But late this morning, I found this e-mail in my inbox:

Beaver:

Thank you for the Shop-Vac and the cards. Right on!!
I read your editorial this morning and it made me cry!! But happy Son.
Look forward to tomorrow's game.

Your Dad

Yes, my dad does actually call me Beaver once in a while (as do some of my close friends).

Yes, I got my dad a new wet/dry vacuum for Father's Day (his was about 25 years old and still using the original filter).

And yes, I apparently choked the old man up.

Saturday, he'll come watch me coach my daughter's soccer team.

I think I'll be in for a hug.


Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there -- hot and otherwise.

18 comments:

Pop and Ice said...

You are very lucky to have such a Dad. Very, very lucky....

Just Jules said...

oh you are right. I totally believe fathers/men are underappreciated and almost abused. I love your words and intend to pass this on.

Irish Gumbo said...

Right on, bro. Just look at all the ads, commercials, TV shows that portray dads as bumbling doofuses who couldn't navigate their way in life without a whipsmart woman and genius kids to protect them, deserving to be mocked.

Here's to all the dads that really do give a hoot about being a man: doing the best they can for the ones they love, and being there. (And I'm lookin' at you, Dad!)

Good post! Salute!

ZenMom said...

It's true that we sometimes take the good ones for granted. Happy Father's Day.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

Maybe it's cause I spend so much time in the world of bloggers, where it seems that dads are appreciated, but you speak the truth. This is a great article.

Happy father's day to all. And to all a good night.

Wait...something didn't sound right there.

Homer and Queen said...

Great post! My parents were divoced when my dad died and my my always tells me what a rotten husband he was...but I don't care! He was a great dad. My hubby of 27 years is a great dad and role model. I may call him The Disneyland Dad 'cuz he gets to be the fun one and have to be the mean one, but he has always been fair, loyal, and nurturing to our little satan spawn.

Wheelchair Boy is 22 yrs old and hubby has gotten up with him 5-10 times a night his whole life. Dad's everywhere are the unsung heros of the family.

Happy Father's Day...and you are ALL hot!! Well I am old so everyone looks good to me!!!

coolred38 said...

Having had two dismal failures as dads (both biological and step) and one extremely bad example of a husband/father (think pedophile) I have no clue what a father/husband figure should truly look like other than what sitcoms and drama shows teach me.

Any father that shows an ounce of true fatherly concern, love, protection, guidance, forgiveness and is just THERE when a child needs him...is firmly on the road to being a halfway decent father...any man that strives for more than the "basic requirements" deserves a Fathers Day in my book.

I nor my kids have ever had someone to celebrate Fathers Day with...nobody worthy in our lives.

Happy (early) Fathers Day to all fathers whose families deem them worthy of the title.

Sass said...

My father was (and still is) the greatest man in my life. Well, other than my son, of course. ;)

The impact that a good father has on his children is immeasurable.

Happy Father's Day to you...a certifiably terrific dad. ;)

TentCamper said...

That was a great post Beaver!!! I was right there with you the whole way. I get that whole unsung thing...but many of the other parents DO often verbalize how involde I am in the kids' lives/activities...which makes me feel good. It did though make me a bit sad that I did not have a dad like yours...he provided but was not very involved...guess maybe that is why I am.

Amber said...

Awww...

SweetPeaSurry said...

Hey, that was super cool of ya to give that awesome shout out to your dad! No wonder he got choked up. I had a full belly giggle at the 'birth control' thing too. Tooo true for all of us on that line!

blessings and happy daddy day!

Ms Scarlett said...

I have the best dad in the world.

First he raised my brother and I, then when he remarried after my mother's death he raised my two step-brothers.

And now, in the wake of my older step-brother's spectacular failure as a father (and as a human being, imo), he is helping raise his two young grandsons.

Tomorrow he will deflect all attention from himself,as is his habit. But I think I'll shine that spotlight on him anyways. He deserves it.

Thanks for sharing a wonderful article.

MindfulMama said...

That was awesome. It makes me appreciate my brother-in-laws, who are both stay at home dads, all the more.

Your article was sweet and your dad's response was sweeter :-)

The Exception said...

I love Dads and firmly believe in their role in the family. The sad part is that men don't often believe in their own signficance in the lives of their children. Society says that they provide the house and the protection and the lifestyle - society gives moms the role of love and such. This has to change as men are important!! I am raising my daughter, largely, without her dad. I have attempted to show him the data that suggests that his role is important... he hasn't bought into it. he suggested that she didn't really need a dad (and she doesn't but she would benefit greatly from one). In the past few weeks he has changed his tune but I wonder if he is a bit too late... and am not sure about his reasoning...

Dads are amazing important... I only hope that one day men and women will come to realize this and truly celebrate what dads bring to their kids!!

M said...

That was a great article and the comment from you're dad just made it perfect.

I read a lot of Father's Day posts and talked to several friends yesterday.

It actually made me a little depressed, and quite jealous.

Steph said...

What a great article. The post from your dad was the icing on the cake.

I am very fortunate to have a wonderful husband who is a great dad to our daughter.

I am also very blessed to have a great dad, who has always been there. He had a terrible father and was determined to be a good dad. I am so proud of him.

JR said...

To paraphrase Chris Rock, it's all about mom. Your dad always says "Go tell your mom how nice she looks, how pretty her dress is..."

Dad never hears "Hey Dad, thanks for banging out this rent. Gee Dad, it's so easy to read with all this light!"

What does Dad get? The big piece of chicken.

for a different kind of girl said...

It's probably not a good idea for me to know that I can now possibly get away with calling you Beaver...

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