If all you did was watch the news in these weeks leading up to Father's Day, you'd think that when men hit middle age, they suddenly become twittering twits with the self restraint and judgment of a starving cobra at a rat convention. Lately in the news, we've seen tale after tale of men behaving badly.
First there was the appalling story of Dominique Strauss Kahn's attack on a hotel housekeeper. The silver lining was her courage in calling him on it, knowing that as a union member she could do that and not fear for her job. But her story has led to more dreadful accounts of men who seem to believe that the women they encounter in the service sector are there to service just about everything.
Next, the governor of California embarrassed his wife and children by publicly acknowledging he has fathered a child with his own family's personal housekeeper. The story of that family feud sounds more like feudal times than the present, with the children paying the cost of their father's celebrity in their own lost privacy.
And finally, Congressman Weiner, aptly named, has taken social media to an entirely anti-social level. As his wife expects their first child, and he prepares to resign his seat, he greets Father's Day in what is becoming the All American tradition of "seeking treatment." No doubt he will emerge having discovered an addiction to something or other. In the old days, we just called this sort of thing bad behavior and left it at that.
So as Father's Day approaches, I have to remind myself that most fathers are actually grown ups. They take on the daunting task of raising children, knowing that it will be the most challenging job they have ever faced. They change diapers, they drive sulking teenagers to the mall, they work long hours to send their children to college, and then they pick up the pieces in the aftermath of academic probation, broken hearts and constantly switching majors. Then the parenting continues when the child has her own child, moves back home after a divorce, or takes off to see the world.
These dads operate quietly and under the radar screen. Their lives are not worthy of being featured in celebrity magazines, because they are not scandal-soaked. But nor are these dads perfect. They labor on, as we all do, in their imperfection, with occasional lapses in judgment balanced by self-perspective and life-saving humor.
In a world where technology has made it possible for a man to tweet a picture of his underwear to the masses, I find myself skeptical of much of what the world calls progress. Typing one's every thought out into the universe may damage the soul in ways we are only just discovering. Does any human brain, no matter how clever, really need that much airtime?
Instead, my mind turns to the many ordinary dads who are not trying to draw constant attention to themselves, but are trying to pay attention to the people who need them the most. These are the guys who try to do it right, occasionally get it wrong, and often slip by unnoticed and unappreciated.
As Father's Day approaches, I give thanks for the grown ups who make the job look easy. Because, as we all know, it is not.
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