American holidays are supposed to be about doing good and feeling good. Today is Father's Day: a classic feel-gooder. Nobody has to turn a year older. No religion is excluded. A large percentage of the adult population qualifies. Hallmark is happy. Tie and cologne sales are up.
As a father of two I looked forward to celebrating my day today like other fathers. However, somehow the media did not get the memo. As I scanned all the papers, I thought less about Norman Rockwell than about Norman Bates. There were stories about President Obama admonishing fathers to shape up. There were stories about President Obama's own father being AWOL. There were firsthand accounts of fathers and sons who grew up absent each other. The only thing that was missing was anything about normal fathers doing what normal fathers do.
What is it with the media? Is there some mass conviction amongst that estate that a single chromosome marks the difference between being a good parent or not?
Don't get me wrong here. I am not trying to say that men are great parents and women are not. I know a zillion great mothers. It is just that I know a zillion great fathers too. Most of the guys I know are in their 30s or 40s and kill themselves to get home early enough from work to do bath time or catch a soccer game. Nobody goes to the gym anymore after work. Forget about seeing a father of school-age kids on a weekend. He is at three games or on a school retreat or a swim lesson. Men now are as involved in their kid's lives as women are and the stereotype of the father who hasn't changed a diaper or met with a teacher is completely passé. The reality is that most fathers have that much more to do now. They are trying to balance all their previous responsibilities and all the new ones brought about by children. Just about everything other than parenting has fallen by the wayside.
While I am sure that "deadbeat dads" still exist, I imagine that "deadbeat moms" do too. Instead of assuming guilt instead of innocence wherever a Y chromosome is present, let's consider saluting the millions of dads who have given up guys' nights and regular exercise and personal hobbies in order to accommodate the new expectations of fathers. Let's thank them for putting the needs of children and family before their own. Let's encourage them to take an hour or two to relax or do something for themselves.
For the editors and reporters who flooded us today with negative examples and veiled accusations it is time to get with the times! You have blown it today but look on the bright side- in about a year you will have another shot at it.
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