Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day - Signs of Hope

Father's Day is often a dreadful day in popular media.  I wrote a bitter and frustrated post about it a few years ago, after reading a particularly infuriating post in a national magazine.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this commercial, depicting a dad doing ... well, doing what dads do. He was swaddling his kid. 

His wife called to check on him, and he responded that he had matters well in hand. He was a dad. Dads didn't need help - they managed. So she hung up, and then he pulled up a YouTube video to see how to do a better job of swaddling his kid. 

I probably could have helped him with his swaddle technique, if he'd only asked.

And lo and behold, a dad swaddled his kid on national television. And it was a beautiful moment. It was a real moment. He wasn't perfect, but he was trying his hardest and he wasn't intimidated. He was doing what dads do. (The commercial is called "Swaddle Master. I know a thing or two about swaddling, so I loved it.)

Another commercial, this one for toothbrushes. (Yeah, I know.) But holy cow, this commercial slayed me. Dads holding their kids, and playing with them, and teaching them stuff. It's so simple and just so perfect.

I wish I had a third commercial, so it would be a trend piece. But whatever. Two is good.

Oh, wait, here's a third. It's not a commercial, but it still works. It's a new piece by Louis CK that ran on CBS Sunday Morning for Father's Day.

And this one is great because it adds a lot of elements that are also true to life. Louis is full of doubt and self-loathing and that fiery, angry defiance that defines him. "No, screw you, I'm going to do it THIS WAY!!"

Fathers are doubtful. We are consumed by doubt. We're not sure we're doing it right. The problem with dads having taken such a backseat role in parenting for so long is that now, we're not sure we know how to do it.

Here's the secret. Moms don't know what they're doing either. No, really, they don't. They DON'T. There is no magic innate motherhood gene. We all just learn by trying it and screwing up and waking up the next day anyway.

But we're not hopeless. Lots of dads are doing just what they're supposed to do. They change diapers and hold their kids and kiss their boo-boos and look at report cards and fix lunches. They strap in car seats and make dinners and wipe tears away and make their stuffed animals talk in ridiculous voices.

We do what we're supposed to do. We're not boobs. We're not idiots. We're people, and there are some great ones, and some really lousy ones. But in between, there's a hell of a lot of us who are just doing the job, day after day after day. I saw a great quote today, one that I'd never seen before. "Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you have to do it again tomorrow." It's from someone named Reed Markham.

We don't want medals. Just treat us like human beings. When you see a dad taking his kid for a walk, don't think "oh look, daddy's babysitting." That father is being a parent. It's not special anymore to see fathers doing the parenting thing. The world is changing. This year, for once, I'm a little more hopeful that the change is being noticed.

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