Fatherhood is like making jambalaya—it needs quality ingredients, patience, love, timing and a high-quality roux. Hot sauce should be used just enough to enhance the final product.
I’ve had good jambalaya and bad—that is the big 50/50 gamble of all things. Fathers are no different.
The other night as my family watched a few family-shows on television it struck me that fathers are unfairly portrayed on television. Is this how Hollywood and the major network writers think American fathers live?
Who are these affable, easily fooled and clownish dads?
These men in no way resemble the good fathers I know.
It is always easier to go negative. To dismantle, has become an American art form.
Being chronically rebellious in nature I think that didactic rants of how it used to be different in the old days have made us all comfortably numb, as the Pink Floyd song laments. It is far too easy to find flaws in the current state of fatherhood in America—so let’s take a positive approach.
Let’s toss aside the rudderless fathers presented for our entertainment and salute the ones out there making fatherhood great. We should also give a tilt of the hat to grandfathers who raise grandchildren and the single moms that must serve both roles, but those are topics for another day.
There are fantastic dads we encounter each day—the ones hugging their kids before school. The ones out improving the community, making lunches at 06:30, working hard to provide, leading their families, protecting and actively enhancing their children’s lives.
The best fathers constantly provide examples and teach with love, not always perfection. My late father never ran from his flaws, in fact, he had very few. My dad worked to create sons who thought freely, showed kindness, possessed courage, respected all and loved their country. Through his daily actions he showed us how honor, integrity, love, faith and courage are more than words.
He showed us how to honor and respect women.
As the father of a teenage son I am aware that the father/son dynamic evolves daily whether we want it to or not. With age, words often become harder to find through life’s ups and downs. I smile when I catch myself giving the same life lectures that my dad gave. Of course, some advice fails to create action, but a few lessons always slip past the defenses of adolescence.
My father’s words make more sense now… yet he is gone.
Throughout my own journey through fatherhood I’ve tried to build on what I learned from my father. I try to fill the gaps that I perceived as a son.
I rejoice in seeing everything my children do and say---every day. I am thankful to be able to learn about the world again through my children. I smile just as wide when my kids fall and get back up as I do when they win it all. My heart soars with every goal my son achieves and there’s an unbridled joy in hearing my daughter’s feet dancing across the living room floor each day after work.
The victories and more likely the defeats in life bring resilience, humility and courage into play.
A friend of mine Jean-Michel Andre made this point, “Television is just a box, or a flat rectangular screen in today's standards. Life is real. There are great dads… rather than TV dads.”
Another great point that helped tilt my perspective to the positive impact of real fathers came from a grandmother.
“I don't watch TV and haven't seen many recent films so can't comment on that. I can say that I see a lot more guys around with strollers or holding little hands and they all look engaged and capable. That's something you didn't often see when our kids were little, and it makes me happy,” commented Kathryn Uphaus.
Today’s dads do many things that weren't common in the past. Most dads are present when their kids are born (it sounds funny) but 50 years ago many dads opted for a cold beer while mom was in labor. Many dads I know change diapers, cook meals, help with homework and read bedtime stories.
Fathers tend to show more affection than the traditional father figures a generation or two back.
“My father was in the service. He was rarely around and when he was, he never talked much, but I felt closer to him than anyone else in my challenging family. He taught me to fish, swim, hunt, but socially, he was tuned out. My observations today show more of a lack of unconditional love. My dad may not have been the world’s best dad, but he was loved by me, and even though he couldn’t express his love, I knew he cared,” said Michael Smith, a middle-aged father. “I was also in the service and away a lot. I tried to make the best of what time I did have with my boys. Fathers have a secret. Their love never dies.”
I think many of the negative things projected on fathers are symptomatic of all-selfishness, distraction and absence. The real threat to family life in America is the complete absence of fathers.
The fathers presented by television and film in no way resemble the fathers we encounter.
Here’s to wonderful fathers, strong families and good jambalaya this Father’s Day.