TIME FOR A NEW AND IMPROVED DEAR OLD DAD
When I was a boy growing up during the Eisenhower Administration and the New Frontier, fathers were revered figures in America. One of those revered fathers lived in my own home. He was my Dad.
My father was my hero. He was a World War II Navy Veteran. When he would come home from work at night, I would greet him on our front porch with a salute, welcoming him back to the U.S.S. Family.
Dad was more than just my biological father. He was my Boy Scout Trooper Leader, my minister, and role model. He reviewed my report cards, and he attended all my Little League games and piano recitals, even though I had no prospect of ever being Willie Mays or Van Cliburn.
I wanted to grow up to be just like him.
Dad wasn’t the only revered father I could see in my home. When I turned on our black and white TV in our living room I could watch “Father Knows Best” starring Robert Young (who later became Dr. Marcus Welby) or “Make Room for Daddy” starring Danny Thomas, the entertainer who later founded St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in my hometown of Memphis.
I could also watch other wonderful fathers such as Sheriff Andy Taylor (Opie’s Dad), Ozzie Nelson (father of Dave and Ricky) and Fred McMurray, father of his three sons.
No doubt about it, fathers were beloved and respected figures in the America in which I grew up in the 1950s and Sixties.
But on Father’s Day 2019, dear old Dad seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. Over 20 million children in America will go to sleep tonight in a fatherless home.
The culture that once revered fathers has now marginalized them. The father figures we see on TV and movies (if we see them at all) aren’t portrayed as knowing best. They are generally clueless, hapless nerds who just get in the way of women who are doing a fabulous job of raising the kids the fathers helped create.
And, of course too many men think and behave as if their responsibilities as a father ended at the moment of conception. No need to make room for those Daddies, as they don’t want to be there.
But whenever people express concern over the disappearance of dear old Dad, we are often dismissed as sexist folks who want to take America back to the “good old days” when the figure who wore the pants ran the household. This was, of course, an era when Ward Cleaver always wore a suit, and June Cleaver always wore a dress and pearls.
But, while we should not return to the days of King Daddy ruling the roost, there is no denying the impact of an increasingly fatherless America.
Our prisons are full of a disproportionate number of men from fatherless homes.
As for our daughters, studies show that girls who have strong supportive fathers tend to grow up to be strong and independent women with demanding and exacting standards for the men in their lives.
Single Moms are often exhausted in their roles as sole providers and nurturers for children.
And then there are the men who do not accept the responsibilities of fatherhood. They are missing meaningful lives of love and service. If all you do as a Dad is make child support payments, you may be missing the joys of reading bedtime stories with snuggling kids, attending soccer games, and someday, graduations.
Becoming a father of three has been the biggest challenge of my life, and the most deeply rewarding experience as well, and I believe that is true of millions of American men who have accepted the awesome responsibilities of fatherhood.
Our children need neither the new Matriarchy nor the old Patriarchy. We need caring and nurturing mothers, and we need fathers who see their shared lives with mothers and children as a wonderful servanthood.
And so on this Father’s Day 2019, let’s honor dear old Dad and demand new and improved ones who will share the love, demands and joys of parenthood.
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to open the Father’s Day present my children have given me.
I’ll bet it’s a tie!