A view from my side.
I paid homage to my father last month on a post called Memorial Day. Still, today requires something. Fathers in general have fallen in the eyes of our society and it pains me. One only need look at the changes in popular culture to see how far. From the wise, caring fathers in “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver” to the dolts and idiots in “Family Guy” and “Married With Children”, modern dads have really taken it on the chin lately.
As a single dad, I am most often repulsed by the way fathers are portrayed as incompetent when it comes to child rearing. The usual image of a dad holding his infant child out at arm’s length, scrunching his nose at what we are supposed to figure is a “dirty diaper” and wondering what to do irritates me. The previews I’ve seen for the new show, “Baby Daddy” make me angry. While I’m sure the show will be fine and it is about a man who decides to raise the daughter he didn’t even know he had, the fact that he 1) didn’t know he had a daughter, 2) needs the help of everyone around him to become a “father”, and 3) is portrayed as a bumbling, albeit loving, idiot just pisses me off.
The importance of “fatherhood” has fallen so far that women who chose to become single mothers on purpose are celebrated as heroes. I’m not talking about the single women that adopt, although try to do so as a single male and see how far you get, I’m talking about those that chose to have and carry a child of their own either through artificial insemination or a “friendly donation” with no strings attached. Here we have a person who has completely discounted the entire concept of “fatherhood.” What a totally selfish act. I’ve often wondered that if, on Father’s Day, they show their child a pipette and say “tell Daddy I love you!”
This is obviously a sore spot for me, having had to endure years of questions about how it was that I ended up with custody of my boys. Surely, something must be “wrong” with Ex#2, yes? The whole idea that I could simply be better at parenting than she was never occurred to people. There had to be something wrong with her or else surely she would have custody. That cultural bias is perpetuated time and time again as fathers are portrayed in the popular culture. Mothers must be, by virtue of simply being female, the better parent. The movie Kramer vs Kramer made it crystal clear…despite mom abandoning husband and son, when she comes back to her “senses” and sues for custody, she is awarded it because, well, a child is “better off” with its mother.
I know that most people out there respect and admire their fathers and the fathers of their children. I realize that not everyone is as jaded as those I describe above. I know that many fathers will be honored today and that most children actually do love and cherish their dads. I myself will be spending time with my children today and the plan is to go out to dinner later tonight. Still, I am irritated by the images I see and the falsehoods portrayed. And, I am irritated that people accept them and laugh at them. Sure, on one level it is funny. On the other, deeper level, it is ignorant and repugnant.
Yes, fathers have fallen far in our society and it only seems to be getting worse. We are no longer revered, we are ridiculed. We are no longer respected as important in a child’s life, we are treated as a source of sperm and financial support. Society bemoans the lack of “fathers”, yet at the same time, belittles our influence. We are treated as second class citizens who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. Ward Cleaver, let me introduce you to Homer Simpson.
Happy Father’s Day.