“Our failure to acknowledge fathers’ importance is now reflected in the shape of the American family. Fathers are disappearing. Fewer American fathers are participating in the lives of their children now than at any time since the U.S. began keeping records.” — Paul Raeburn’s brand-new book, “Do Fathers Matter?”
Every year on Mother’s Day, we join all of our kids and their families and many other relatives for a special buffet brunch downstairs at the Terrace Café at the El Rancho Inn in Millbrae. We mothers enjoy it immensely and always go home with several bouquets of flowers to commemorate the day.
This year, after we finished eating, 8-year-old granddaughter Madeleine came over to where I was sitting to chat. She commented on how many people were there to celebrate Mother’s Day and then she asked, “Do they do this for fathers, too?” After I told her that they don’t, she asked, “Why not?” That’s a good question. Madeleine certainly has a point. She has a very devoted and involved dad who certainly deserves all of the kudos of Father’s Day.
Later that day, my mind wandered to a time a several years ago that Ted and I were vacationing in Yosemite over Father’s Day weekend. When we weren’t appreciating nature as we rode our bikes around the valley floor or picnicking in a meadow, we had a lot of time for people watching. One particular evening, I noticed that there were a lot of families with small children lingering around the restaurant area, apparently, like us, waiting for the restaurants to open. While we were sitting there, it was fascinating to watch how some of the fathers (presumed) interacted with their children. I’m sure you can decide which of these fathers below should be lauded.
Over by the ranger program area where children like to play while they wait, I noticed a father with a toddler on each hand gleefully leaping from the stage to the ground (about 12 inches). Over and over again they enthusiastically repeated the feat and when one child bumped her shin, the father sat down and held her while he sympathetically brushed away her tears. Soon mother called and they skipped away.
A bit later, the cries of a baby caught our attention. Storming out of the bar came a man carrying a screaming baby of about 8 months on one hip and his unfinished drink in his free hand. The father was obviously angry, possibly incensed that his “happy hour” had been interrupted by that “awful brat.” Who knows why the baby was so distressed, but the father was obviously not interested in comforting the child.
I noticed a man and a little girl sitting on a large rock near an area that had been roped off for preservation and renewal. Dad was patiently explaining why the girl shouldn’t play in the meadow or pick the flowers. When a Steller’s jay hopped close to them, no doubt hoping for a bit of the cookie the girl held, Dad threw him a crumb (on the path) as they marveled together about the beautiful bird.
Then I saw a father and a small boy sitting near the pool. The child found a stick that he immediately transformed into a firearm. Waving it wildly in the air and then pointing at his dad, he shouted, “Bang, bang, Daddy, you’re dead!” “Look,” said unperturbed Daddy, “Shoot that bird up there. Shoot that squirrel. Get the other bird.” Mother arrived and the three walked away as the boy continued his imaginary slaughter.
A child whose father is patient, kind, understanding, responsible and involved is blessed. Children whose fathers are still children themselves, who shame them, are impatient with them, who expect their children to live up to unrealistic expectations, who punish them severely, and/or do not support them or are not in their lives, are very unfortunate. A father’s healthy bond with his child benefits both child and dad. An involved, loving father has a profound effect, giving girls a model of an all-together male, but especially upon boys, who benefit greatly from a positive male role model.
“Fatherhood is about helping children become happy and healthy adults who are at ease in the world and prepared to become fathers and mothers themselves. We often say that doing our best for our kids is more important than anything else we do. What’s best for our kids should always include a role for fathers.” — Raeburn.
What shall we do for the dads in our family for this Father’s Day, Madeleine?
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 750 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.