Did you celebrate Father’s Day last week? We’re definitely not bombarded by the media hype the way we are with Mother’s Day, but it’s still there. The stereotypes of the outdoorsman, super masculine, grill-loving dad still make it into the commercials, retail posters, and therefore the psyche of shoppers. Times have changed though and along with it, we’ve seen the evolution of a dad that isn’t always reflected in the media.
Dads come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and some even by a different name—like step-dad, uncle, teacher, or granddad just to name a few. The reality has changed to include two-dad families, non-binary, blended and extended family. It makes absolutely no difference as to the makeup of a family for a father-child relationship, it just matters that it exists in a healthy way.
I think a lot of dads get a bad rap. They’re often wrongly accused of being disengaged or absent. We admire a single dad who steps up to take care of their child when something happens to the mother or primary caregiver—but shouldn’t that just be expected and normal? Dads can be as devoted and loving toward a child as a mom—the delivery method is different but the intent to raise a healthy, independent and self-reliant person is the same.
There seems to be this idea that a mother naturally or instinctually knows what to do with a baby or child and a father is some sort of idiot who can’t figure it out. This is, of course, utter nonsense because as any new parent will tell you—there’s a lot to learn for both mom and dad. It’s that life learning curve that all parents need to embrace.
When I was a new mom the most terrifying thing to me was bathing the baby. Just the idea of a slippery newborn in my hands made me tremble so my husband took on the task. He was a natural and I felt a relief that was palpable. Sharing household and childrearing tasks was not only necessary but a natural progression for the family.
There are negative stereotypes of the buffoon dad who doesn’t have a clue as to what’s going on with their own kids, there’s also the idea of the weekend Disneyland dad who lavishes gifts in lieu of time, and of course the dad who’s just there for fun with the kids and lets mom do all the ‘dirty’ work. While dads like this do exist, they’re not the norm and are cliche and outdated cop-outs. Even the kids these days are more educated and aware of having a relationship with both parents.
I believe that men themselves have begun to shed these formulaic patterned expectations by being involved in their child’s life right from the very beginning. This has been happening for the last several decades and still gaining momentum. The realization of the need for early bonding is now taken very seriously by new dads whether it be through attending prenatal classes, cutting the cord, reading a story to his child, being involved in the preschool –the list is endless.
The fact is that many dads are smart, they’re engaged with their kids and take their parenting role seriously.
Now, I know there’s always a flip side to the coin. There are absent and/or ‘deadbeat’ dads and there are those who found themselves in a situation that’s beyond their own emotional maturity. I’ll leave that discussion for another time as it is important to delve into but just not today.
I hope that all the father figures out there have a great year and get the respect you deserve. Whether you’re family, friend, or a stand-in, believe me, you are making a difference.
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Originally published by Black Press June 21, 2019