Sunday, June 20, 2010

Being a Father in America - Father's Day 2010

Tony Pandola wrote a nice piece this week on "The American Father" for KQED FM in San Francisco. His perspective includes a lovely set of comments on the problems in our society with regard to the common image of Fathers, manhood in general, and the relationship between parents and children. This is not just a problem for Dads but Moms too. It is also a problem for children of all sorts, those without parents or other adult role models, and those with one or both parents or guardians. 

This image portrayed of the American Father is also a problem in a society that marks so many special days in the calendar. We have sales at the stores, special events (usually athletic) on TV, days off from work, and, of course, the typical greeting card or a balloon with some silly catch phrase. These images and catch phrases do not generally match either the reality of our relationship to the person(s) we are celebrating or what we would like it to represent about them -- which is the most important thing the card should do.

Personally I find it difficult in the space of a greeting card to write what I want to say to a person. That's why I prefer to make my own cards with blank insides and lots of room to write. Over the years though, I've written less of these cards because the whole business of it seems insincere or I simply can't find the time to do it. Now, of course, we can send our friends and family good wishes with the click of a mouse and the typing of a few words on their social media pages, or even just a text or E-mail.

What I take away from Tony's perspective is the fact that the best way to tell your Dad you love him, and how much you appreciate him, is to do it directly. Pandola also reminds us that it is important simply be aware of who your Dad is and what kind of a person he is toward you and others. 

But I also take away the fact that the image of the American Father today is not what it should be. We can do better in what we do as men and in how we see and describe the expectations of men in our society.

I'm celebrating my second Father's Day without my Dad this year. Sometimes I wish I could still send him a card again but the truth is I rarely ever mailed him such a thing. I would just drive there with my family and visit.

My Dad died suddenly in late 2008 after a bad car accident. He was 78 but still young enough to get out there and volunteer in his community. Just the type of Father who would go out and do things to make the world a better place for the sake of doing the right thing with your time on this planet. He enjoyed his sporting events and watched lots of TV. But he wasn't like all those lazy beer drinking images of men we see in greeting cards today.

As a Father myself I try to emulate some of those characteristics whenever I can. My Dad wasn't perfect, nor would I be so bold to suggest I'm any better with my own family and what I do in the world. But I do keep trying and, thankfully, I have a great role model to follow and guide me in my own journey of manhood and fatherhood. I volunteer on school boards and coach in youth athletics. I never miss a parent/teacher conference. 

And on Father's Day I make sure my kids get to spend a long period of time with our family doing something where we get to talk and just be together. I also am quick to remember the fact that every day is Father's Day. Everyday is Father's Day because every day we can create opportunities for each of us to make a difference with our children, the friends we know and love, and with the rest of the world.

Today we walked to the local mall and had bagels for breakfast. It was a three hour tour and a five mile walk. We stopped in the local (Marinwood) park and sat next to Miller Creek where there is still a little water trickling down from the Spring rains. Mia talked about all the memories she has of playing games in the park during Summer camp over the years. We remembered some of the fun times we've had in the park since moving to this neighborhood. And I thought about all the good times I had like that growing up. That felt good and I didn't need a greeting card to let me know that my day was special.

Here's wishing all the Fathers and Mothers and children in the world a happy day today, and everyday.