It goes without saying how important fathers are. Social science research is chock full of studies proving that involved dads positively impact the emotional and behavioral wellbeing of their little boys and girls. Protective factors for girls involve delay of sexual risk taking; and for boys, decreases in behavioral problems and criminal activity. Overall, a dad’s presence, especially during adolescence, is associated with an increased likelihood of graduation from high school and college. Go dads.
Of course, the media continues to portray dads as the goofy, loveable bystander in the raising of children. Who doesn’t love Phil in Modern Family? But the laughs are at the expense of our dads and our family is certainly culpable for buying in.
A recent survey on the portrayal of dads in the media by DOVE showed that while 75% of dads say they are responsible for their child’s emotional well-being, only 20% of dads see this role reflected in media. Three out of five dads (61%) say the media portrays them negatively and only 13% of dads believe the media portrays fathers as responsible for childcare. Dove’s response was to create a short film celebrating fathers; it’s endearing and heartfelt. It espouses an ideal fatherhood; one that some dads and children may only dream of.
Every year, I go through an emotional exercise when it comes to picking out a Father’s Day card. My father certainly wasn’t a “#1 Dad!” or “The Best Dad Ever;” nor could I ever say, “Of all the dads around the world, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.” I usually settle on a tepid “Have a Great Father’s Day!” card.
I have found compassion for my dad; now frail, infirm and sentimental. I relish the positive qualities I inherited from him: a spirit of adventure, risk taking and a love of nature. His absence and disregard forced me to be industrious, innovative and self-reliant. I have grit.
But perhaps the best gift of having a deadbeat dad was the commitment and determination to find a life partner who is loving, loyal and totally committed to raising children. I can say with all my heart that my daughters do have the best dad ever.
I was also moved this week when my youngest daughter showed me a Def Jam Poetry video of Daniel Beaty reciting Knock Knock. It was part of a lesson in her English class to inspire the students to explore poetry. “Mom, you have to see this. It is amazing!”
My daughter knows what will trigger my heartstrings: first, that she shared something that inspired her and second, that she knew I would be touched. Yet, she can’t truly know the gift she gave me. Knock Knock is a tribute to all parents and all children no matter the life circumstances. The passionate performance made me reflect once again on how my father, for all his ineptness, failings and troubles in his own childhood, did the best he could do. There’s no code book for being a parent, but forgiveness and compassion always win out.