As 2016 Father’s Day recedes into memory, I’d like to reflect on how the role of fathers has changed since the start of the women’s liberation movement.
It used to be that Dad’s role was to be the provider and disciplinarian. “Wait till your father comes home,” was the threat moms would holler when their kids wouldn’t listen to them. Dad was cast as the threat; the one that would lecture you, punish you or beat you when you finally saw him. When he wasn’t working, he was viewed as someone who deserved rest; “be quiet, don’t bother Dad; he’s napping, watching TV, reading the paper.”
The role of today’s dad, in contrast, is to be there for his kids and with his kids in a caring and loving way. He gets involved in their activities, knows their schedules, explains things to them, helps them, laughs with them, gets annoyed with them and thoroughly enjoys them. Not only do his kids have an enriched relationship with him but his life is also enriched because of the quality of his relationship with them.
Though I could explain more about the differences in Dad’s role through the decades, I think you’ll get a better in-depth picture when you hear it from the mouths of babes (and grown-up babes):
“My father worked many hours. When he came home, he was exhausted. He just wanted to read his paper and doze off. My sister and I knew we shouldn’t bother him. And so, we didn’t. As a result, we never really got to know who he was. He suddenly died of a heart attack when I was a teenager. So, who he really was, I never knew.”
“I wanted so much for my father to speak to me about things other than sports. I wanted to be able to turn to him when I was upset or needed direction. I think that if I were more sports-oriented, our relationship would have been closer. But I wasn’t a jock. And he wasn’t able to move outside of that one arena in which he felt comfortable. What a loss for both of us!”
“I did not look forward to conversations I had with my father. I can’t even call them conversations. I would say something. He would put me down for my opinion, lecturing me like I was hopelessly stupid or naïve. He never respected my position if it differed from his. I finally got tired of listening to his lectures. So we rarely spoke.”
From a 5 year-old: “I love my daddy. He plays games with me and reads me a story before I go to bed. Then he rubs my head, kisses me and says, ‘Good night, lovely boy. I love you.’”
From a 10 year old: “My father helps me with my homework and plays ball with me a lot. If I don’t know what to do about something, he gives me good advice, like what I should do when a kid picks on me. Sometimes, if I don’t listen, he gets upset with me. But then afterwards, he always hugs me and tells me how proud he is that I’m his son.”
From a 16-year-old: “I feel close to my father. He’s got a good sense of humor and we rib each other a lot. But we also talk about serious things. We’ve been working together to gather information about colleges. I like that he listens to me. I’m so confused about college that it’s great that he advises me so I will know what colleges to apply to. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
I hope that all of today’s dads who relish their relationship with their kids appreciate that the women’s lib movement not only freed women from their limited and confined role but freed men as well.
And I hope that all of today’s dads, who received loving wishes and kisses from their kids on Father’s Day, appreciate that the time, energy and effort that they give to raising their kids really does pay off!
“Love and fear.
Everything the father of a family says must inspire one or the other.”