Tonawanda News

June 9, 2013

DOUBLE TROUBLE: A defense of dads, in advance of Father's Day

--
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Sometimes, it must be tough to be a dad.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s tough to be a mom, too. You have that whole nine-months-of-pregnancy thing going on, then the whole labor experience. Then, depending on a variety of factors, you’re a little more tied-down by the months afterward, if you know what I mean. And then some portions of society still seem to hold you responsible for the vast majority of childcare, although that perception (fortunately) seems to be fading.

But when you’re a father you have to go through a lot of that without being able to do anything about it. Pregnancy? You commiserate and run out to help fulfill cravings. (I sent my husband out Thanksgiving night looking for mozzarella sticks, once.) Labor? You commiserate (as best you can), hold hands and generally be encouraging. Sure, you’re lucky in a way, but I could also see feeling helpless.

And then the kid is here. And maybe you do your best ... you’re a full partner, as much as you can be, you change diapers, you go to pediatrician appointments, you do your share (and maybe more) of the cleaning and the cooking. You learn more than you ever wanted to know about The Wiggles. You spend your share of sleepless nights with a wakeful and unhappy 4-year-old with a fever; you run behind a devil-may-care 5-year-old who’s learning to ride a bike. You take said 5-year-old to the emergency room when it turns out he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

But no matter what you do, society to some extent persists in portraying you as the buffoon. Mom out of town? She is, of course, going to come home to a mess, unclothed children running wild and poor, hapless dad hiding in the den. And if he really is competent and conscientious about caring for his own children, what do they label him? Mr. Mom.

What’s wrong with Mr. Dad?

On this Father’s Day 2013, I want to say that I wouldn’t be the mom I am today — flawed and imperfect in many ways, but trying to do the best I can — without three fathers in my life. 

My own dad, who went from expecting the birth of his first child to coping with the early arrival of unexpected twins, and then the loss of one of those twins and the two-month hospitalization of the other. (That would be me.) The man planned a funeral by himself while worrying about his wife and other infant daughter still in the hospital. I can only imagine what that was like. (My dad’s a worrier ... just like his daughter.)

He dealt with a crabby teenage girl, who he probably didn’t understand at all, the best he could, finding things we could talk about even as that little girl he once knew got older and older. (This is how, for years, I’ve been a NASCAR fan.) He understood and listened when I turned out far more like him than he probably wanted. (We’re both worriers, which is putting it mildly.)

And he’s now the best grandfather to my boys that any woman could ask for.

My husband. I didn’t want kids once, did you know that? Too much work, I said. They change who you are, I said. I just couldn’t see myself signing up for that.

But this guy I was dating? He wanted kids. I wasn’t so sure about that at first. But finally I started to see how I might want that, too. How the rewards could be great, if only the work was truly shared. And for the first time, I could see that happening.

And it was, outside that whole pregnancy-and-labor thing. And it did. And they are. And today, I can’t imagine my life without my sons — and their father — in it.

Last, the one I never met, the man who made my husband the man he is today — my father-in-law. I never knew him, but I wish I could, just once, thank him for what a wonderful impact he had on his son, tell him that — whether he realized it or not — he would have a profound effect on future generations.

And how his oldest grandson looks just like him.

So happy Father’s Day (next week) to all the good dads out there. May your families appreciate you, even if society at large does not. 

And may they express it while they still can.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com.