I’ve written about this in the past. It’s worth another visit.
I’m very ambivalent about Father’s Day. I used to say I was of two minds – but it’s more like three minds these days.
On the one hand, I’m thankful for the father I have. My dad was just about the best father a guy could ask for (and still is), in just about every way. The part I didn’t appreciate about him until I had older kids of my own? Most guys learn about being a father, for better or worse, from their own fathers. My grandfather died when my Dad was five, though. My grandma raised Dad, and as good a job as she did, she wasn’t a father. Fathers bring different things to their children than mothers do – including the whole “How to be a dad” thing. So Dad was kinda winging it. And I’d like to think that, in the immortal words of Dr. Perry Cox, “he could have done a lot worse”. Part of the spirit of Father’s Day for me is acknowleding him. So thanks, Dad!
As to me? Having kids, and getting to raise them, was the most important thing in my life. Still is. And up through about age 11, it was almost purely wonderful and rewarding. Now, getting my kids through their teenage years and into their twenties has been - I’ll be diplomatic – a challenge. But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, wouldn’t they? On that level, Father’s Day means saying “We survived another year!”. And that’s not so bad.
The third thing, though? Father’s Day makes me angry.
Our society systematically devalues fatherhood. It’s the most flagrant in our current urban culture, where a strong majority of babies are born into fatherless homes, where teachers are reporting an epidemic of risk-averse kids afraid to go outside because they’re being raised by risk-averse single women, where entire generations of young men are growing up with no masculine role models in their lives until they get into their teens – when all the role models are bad.
But it’s not just in the neighborhood. It’s all over our society. Hollywood and Madison Avenue’s model for the mainstream father is Homer Simpson – incompetent, borderline-depraved, saved only by his preternaturally competent, all-enduring and (at least on TV ads) improbably out-of-his-league wife (and sometimes daughter and, occasionally sons before they get the lobotomy that seems to go along with fatherhood in that special little world).
The current trend in feminist-dominated academia echoes Margaret Mead’s quip from fifty years ago – “men are a biological necessity and a social accident”. The education system is increasingly marginalizing boys and men of all ages; medicating their masculine traits and treating them as social disorders, shunting boys who refuse to comply and conform onto the “Special Ed” track, making “education” a punitive death march for boys who don’t get the message “go along, get along, conform, keep your butt in the seat and speak when spoken to”. And that policy is bearing rancid fruit; before long, women will outnumber men in higher education 3:2, with the margin even more grotesque in Education (ensuring the vicious cycle will continue) and the social “sciences” (ditto).
And while the situation has improved in recent years in many states, the fact is that for many men, “fatherhood” is a legal state of eternal debt and denial; ejected from any meaningful presence in their childrens’ lives by a court system that spent a few decades acting as an agent of Big Feminism and county social service bureaucracies that still largely do, men are relegated to the role of occasional visitors and ATM machines and, often, much worse; a shocking percentage of “domestic abuse” allegations are brought purely to manipulate the system during divorce actions.
So for a fair chunk of the fathers in our society, “Father’s Day” is a cruel mockery. And it’s a symptom of the current system that I find I need to hasten to add “I’m not talking about the abusive ones, or the fathers that are nothing more than sperm donors”, as if they’re the majority.
I focus on the first two views of the holiday, because I’m a lucky guy on both counts. But let’s be mindful, on this most tongue-in-cheek and pollyannish of all the Hallmark Holidays, that there’s another side to the story.