Father’s Day is always bittersweet for me. I miss my Dad. Even after fourteen Father’s Days without him, it stings that I can’t call him today. He never was much of a phone guy, and he’d probably only spend about five minutes chatting, but just to hear his voice …. This sadness is always countered by happiness, because I’ve spent the last ten Father’s Days celebrating Ryan’s role in our household. Watching him interact with Fiona and Bridget, sharing his goofiness, tenderness and wisdom, makes me so happy for the three of them. They’ve been blessed, and – because I love them – so have I.
Fatherhood seems to have become more complicated over the years. Television used to present Dad as a formally dressed man with no-nonsense hair peering over the top of his newspaper to speak sternly (but warmly) to his children. This was Dad in most real households, too. These days, that image has changed. Dads are often the goofballs and scofflaws of the family. Sometimes, they will have a deep talk with their kids as music swells in the background (ending with a pithy comment to bring on the laugh track). Sometimes, they are at home with their kids while Mom makes money – and domestic chaos ensues that would never happen on Mom’s watch. They may be bringing home the bacon like the old days, but they’re also frying it (with, of course, hilarious results like kitchen fires or dinners even the dog won’t touch). Or they’re just not there.
In real life, there are as many ways to be a Dad as there are Dads. I know of more than one home where Dad is the cook (and the results are delicious – not even remotely funny). There are many Dads who are at home with their kids, and doing it just as well as Mom would – presiding over well-run houses, clean piles of laundry and happy, well-behaved kids. There are as many Dads at the park and volunteering at school as there are Moms. Dad working outside the home is still the most common scenario, but he doesn’t always come home and sit behind a newspaper – or get the kids all wound up and leave Mom to play bad cop. He changes the baby’s diaper, and helps big sister or brother with homework. He might do man things like mowing the lawn, but he might also clean the bathroom or vacuum the rug.
Ryan is his own special mix of Dadness. He works full-time, and when he comes home he likes a nap. But he makes time to play Super Mario Bros. with Fiona, and drops his dignity to play Just Dance with Bridget. When dinner’s over, he’s the one who cleans up the kitchen. He does some of the housework, but he is also the payer of bills, mower of lawns, and keeper of the gas tank (I fill the car up once or twice a year, usually after Ryan reminds me the tank is low). He helps Fiona and Bridget with their homework more often than I do because I have very little patience for it. Also, math. He’s one of those odd individuals who enjoys math, while I am now third in our family when it comes to math proficiency. And this will probably only last until Bridget hits fourth grade …. He needs time to himself, but he eagerly shares his passion for music and scrabble with the girls. Ryan can be crazy with them, but he’s also the law in this here town. I may make alot of noise – I’m the official family screamer – but I’m also a softy. I’m the breaker of rules, contrary to what television thinks my role should be. Ryan is orderly, and likes rules. He’s been making his own as a father since the moment he cut the cord and announced “it’s a girl – I think“. His set of rules – his path – was a little more solid by the time he caught his first glimpse of Bridget, tears of joy blurring his vision because he had another daughter (he was always meant to be a Dad of girls). Now, he’s a seasoned father, most of the time approaching his calling with confidence, grace and gratitude.
Seems like most of the airtime when it comes to parenting is taken up by mothers – but this one’s for the fathers out there. The ones who are around all the time, the ones who only get every other weekend, the ones who work away from home in remote locations or overseas on military missions. The goofy ones, the stern ones, the brand-new ones and the ones who’ve been around the block. The ones who are doing their best and praying for patience, the ones who feel overwhelmed by it all and the ones who know they’ve got this. No matter how much is said about Mom, you’re just as special – and needed. Your wisdom, your kindness, and the solid comfort of your presence will be with your children long after you are gone. Here’s to you, Dad!