The Evolution of Dads
What happened to the good old days when Dad came home from work and Mom handed him a newspaper and said, “Here’s your slippers?” Nowadays after work, the kids are at soccer and piano, Mom works late, hands Dad a Lean Cuisine and says, “There’s the microwave.” Poor guy. The rules changed as fast as you can Google “Women’s Movement,” and Dad had to learn to change the baby’s diaper as well as change the oil in the car.
But a funny thing happened. The uninvolved Dad realized he really liked kissing chubby little feet as he changed diapers. And he enjoyed playing Barbies and Pirates with his kids instead of watching the Cowboys on TV. The modern Dad is solid as a rock—and rocks at Wii Hoola Hoops.
Mom may be better at handling girl drama, but no one is better than Dad at lining up army men for battle and initiating ticklefests. He rides with you on roller coasters, but not the rides that spin. And he sculpts cool sandcastles at the beach and lets you bury him in the sand.
Regardless of family dynamics and the demands of his job, he’s never too busy for his children. He’s there to teach his son how to throw a fastball and how to survive when life throws him a curve. And he’s there to kill bugs and blow bedtime kisses.
The modern dad knows how to fix a flat tire and fix his daughter’s broken heart.
He makes tee times for his son and makes time for tea with his little girls.
He teaches his daughter how to bait a hook and how to determine whether her date to the prom is a bottom-feeder.
He tells his daughter scary stories at nine and scares her boyfriend half to death at sixteen.
He checks for leaks in the attic and monsters under the bed.
College football is something he lives for, but he misses the game because Christmas lights are something his kids can’t live without.
He sacrifices luxuries in his own world for his kids’ first trip to Disney World.
He paints the whole house and paints his daughter’s fingernails.
He knows how to call a duck and call his mother just to say hi.
He bounces his toddler on his knee and carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.
And he’ll never ask for a pat on the back for simply doing his job.
Whether he is old-school or modern, the moment a new Dad holds that squirming bundle in his arms for the first time, a powerful pride surges through his veins, calling him to be part of something larger than himself. It awakens a protective and noble facet of his identity which first blossomed when he was a boy fighting fierce backyard battles with his trusty pirate sword. He’s his daughter’s first Prince Charming and his son’s infallible Superman.
Dads have transformed through the years, but some aspects of fatherhood never change. Dad never misses an opportunity for a little friendly competition. Mom is the one who warns you not to take that jump on your bike, but she doesn’t know Dad is the one who dared you to. Dad races you to the house but always cheats and takes off before he says, “Go!” He always wins the “can’t-keep-a-straight-face” contests, but he helps you win prizes at the fair.
Though Dads have evolved, two irrepressible DNA traits remain from the vestiges of the caveman. #1—Dad is always right so do not bother arguing with him. #2—If he doesn’t know an answer, he will make stuff up.
Predictably, as his toddler morphs into a teenager, Dad’s tender love often evolves into tough love as he imposes sanctions on cars and cell phones. From Ward Cleaver to Al Bundy, Dads have repeated the same mantra to their irreverent subordinates—“When you grow up you’re going to have a rude awakening,” “Nobody cares why,” and “If you don’t like it here, go find another family!”
I have a family of my own now, and I have etched Dad’s nuggets of wisdom into the bark of our family tree. When I grew up, I DID have a rude awakening, I realized my boss DOESN’T care why, and everything Dad told me was true, except the stuff he made up.