As a Father's Day treat, I allowed myself (sandwiched between my children) to watch one of my favorite shows: CBS Sunday Morning. Their reports are timely and intelligent, sensitive and textured, and Charles Osgood is as warm and soothing a television host as there ever was.
Yesterday's theme was—appropriately—fathers.
Lee Cowan's cover story—"Daddy's Home: Embracing Paternity Leave"— focused on the unforgivable lack of a nationwide parental leave policy in the U.S. (Cowan points out that the U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that does not have country-wide paid maternity leave!)
Steve Hartman invited cameras to follow him as he helped his widowed father move out of their family home in Toledo and into an apartment, leaving behind a trove of memories. (The report includes a wonderful montage of old pictures placed against the backdrop of present-day images of the cottage).
There was also a current events piece about the tragedy in Charleston, a retrospective on Jane Russell, and a feature questioning the future of Vietnam's floating market in an evolving economy.
Then came Jim Gaffigan's rant on Father's Day.
My kids watched it with me. The three of us were full from the breakfast my wife had prepared (green eggs and ham, bacon, coffee, and fresh Quebec strawberries), the cards my children had constructed and colored lay next to my new paper weight: a rock from our garden decorated by my daughter so it resembled the moon.
Jim began his speech:
It's Father's Day. Ugh. How weird is that? A day to honor Dads? It doesn't make sense.
Mother's Day I get. They are mothers. They brought us into the world. Father's Day is like celebrating Darth Vader's birthday.
Great. Cuddle up kids. He continued:
"I guess since we honored mothers in May we should probably give a day in June to that guy who gets up early on his one day off to abandon us to go golfing."
I'm sure there are some really good dads out there, and I commend both of them.
I do do things with my kids, but when I come back from an outing, just know they are going to be sunburned, covered in mosquito bites and, yes, I forgot to get napkins when I bought them ice cream.
Wait, I lost one of their shoes? Well, at least I took them out! You're welcome.
He went on. But, I think we get it.
We got it when it was Archie Bunker in 1971.
We got it when it was Homer Simpson in 1989.
We got it when it was Ray Romano in 1996.
We've been getting it for a long time. There were several decades when we even deserved to get it.
But now it's tired, and insulting and—worst of all—counterproductive.
I know, he's a comedian. Fantastic. If that's your brand of humor, yuck it up.
But there are many of us dads who work hard to be what our children expect from a parent, and what society is only very slowly awakening to.
We are fathers who are working hard, not to prove that we can do it just as well, but working hard to succeed, so it becomes a given that we are doing it just as well. We want the care and love we provide for our children to be taken for granted, as it has been for mothers all these years.
We challenge dads like Gaffigan to understand that it is not about being lauded for taking an active role in their children's lives with a "Look he can do that!" But rather to assume that we should be doing that.
We are all parents to these children. Mothers and fathers.
Incompetence in not gender specific, it's an individual failing.
Physical and mental nourishment and enrichment are not gender specific, they are necessities to be provided to children by anyone who happens through this child's life.
That is why the dads in Lee Cowan's cover story are stitching together sick days and vacation time to be home with their kids.
Unfortunately, that feature was also stitched into a Father's Day show which chose the easy way out, at the expense progressive parenting and social change.