By George A. Brown, editor
My friends and I must have done something right as fathers; we’ve got some pretty good kids to fill our shoes and contribute to our pensions. Of course it didn’t always look that way; some took a rather circuitous route to academic success and personal satisfaction.
And for some of us it was challenging to be a divorced parent, sharing weekends and responsibilities on a schedule.
I was the Hockey Dad, up before the son to get the next Doug Gilmour to the hockey rink on time. It was early, it was often chilly but it was always a pleasure to watch Michael play the game. I was also Baseball Dad, with my son playing in a mosquito league as I sat in the stands swatting mosquitoes. Then I was Roadie Dad, lugging guitars and amps around in my truck has he traded in his hockey stick and baseball bat for a bass guitar.
My son has known for some time that after my career in community journalism is over and my obit has been published (for free, I hope) there is no inheritance, just hereditary diseases and reams of fatherly advice. I’ve always been a wax-on, wax-off kind of teacher. Platitudes roll off my tongue. Experience is a good teacher but it is easier to use a chainsaw if you have all of your thumbs.
At some point as a father you realize your child spends more time under the influence of their friends, schoolteachers and the one-eyed babysitter than they do under your tutelage. That wouldn’t be so bad if they all shared your philosophies and morals — or at least those set out in the Bible and the Criminal Code.
When I was growing up it was during a time when the TV stations actually stopped broadcasting overnight, stores closed on weekends, and the “Wait till your father comes home” code of punishment prevailed.
I grew up in an era of ideal dads on television: Ben Cartwright on Bonanza, Steve Douglas on My Three Sons, Sherriff Andy Taylor on the Andy Griffith Show (And how lucky was Ron Howard? He had Andy Griffith and later Howard Cunningham as his TV dads.) Archie Bunker was probably the turning point for the portrayal of dads on TV. We went from a Father Knows Best patriarch to Father is a Bigot. Happy Days and The Brady Bunch notwithstanding, American television, especially its comedies, seem to make a concerted effort to present TV dads as stooges. Sure, we had the bucolic, wholesome Waltons but we also had the Conner family on Roseanne. And that led us down the slippery slope of The Simpsons, Married with Children and Malcolm in the Middle.
Today’s best-known TV dad role models are animated characters Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson — whose body type and enjoyment of beer I happen to share.
Now, I’m certainly not going to blame the weakening of the North American family unit on the proliferation of doltish dads on television; but it does make you wonder.
I understand why Herman Munster was conflicted — he was after all the sum of his parts. And I do understand that stereotypes, satire and slapstick are used to subtly reinforce a moral code. But why do TV dads now have to be so dumb? There is no way television producers and advertisers would allow the fairer sex to be portrayed as boobs. The cries of “misogynist” would be deafening. And rightly so.
TV dads back in the day got along with their children, they provided a moral compass and they worked co-operatively with their wives to make the household decisions.
Maybe society gave up trying to emulate those stalwart TV dads before TV producers stopped creating them.
All of this, in my usual, roundabout way, in 725 words or less, is meant to tell you to be that that ideal, positive male influence in your child’s life. Take control of the remote, and go outside and play with your kids, help them with their homework and teach them what they need to survive when you’re not there.
You can do it. Really.
If there’s a Heaven, or even a Hell, come to think of it, then my Dad will be holding down a spot at the end of the bar this Sunday, tipping a cold one.
Enjoy a happy Father’s Day.