In today’s world of working-moms and stay-at-home dads, being just like your father simply isn’t good enough anymore. Besides, there aren’t many of those fathers left—they’ve almost all been kneecapped or water-boarded by smart, exhausted women. Indeed, in today’s world a dad’s job has become infinitely more complicated than Ward Cleavers ever was back in the era of the “Beaver.” Ward Cleaver’s twilight-zone is regrettably an artifact of the past—much to the chagrin of millions of tired and confused fathers.
Where the majority of men from my father’s generation can’t even boil water, much less cook a simple spaghetti dinner, a modern day father must now learn quickly to balance the traditional responsibilities of breadwinner, handy man and groundskeeper, with the competing and expanding roles of short-order cook, housekeeper, dispute resolution officer, athletic director, hairdresser, grocery shopper, dishwasher, life coach, and in some cases laundry foreman. No longer just an ornament in the home, the role of the modern-day father has indeed expanded to include jobs once “enjoyed” exclusively by women.
Although being a mother is hands-down still the most difficult job in the world, done correctly, the job of the modern-day father isn’t exactly a walk in the frozen aisle section either. Truthfully, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. And while most any male can and will enthusiastically provide half the requisite 46 genes necessary to yield a child, it takes a real man, a man willing to engage in full-metal parenting to be a genuine father in today’s progressive society with its skyscraping expectations for fathers.
Unfortunately, by modern standards, most of us are just an average dads toiling away, trying to do our best. And as an average dad, rookie mistakes are my specialty. Like expressing my views at exactly the wrong moment—when will I learn to be more reticent? Foolhardy slip-ups like this tend to animate the masses rather than advance the conversation—not smart.
Bigfooting my way into matters where I hold little actual knowledge is another example of a rookie mistake frequently made by this average dad. Pony tails, hair braiding, color coordination, which shoes look best are but some examples where average fatherhood buffoonery shines bright, and represents another area that dads should avoid, but often don't, if they hope to remain on solid ground with their daughters.
My signature move, however, my “Battle of Little Big Horn,” continues to be fixing things that don’t need fixing. As the human denominator under which all things stressful sit atop, average dads are genetically wired to fix, repair, and resolve everything we see, broken or not. Never mind we need only listen to be effective—stand back, out of the way, we’ll fix everything. Oh, it's not broken you say? We'll fix it anyway, just to show you it can be done, heck; we may even break it just so we can fix it, thus impressing you with our vast problem solving skills.
So, to the millions of exhausted, marginalized, mumbling, feckless, and sometimes emasculated fathers across the country, I salute you averageness, I hear you—I am your voice. Never mind your sphere of influence continues to narrow and never mind your appreciation for order is disregarded by all those around you—I hear you and I get it.
Yes, mine is the voice of the average dad who each day dons the costume of the extra loving parent but who can’t even get his kids to flush the toilet or turn off the lights. Mine is the voice of a dad who spends his evenings and weekends (sandwiched between my kids sporting events and homework assignments) wandering around the house, mumbling, fixing things other people broke, objectified for our ability to find, fix, repair, lift, or just replace, broken stuff we didn’t break.
Through it all we’re just average dads who want our kids and wife to be happy. And, struggling as we do pursuing an honorable discharge from this most important responsibility, we continue to work hard for our kids because we love them and because we want their lives to be better than ours. Isn’t this natural? Doesn’t every generation strive to improve upon the previous attempt—my own parents no-doubt wincing as they wonder aloud how it possible to improve upon my charmed life?
And so it goes, gone are the days when Ward Clever could sit in his favorite chair, paradoxically wearing both tie and slippers at the same time, reading the newspaper while his dedicated wife labored in the kitchen cooking the family’s dinner—and no-doubt tossing back shots of tequila off camera. Alas, those were the days but they are long gone.
So, move over Ward, there’s a new dad in town and you don’t want to provoke him. He’s considerably more stressed, significantly busier and far more exhausted then you ever were. Besides, the paper, slippers and dinner all must wait; lacrosse practice starts in five minutes, plus we have some extreme helicopter parenting to do.