I hope all the dads out there had a wonderful Father’s Day last weekend. Our family certainly did; all of our children and our granddaughter spent the day with us, and we spoiled my husband absolutely rotten. He deserved it.
The other 364 days a year, he makes it his business to take care of his family, whether the need is financial, emotional, spiritual or any of the other hundreds of things for which families turn to dads. He deserves a day that’s devoted to him, and only him.
The subject of parents, specifically, which parent is more important, has been the topic of debate for years. Television shows and even commercials contribute to the debate, and they do it in a manner that is so subtle and seemingly harmless that we usually don’t even catch it. Too often, dads are depicted as being goofy, irresponsible and let’s face it – less than intelligent. On the other hand, moms are most often portrayed as being calm, capable and all-knowing.
Oh, I know that no harm is intended by perpetuating these good-natured stereotypes. We laugh and roll our eyes, agreeing somewhere in the recesses of our minds that yes, dads are really just big kids themselves. Left to their own devices, they’d feed their kids chocolate cake and Skittles for breakfast, then let them stay home all day watching cartoons and playing video games because they have no idea where their school is located. Our society, intentionally or not, sells dads short.
The debate continues in an arena that’s not as “harmless” as television ads and sitcoms. It is argued in courthouses across the country when couples make the sad and difficult decision to part ways, and somebody has to decide where the children will live when they do. In many cases, the mother and father are too consumed with hate and anger and resentment to make the best choices for the children, so a judge is tasked with making the call.
Years ago, children would live with the mother in the event of divorce, except in the most extreme cases. The natural assumption was that Mom was the most important parent of the two, and most likely the better. Today, the courts are recognizing the value of fathers, and mothers are not automatically considered to be the most important parent of the two. Even though I am a mom, and one who twenty years ago went through a divorce with two very young children, I am glad to see that fathers are finally being granted the status that most of them deserve.
Fathers – good fathers – are critical to the healthy development of their sons and daughters. Sons look to their fathers as examples of how to be men, fathers, and husbands. Daughters look to their daddies and learn how they should expect to be treated by boys and eventually, by men. Fathers matter. Fathers who choose not to be present in the home may be taking the easy way out, but they leave a great deal of damage in their wake. Fathers who are present but who are also abusive or neglectful leave their own brand of damage behind them.
There’s another group of men out there who are perhaps even more undervalued than dads, and that’s stepdads. Being a step parent is very difficult; my husband and I know because we’re both “steps.” There are too many problems inherent with blending families to enumerate here, but blending can be done, and beautifully.
The parents, or in this case step-parents, must first and foremost be even less selfish than the biological parents. Why? Because they are choosing to parent children who are not “theirs,” not by blood anyway. That takes courage. It takes supreme selflessness, and it takes dedication. A loving stepdad can undo an awful lot of damage left behind by a less-than-ideal dad, and I, for one, am grateful for that fact.
So here’s to dads, and here’s to stepdads. Here’s the recognition and the pat on the back that you so deeply deserve and are too often denied. The children whose lives you touch are molded by you, and your influence lives on for generations.
Seems like you should get more than a bad necktie for that, doesn’t it?
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.