“Is Father’s Day outdated?” That’s what Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, asked in 2018. For me, the answer is a resounding “no.”
As long as there are men, fathers will be relevant and worth celebrating. And, I don’t just mean “father” as though it were interchangeable with the word “parent.”
A parent, in my view, can be of any gender or none at all. If you are willing and capable of taking on the responsibility of parenthood, you can be a parent. A parent’s responsibility is to educate, entertain, guide, protect, provide for and love their child. My success as a parent is evidenced by my child’s success at growing, learning, thriving and finding joy in the world.
However, I feel a critical part of being a father is teaching my daughter how to interact with men and how to have realistic expectations of these males she encounters. This means accepting masculinity in all its forms, not just the garden variety.
I embrace the title of “father” despite being an atypical dad. I don’t bring home the bacon, but I do all of the cooking (bacon and otherwise). I do most of the cleaning, too. I get my daughter up for school in the morning and pick her up in the afternoon. I braid her hair and pick out the cutest outfits for her. Seriously, I dress her very well. She’s the cutest.
The “emotionally unavailable dad” stereotype doesn’t apply to me, either. My wife is more emotionally restrained and less effusive than I am, by far. I’m not sporty, competitive or brutish.
In short, I’m not playing a role. I’m just being myself.
Masculinity comes in many forms
I believe that if my daughter sees that I’m not a stereotype, she’ll be more prepared to accept other men who don’t fit the traditional image of manliness. If I’ve done my job, she know and understand no single correct definition of masculinity exists just as no single correct definition of father or mother does.
Father’s Day is a great time to ask yourself what you are teaching your kids, be they sons or daughters, about men. It’s also a good time to reflect on what your dad taught you, if anything, about being a man. For example, my dad taught me that it’s OK for a man:
- to cry without explaining
- to appreciate beauty in all its forms
- to sing with all his heart
- to be afraid
- to have and express emotions
He also taught me being a dad doesn’t mean you stop being human.
In our society, men are struggling to find identity as long-held cliches and toxic behaviors are questioned or patently torn down. Men now must examine their own complicity in a system that has rewarded their worst characteristics. It has been a long time coming and we’re really only at the beginning of what is sure to be a sea-change in gender relations.
For this reason, it’s more important than it has ever been in my lifetime that fathers play an involved and conscious role in shaping our children’s impressions and expectations of men.
Defining the future of masculinity is a unique job that fathers are tailor-made for. Let’s keep Father’s Day relevant by being men worth celebrating. Let’s make Father’s Day a day when we celebrate the best of what men can be and those who showed us the way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erich Larsen works remotely from Scottsdale, Ariz., as the communications coordinator for a professional dental society in California and as a freelance graphic designer. He is a co-organizer of our Phoenix Dads Group. When not working or parenting, he draws, paints, writes, sings, cooks and travels with his wife and daughter.
Tea party photo courtesy of Victor Aragon