Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Humor Me: Happy Father's Day, buffoons of America

Last week I got an e-mail touting Father’s Day deals. I got a few of them actually, including one that mentioned that the perfect gift for any dad would be the Ultimate Turbo Nose Hair Trimmer.

The e-mail that really stood out, however, was from Groupon. Here’s a subject line that’s impossible to ignore:

Father’s Day deals for the man who felt you kick inside him for nine months.


I couldn’t imagine what might be available to a man who felt someone kick inside him for nine months. So I opened the e-mail, and when I scrolled down, the gender bender continued.

“Happy Father’s Day,” it said. And then this:

Deals to celebrate the man who carried you around for nine months.

Yeah, I’d say there’s reason to celebrate a man who felt kicks inside him without eating spicy food. That’s quite a dad. As for myself, I had to go the old-fashioned route of putting my hand on my wife’s belly to feel my sons’ kicks. It wasn’t until after they were born, and got a little older, that I really felt the kicks during epic Wixon Wrestling Federation matches in the living room.

I’m sure the Groupon e-mail was written from a Mother’s Day template and someone didn’t check the details. The result was a potential cover story in the old Weekly World News, right next to the confirmed sightings of Elvis and Bigfoot.

It was weird, but even though the credit was undeserved, at least the mistake gave fathers some credit. That’s nice because -- and I don’t think I’m breaking any news here -- dads often don’t get the credit they deserve.

They’re certainly not portrayed well in pop culture. The bumbling dad is an absolute gold mine of material for television shows, movies and commercials. He has no idea how to raise kids, he’s immature and irresponsible, and sometimes he’s just plain stupid. Leave him alone with the children and they’ll be wandering the neighborhood at midnight while he and his friends argue about whether a pizza was delivery or DiGiorno.

So thank God for moms, right?

Yes, thank God for moms. More dads than ever are becoming the primary caregivers for their kids, but there’s a seed of truth in the blooming stereotype of the idiot dad. Dads can be immature, irresponsible and sometimes just plain stupid.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of dads living apart from their kids in 1960 was 11 percent. In 2010, it had more than doubled to 27 percent. That’s not all the fault of dads, of course, because divorces happen and mothers often get custody. But here’s the really disappointing statistics, also from the Pew Research Center:

One third of fathers who don’t live with their kids communicate with them less than once a month. Of the fathers who don’t live with their kids, 27 percent visit them less than once a year.

That’s truly an absentee father. And kids with absentee fathers are much more likely to commit crimes, drop out of school, end up in prison and live in poverty. They are also more likely to become absentee fathers.

That’s no surprise because kids emulate their parents, and for those who want to be good dads, that’s the good news as Father’s Day approaches. Even if you don’t think you have any special skills or great talents, such as being the amazing Groupon dad who can feel the in-utero kicks, you are a huge force in your child’s life. Even if you don’t feel you can impart any fatherly wisdom, you are “the man” to your kids.

I know I haven’t provided a lot of great advice to my three sons. Some stuff about sports, I guess, and how they should treat others the way they want to be treated. There was also that day at 7-Eleven when I taught them that, when getting soda from the fountain, you shouldn’t fill the cup all the way to the top because it will overflow when you place the lid on and put the straw in.

Now that’s some real-world advice.

But it’s nothing special, of course. It’s nothing that any dad, even the buffoonish ones that are portrayed in pop culture, couldn’t come up with. I guess that’s why the stereotype of the bumbling dad doesn’t bother me that much. I bumble and I stumble sometimes. But I know the importance of dads, and I know that to be a good one, the most important thing isn’t to be special.

The most important thing is just to be there.

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