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Do You Take Your Father For Granted?

Let's do better on Father's Day this year.

Every morning, I tear off yesterday’s page on my daily calendar and am treated to a new chuckle delivered by the comic strip character Maxine. Her cynical yet funny view of life often makes me stop and think. This weekend, she offered an insight about Father’s Day. She wryly said, “Father’s Day is the special day each year that we treat Dad to a disappointing comparison with Mother’s Day.” Sad but true.

It’s far easier to find a Father’s Day card which pokes fun at fathers for being lazy, silly, or dumb. Caricatures of fathers show them playing badly on the golf course, burning a steak on the grill, drinking too many beers, sitting around in their boxer shorts, or chained to the television remote control. This year, I almost bought a card picturing a dad, leaning back in his recliner, with the quote saying, “I’m not napping, I’m just resting my eyes.” Now, I have to say that card is pretty funny because my father actually does say stuff like that! And, to my pleasant disbelief, he even would appreciate a card like that! I think, in a way, this is part of what makes dads so special.

Dads tend to be able to take a joke because they are a bit more thick-skinned than moms. I know that is a generalization, but I think it is often true. This attitude toward life is something important that fathers give to their children. One of the jobs of a good dad is to help kids become a little tougher, a little more resilient, a little more separate. If kids only had moms, they might stay tied to her apron strings and under her skirt for the rest of their lives. But dads push kids to leave the nest; they brush off the dirt from their knees when they fall; and they encourage their kids to get back in the game when they want to quit.

Good dads can take a joke because they tend to be more sturdy, not quite so fragile. And just like kids need moms to help them be emotionally sensitive, they need dads to help them roll with the punches.

I think Maxine is on to something, though, which we ought to ponder. Do we take fathers for granted? Do we give mom the pride of place, and leave dad a bit in her shadow? I think we do. And that is a shame. Father’s Day should be a day that we try to do better.

So this year, I picked out father’s day cards that were a bit more serious, a bit more from the heart. They spoke of respect for dad’s character. For his background support. For his generosity. For his guidance. These are aspects of good fathers which we ought to honor.

Of course, no father is perfect and some fathers are far from it. But perhaps you can celebrate some of these qualities in your own father—or in yourself as a father—or in a substitute father figure that you have been fortunate enough to have.

Copyright 2012 Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D.

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