By Jon Lowder
The role of dads in modern America has shifted dramatically over the last couple of generations. When my parents were married in the early 60s the expectations for most couples were pretty simple: they’d get married not long after getting out of school , start popping kids out and the dad would work while the mom stayed home and ran the household. Then in the early 70s those folks started divorcing at an unheard of rate, the moms entered the workforce in droves and by the time their children started getting married in the 80s and 90s the expectations for moms and dads weren’t quite so clear. That change is reflected in recent polls that show dads are taking on a greater share of household duties and an increasing number of moms – roughly 40% – are the primary breadwinners in their households.
So yes, times have changed and dad’s role in the household has shifted, but what hasn’t changed is that when the chips are down, and a decision has to be made that affects the children, mom’s always right. Even when she’s wrong, she’s right. Whether it’s deciding which doctor to visit or which shirt should be worn to the school play, if mom and dad don’t agree you can bet your bottom dollar that the kid’s going to end up at mom’s doctor and wearing mom’s shirt.
There are some notable exceptions. When boys reach a certain age and they, uh, discover themselves that special talk falls almost exclusively in dad’s lap. I’ve yet to meet a mom who wants to have that discussion with her son and that’s the key: It’s one area that make 99.9% of mom’s exceedingly uncomfortable and feel in over their heads so they gladly cede control to the dad. In fact most of the exceptions involve boys and things that generally only boys do. Peeing in the woods? Dad. Resolving conflict, any conflict, with violence? Dad. Sticking things in every orifice just to see if it will fit? Dad again. This works out well since many dads do these things as adults anyway so they speak from long experience.
In everything else dad is almost never right. The best example I can provide is from my experience raising a daughter currently in college who went a little boy crazy in 8th grade and never really stopped. I warned her and her mother repeatedly that all boys are dangerous and lecherous, and the only thing that separates a “good” boy from a “bad” boy is that the good one listens when you say no. I went so far as to say that if a boy did anything that appeared to be sensitive or caring there would always be a quid pro quo. Their reaction was, “Oh, you’re exaggerating” or “You just think that because it’s your daughter and no one is good enough.” While that second statement is true in the sense that no boy will ever be good enough for my daughter, my observation was based totally on long experience dealing with guys and I assure you that I was right.
So what happened when boyfriends turned into ex-boyfriends and mom and dad were regaled with tales of how oafish, stupid and crude those ex-boyfriends were? Were there declarations of “Dad, you were SO right” or “Honey, I wish we’d listened to you”? Yeah right.
Here’s the deal: in order to be successful we dads have to learn to accept our role as vice president of our households. We may be consulted by our children’s mom – less likely if she’s not also our wife, although miracles do happen – but the final decision most definitely rests with her. As for you moms, if you want to keep us around for those awkward discussions with your sons or to scare the bejeezus out of your daughter’s cute but not very nice boyfriend, then you need to throw us the occasional bone. Let us send the kid to school in a striped shirt and plaid shorts without humiliating us in public. Don’t remind us daily for 15 years that even though french fries are made from potatoes they don’t really fulfill the role of a vegetable serving. In other words let us be wrong gracefully and we’ll work wonders when you really need us to be right.
Jon Lowder lives in Lewisville, NC and has been married to his wife Celeste for 21 years. They have three children, Michael (20), Erin (19) and Justin (17). Michael and Erin attend NC State University and Justin is a student at West Forsyth High School. Jon works for a trade association in Greensboro, NC and when he’s not hanging out with his family or working he serves on the Lewisville Planning Board, plays tennis and reads any fiction that isn’t considered great literature. You can find his blog atwww.jonlowder.com, like his Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/jonsfont, or follow him on Twitter @jlowder.
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Previous Fatherly Fridays:
Ten Easy Ways Dads can be More Involved with Their Kids – by Travis Finn
5 Parenting Tips from a Seasoned Dad – by Kim Williams
Programmer Preschool – by Scott Rigdon
Tolerance – by James Raper