COLUMN: Celebrating modern dadhood this Father’s Day

This is my Sunday column for the June 17, 2012 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Happy Father’s Day!

Celebrating modern dadhood this Father’s Day
By Aaron J. Brown

It’s Father’s Day today, or as I like to call it: ME DAY. Then again, I like to think of every day as ME DAY, so the pomp and pretense of a special day seems almost too much. No need to showboat or draw unneeded attention. ME DAY will go on as planned.

I kid, of course. Every day is not ME DAY, a fact I must confront daily. But it should be and don’t think I’ve forgotten.

It’s impolite to speak of Father’s Day in the first person. You’re supposed to buy greeting cards for your dad(s) and grandpa(s) picked out special, just for them. And apparently your dad needs to be an active alcoholic or Biblically slothful for most of the jokes on the cards to work.

*OPEN CARD* “Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Have some beers and sit there, waiting to die, just like every other day.”

I’m sorry, that’s not as funny without the picture of the dog wearing a hat on the front. Or music. I forgot. The card plays music.

But when you do find an appropriate card you send it and then you call dad to make sure he got it. It’s kind of fun repeating this ritual from Mother’s Day last month. When you call mom she says “Thank You!” and you have a lovely conversation. When I call my dad or grandpas there’s always this underlying sense of “Oh, we’re doing this, huh?” to the conversation. “Yup, it is a day and I guess they call it Father’s Day, so here we are. How’s the boat?”

Fatherhood endures through the ages, but keeps changing along the margins. It’s why everyone’s always in a tizzy over “This Changing Nation,” because some fairly unfair cultural mores of the past are unraveling and no one knows what to do with themselves.

My wife went somewhere on a recent evening and I was home with the boys.

“Thanks for looking after us, dad,” said Doug, 4. “It is your job, though.”

Indeed it is. We may finally have reached a tipping point where people stop referring to a father tending to children as “babysitting,” a term normally referring to an outside party who comes into the home to monitor children in absence of a parent. I still sometimes hear women describe their husbands watching their kids in a congratulatory sort of way. “He didn’t even kill any of them with power tools! What a trooper!”

Because I work from home so much I’m around more than a lot of old-timey dads were. I have a garage, but I don’t know how to do anything productive out there so I stay in the house with the kids. I’m around, like furniture with vague authority. I have to jockey for time on the iPad just like everyone else.

The roles of a dad are changing to incorporate a fairer way of divvying up household chores. Moms and dads often both work outside the home now; and there are enough stay-at-home dads out there that it’s no longer particularly interesting. And good! It’s about time.

You know, a generation ago it was the dad’s job to dispense daddy issues and the mom’s job to dispense mommy issues. Now we can all acknowledge the truth of our modern times: generational emotional issues can and should be shared regardless of gender. 

I’m grateful that Christina and our boys Henry, Doug and George are in my life, allowing me to join in on the fun today. So Happy Father’s Day to all my fellow dads out there. And special greetings to my dad, father-in-law and grandpas as well.

Now, time to join in the Father’s Day cliche that best applies to me: “Let’s go grill some meat outdoors while thinking things and not saying them!” Sounds like I’ve got a new greeting card to write.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from the Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on public stations like 91.7 KAXE.

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