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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Dad, The Incompetent Boob

If you turn on the television during any given time of day and pay attention to the commercials, you'll see countless ads that feature a typical American dad. Grilling, golfing, whatever, he's usually the stereotypical archetype of what a father should be to most of us. Unfortunately, he's also often portrayed as a clueless, benign figure who doesn't know his butt from a hole in the ground. 
Image from
This is a phenomenon that my husband has recently brought to my attention. Usually I hit mute during 90 percent of the commercials, but every so often will half pay attention in time to see a mom bribing her daughter with money to convince the poor, hapless father that they need a complete kitchen remodel. Or, the wife will stand impatiently and glare at her oaf of a husband for even daring to assume that their list of home improvement projects is done, the husband looking cowardly at the wife like he's ready to be hit over the head with a baseball bat. What gives? You certainly wouldn't see these roles reversed. Can you even imagine such a thing and the outpouring of rage that would ensue?
How many TV actresses have played the role of laboring mother, screaming through clenched teeth at their helpless husbands, "You did this to me!" Perhaps us mothers should be thankful they put us in that position? Or at least realize that they are what gave us the ability to be mothers in the first place?
Apparently there is some buzz about the roles of fathers in commercials and TV - if you do a Google search you'll find extensive material discussing this. So why hasn't the ad industry caught on? 
My husband and I both agree, as do many others, that now more than ever society needs positive, strong father figures. How many judges overseeing bitter custody battles will give full custody to the mother of the child? In the case of Baby P, a British toddler who was severely beaten by his mother and her boyfriend, the biological father of the child was fighting for custody to the point of even attempting to kidnap his child in a desperate attempt to save his life. But the conventional wisdom of the court prevailed, and the child was sent home with Dear Mother and her live-in boyfriend, who then proceeded to brutally beat the child to death. Had dad only been given custody of his son, who knows where this young boy would be now? Healthy and thriving? Getting ready to start preschool?
Studies have shown that kids who grow up without positive fatherly role models in their lives are more likely to live in poverty, commit more crime and do more poorly in school. Therefore we know that dad does more than just bring home a paycheck and leave the rest to mom. 
No one wants to admit that sometimes mom can bungle things, too, like the times I've actually been so busy I forgot to give my kids lunch. Or when my sleep-deprived brain has done some dumb things, like forget diapers AND wipes while out in public only to have one of the kids experience a messy blowout of mythic proportions. And I can't tell you how many times my husband has remembered to bring those diapers and wipes, and will have already changed one of the kids when I forget!
We talk about paying tribute to dads on Father's Day, but perhaps we should really give them their due and stop portraying them as bungling idiots who don't know a thing except how to drink beer and grill hot dogs.