Thursday, June 15, 2017

Paternal Instinct

by Stacey Fearheiley

Parenting isn't easy.  Being a mom is hard. Being a just confusing.  In many ways, Dads get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.  

Mother's Day came first.  "Mommy" or "Mama" is often the first word from baby.  And when there's a boo boo, it's Mommy one runs to for assistance. 

Even in the movies, as in Steven Spielberg's Hook, Peter Pan's daughter tells Captain Hook that he needs " a mother very very badly."  

In this week's podcast Eric and I talk about our favorite movie and tv dads.  Peter Pan didn't make the list.  Peter Pan, in that movie, was not a very good dad.  Even in some of the films or tv shows where the dads made the cut, Father of the Bride  and the Dick Van Dyke Show for example, the dads provide for the family monetarily, but for the heavy emotional lifting of the family or the "getting stuff done with the kids" portion....that was Mom.  And while I will admit again that I equated Dick Van Dyke with my own Dad often, the emotionally distant, workaholic, remote father figure was NOT my experience.

Fun story:  Steve Martin's Father of the Bride and Hook came out the same year, 1991.  My dad, Don, and I went to see both of them that summer together.  At the end of both movies our cheeks were moist from tears.  During FotB, I was sobbing.  After seeing the second of the two, Don and I were talking and analyzing the films, as we were wont to do.  I asked him which movie made him cry more.

I'll be honest.  I knew the answer to the question.  FotB was all about the oldest daughter and her dad coping with her growing up, moving away and making her own life.  I knew this was a trigger for Don, and waited smugly for him to answer.  Interestingly, he needed to think about it.  For a few minutes.  "Hook."  he said.  I was gobsmacked! WTF?  Did he not picture me haring off to marry someone who might take his place in my life?  Where was the love?  (I've always been a tad dramatic.)

He smiled sadly and explained why he cried more for the Pan.
"I see me in Peter." he said. "When he shows up to the baseball field after the game is over because he's been stuck in a meeting, I saw me.  I felt like I had missed so much of your childhood experiences.  It made me regret."

My indignation melted away.  And then rushed right back...more righteous than ever.  I remember looking at him incredulously, shaking my head and admonishing him for ever thinking he missed anything of any importance.  In my memory, every play I was in, every recital I performed in, every volleyball game I played in, my dad was there.  Any time I looked out into the audience I saw Don. I couldn't think of a thing he wasn't there for.  But my perception and his were very different.  I like to think I convinced him to agree with mine.

And therein lies the rub.  The movies and tv shows put these concepts of the perfect dad out there. From Father knows Best to black-ish to Despicable Me's Felonius Gru to Mrs Doubtfire and even Logan.  In the end we see what we want to see, what makes sense to us, individually, based on our own experiences.

So, on this Father's Day, I know that I was very lucky to have Don as a dad.  He wasn't perfect, but being a father isn't easy.  You have a lot of pressure to live up to ideals created in history, in media and our expectations.'re not alone, fathers of the world.  You should commiserate with each other. Grab a beer, pull up a chair and watch FoodTV (you know you want to).  And while you may not get the kudos that moms do...or the respect that moms do, in the present, we the end...remember the role you played, and love you for it.

Happy Father's Day!

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