Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Father’s Day. . . Times have changed and so has Fatherhood

Times have certainly changed and so has Fatherhood. Nervous fathers-to-be used to pace the floor, waiting for the nurse to open the door and say: “Congratulations, it’s a girl! Or it’s a boy.”

In the old black-and-white movies, there wasn’t much discussion about the nine months of pregnancy or the intensity of the mother-to-be’s labor leading to the baby’s birth — just absolute astonishment from the young guy when all of a sudden he hears those words for the first time, that he’s a Dad. In the old movies, the new dad hands out cigars to all those in the waiting room and all is well with the world.

Look at how things have changed. Many fathers-to-be choose to be in part of the entire baby process, proudly proclaiming the news, “We’re having a baby”, with a real emphasis on the word ‘we’. Often times, the dads-to-be attend coaching classes for the birth and are present for all the doctor visits leading up to the big day. Not only do they plan to be in the delivery room, they are active participants. We see dads-to-be capture the entire birth on their video cameras, digital cameras or cell phones (sometimes much to the chagrin of the moms-to-be). Photos of the new baby are electronically transmitted to family and friends all over the world. Entries of the newest member of the family seemingly appear instantaneously on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Fatherhood has changed. The modern-day Dad has evolved from the sometimes-absent traditional married breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family. Now he can be single or married; working outside the home or a stay-at home dad; gay or straight, an adoptive or a step-parent. But children, no matter how old, remember riding on their father’s shoulders and dancing on his toes. Dads remember those things too, but what really stands out are the unexpected rewards of parenthood.

The easygoing Dad with the unstructured fun . . . giving kids enough freedom to learn life’s lessons. Remember your dad letting you fall of your bike so you could learn how to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Like many, my dad was more apt to let us kids be adventuresome and just be kids. He would let us take a fall so that the next time we got into a situation, we would be able to work it out ourselves. Dad would let us kids explore, where mom was more prone to say no, no, no. He knew how to have fun and he shared it with his kids.

Dad can be the love in our lives that holds our hand as we take our first steps, and when we’re older, that holds our nervous arm as we walk down the aisle. When our daughter was born, my husband was standing in the operating room as the doctor did an emergency Caesarean section. I couldn’t see past the tenting of white cloth rising above my chest. My husband kept giving me reassuring nods, turning away only long enough to ask a nurse if this was normal. By the time I saw the baby, she was pink and wiggly. Days later, I marveled at the sheer terror my husband faced in the operating room, and did so without flinching. So much for the black-and-white movie image of the inept man who keels over as he hands the nurse a cigar in the earlier days.

Like I said, fatherhood has changed. There are the modern, liberated men who consider parenting a top-tier job and share all aspects of child-rearing. That was my husband’s approach, and it’s familiar to many dads who will be given presents of neckties and after-shave today. These modern dads change diapers, get up in the middle of the night for the 2 AM feedings and let a 4-year-old win at hide-and-seek.

As our daughter grew, so did her love for her dad and his for her. Now at 27 and married, she still calls him for all her computer problems, her car issues, or just to talk. As a young physician, those telephone calls with dad are shorter in length and not as frequent, but the calls remain just as important, especially to her dad.

I speak from experience when I say the tag-team approach to raising a child really comes in handy – whether you are hosting a 1-year-old’s birthday party or planning her dream wedding. Together, my husband and I did better than either of us would have done on our own. So, today on Father’s Day, I have a message for my husband . . . a simple thank you. I couldn’t have done without you.

To all the Dads, enjoy your special day and remember that you make a difference in your child’s life each and every day!

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  1. Pattye, I know we may have been at odds in the past, but as a dad myself, and as a son who just lost his dad, I wanted to tell you this was beautifully written. There is no other “job” on earth I would rather do than be a father, and I learned about fatherhood from my own recently departed dad. We are not perfect, but we would and do give our lives to our kids, in partnership with our wives at least in my case. Thank you. You made my day.

  2. Nice to read you have so many positive memories of your own Dad and your husband as Dad, I do too. Thanks for sharing,

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