I've come to appreciate motherhood as one of the great rewards of winning the XX chromosome lottery. But I was always a bit envious of the boys growing up. Not because they got to get dirtier, or play Little League or because they could pee standing up. No, I was envious because they had the chance to grow up to be dads.
It was always "Father" who knew "Best" in those black and white shows I watched, ad nauseum, down in the basement afterschool. And things did seem to go swimmingly for Kitten, Princess, Bud and the Beav with Dad at the helm. But these 50s sitcoms sure didn't give an 8-year-old girl viewing in syndication much hope of achieving anything beyond "better." Moms, while nice for a potential pot roast or sock darning, weren't exactly the ones dolling out sage advice at the end of the day. Eventually, some of my early small screen favorites found their way into color, but "The Courtship of Eddie's Father." "The Andy Griffith Show" and "My Three Sons" intensified my "fatherhood envy" even further--Mom was completely expendable in these widower-oriented shows.
But women's lib changed things. It changed lots of things, of course. But to this tube-centric kid the thing feminism seemed to change most was the Moms I saw on TV. Shirley Partridge got to cruise around in a totally groovy bus and play keyboards in the band. And while life wasn't always a cakewalk for divorcee Ann Romano, she and daughters Barbara and Julie seemed to do just fine "One Day at a Time." And as far as I was concerned, while probably not the best example of having "come a long way, baby," Carol Brady appeared the embodiment of "having it all" -- no professional career that I could ever detect but still got to have a full-time housekeeper and a butcher that delivered.
It seemed like media moms were finally coming into their own, perhaps at the expense of media dads.
So many of the dads on the airwaves in recent years--- Homer Simpson, Ray Romano and Phil Dunphy
, to name a few -- are always good for a laugh. But they take a clear back seat to their wives when it comes to effective parenting. It's Mom who seems to know best. Dad seems to know nothing at all. And this just isn't a fair representation.
Even in the brave and somewhat-new world of on-line opining, it is the moms that are getting all the glory. It's mommy bloggers this and mommy bloggers that"we need more Dads to share their stories. I briefly considered asking my very insightful husband to sit in for the week. But the idea of a "Dada Madison" post sounded a bit too much like a Marcel Duchamp retrospective at the Chazen. So you're still stuck with me.
But I will use my time wisely, and request that this Father's Day we remind the dads in our lives that they are much more than the one-dimensional characters we see on TV. Remember to gift them with respect and appreciation, right along with that grill accessory or Home Depot gift certificate.
Sure, I see a little of Phil and Ray's "bumble" in my husband, but I also see a lot of Pa Ingalls grace under pressure, Ward Cleaver's wise words of wisdom, and Dr. Cliff Huxtable's way with a sweater. My kids' dad is more than just the yin to my yang; he's the Mike to my Carol Brady -- minus the perm, three of the kids and (much to my chagrin) the live-in housekeeper.
I have no doubt in my mind it's our shared approach to parenting that makes this family run (albeit not always) smoothly. Maybe I need to break out of my sitcom rut and turn to reruns of cop shows, like Starsky and Hutch or "Miami Vice", for "partnerships that work" guidance.
And, come to think of it, a pastel t-shirt and white Italian blazer would be a much more inspired Father's Day gift than just another tie.
How are you celebrating dad this coming Sunday? A "Father Knows Best" marathon, perhaps?