The Return of the Classic American Father
While it is a bummer that the classic American father has become a bit of myth these days in popular culture, I can serve as a representative in “dad from day one” as one myself.
I would like to begin with the discernment of a female comedian named Sarah Haskins; I highly recommend watching this humorous 3 minute video clip regarding the following quote of hers:
“Single men in commercials look good, drive fast, and drink beer. Then they meet women, get married, and become good-for-nothing doofy husbands. And what happens if the husband tried to plant his feet and not get bullied in real life? Divorced, money split, wife takes the kids, forever in debt.”
It’s strange how I never gave it too much thought before: How so many commercials and sitcoms really do revolve around a funny yet overweight and slightly incompetent man who happened to score a thin and hot wife who overlooks his bumbling and pathetic behavior. From Kevin James to to Homer Simpson. (Of course, I fully realize the annoying irony of the fact that it is mainly men who are writing those commercials and sitcoms.)
Yes, they makes us laugh. But in some subconscious ways, these stereotypes of men also take power (and more obviously, respect) away from men, in general. Does anyone really care whether or not men are portrayed positively in sitcoms and commercials? Or are we just content to just ignore the occasional facebook status hype that “all men are jerks”, or best, the subliminal message that men are jokes?
As a man with solid moral principles and a backbone, I know the truth: Good men still exist. We’re embarrassed by the worst examples of men; the ones who make the most noise and the most messes. The truth is, being a good man is everything to me. I live for being a good husband and a good father. It’s crucial that I earn respect from those who know me.
Fortunately, my obsession of being respected as a father and husband isn’t simply my own personal quirk. I was so relieved and encouraged when I read the book For Women Only. Here’s an insightful quote from female author Shaunti Feldhahn, explaining a major difference in the wiring of men and women:
“Notice that one of the main biblical passages on marriage- in Ephesians 5- never tells the wife to love her husband, and it never tells the husband to respect his wife (presumably because we each already tend to give what we want to receive). Instead, over and over, it urges the husband to love his wife and urges the wife to respect her husband and his leadership. Women often tend to want to control things, which, unfortunately, men tend to interpret as disrespect and distrust (which, if we’re honest with ourselves, it sometimes is).”
Shortly after getting married, I read both that book and its counterpart, For Men Only. Thank God for those books! Marriage makes so much more sense after learning the unspoken things that men and women assume the other already knows on a daily basis. But if I had to pin it down to one major thing I learned from reading them, it was that men want to be respected by their wives and that women want to feel loved by their husbands. And more importantly, these books clearly explain to a man how to successfully express his love to his wife and they explain to a woman how to successfully express respect to her husband.
By going against so many of the negative stereotypes about men, I can truly show my wife and son that I love them. I can’t express the value of the reward of feeling like a respected husband and father. So I think if a man proves himself to be respected by people, then people should respect him enough to tell him they noticed his “goodness”, in some way. There’s not a whole lot of that happening these days.
So I do. I take the time to tell good men that they are good. Even coming from me, another guy, I know it means something. Because subconsciously, though we men would never admit it, we appreciate being noticed for being the good men of this world.
I embark on a mission each new day to be the best good man I can be. And I know that the little things are the big things: Helping take care of my 3 month old son in every way I can, not leaving all or most of it on my wife, is a daily staple for me in my effort to be a good man. I don’t want my wife to be able to joke with her friends about my shortcomings or shortcuts as a dad and husband. Instead, I live to give her every reason not to ever be tempted to do that, even for an innocent laugh. And despite my constant strive and desire to be funny, when it comes to being a good father and husband, I want to be taken seriously. It’s not a joking matter.
Admittedly, my skills regarding home repairs and car maintenance are lacking- big time. But I know that being able to fix a car or a garbage disposal doesn’t ultimately prove my manhood. Being an active, supportive, responsible father and husband does. Man was created in God’s image. Not Charlie Sheen’s. Not Archie Bunker’s. Not Peter Griffin’s.
Recruiting the help of my facebook friends, I tried to come up with an example of a popular American father on TV, who is recent (in new episodes since 2004) and not a widow, a martyr, a robot, or an alien. Turns out, there was no real, obvious winner. So instead of naming who the modern day Ward Cleaver is in the title of this entry, all I could do was just generically say “the modern day Ward Cleaver”. And while it is sad that the classic American father has become a bit of myth in popular culture, I can do my part outside of my home life:
By writing “dad from day one”. I can continue making a positive presence in the gorilla marketed world of “baby blogging”. So it may not be as big as TV, but I still count this blog as contributing to the entertainment industry. Not that I am THE classic American father, but that I am simply a clearly communicating representative of us all. It may be nearly impossible to think of a respectable TV dad these days, but I know so many in real life- and that’s what actually matters.
If the respectable American father won’t show up on TV, he can more importantly show up in the real world.
Just to show you an example of the way it has become normal to stop taking men seriously, check out my challenge below.
Give me an example of a popular and current father/husband on TV who is respected and loved by his family and is NOT known for constantly making comical messes- especially when it comes to goofing up home repairs or misbehaving in social outings. *Bonus points if the guy is not shlubby and overweight yet married to a thin wife who is smart-witted, as to humorously contrast the father/husband’s character.
Examples of who I AM NOT looking for:
Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin of “Family Guy”, Kevin James of “King of Queens”, and Jim Belushi of “According to Jim”.
Remember, I’m looking for a current example, so Ward Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” or Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” would be disqualified. I will define “current” as “since 2004″, which is the year Friends went off the air and Lost began.
Also, he has to be a popular character on a decently cool and relevant show. No ABC Family or Hallmark stuff.
He must be intelligent as well as faithful to his family, but he can’t be nerdy either. So Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” won’t work. Also, he can’t be a widow who is overcoming his wife’s death. He has to be currently married to his wife on the show, giving an ongoing example of what a good husband and father is.
And… he can’t be killed off the show or marginalized in any way. He has to be a solid, consistent character.
He is not perfect; he does make mistakes. Therefore he is a real man and human being; he is not an alien or a robot.
The winning example will be published in the upcoming “dad from day one” post (possibly as part of the title itself) for thousands to see.
Answer the question: “Who is the modern Ward Cleaver?”
Impress me, friends. Because in all my creativity the only example I can come up with is Adam Braverman on the series Parenthood.