Monday, March 19th, 2012
Though the Eighties made it okay for boys to play with dolls, the same decade also provided these same young men, who are now today’s dads, with the perfect models of manliness: action figures.
After all, males are designed to be creatures of action. Virtually from infancy, we leave playing house and having tea parties to the girls. Boys are the explorers, the daredevils, and the protectors.
Why does a diaper ad that may or not insinuate that dads are 2nd rate parents get so many men upset? Since 33% of stay-at-home parents are now men, it mens that we can’t be the sole bread winners that dads evidently were back in the 1950′s.
So if our job is to work by raising our kids more actively than prior generations, then don’t diss our ability to work and to take action. I’ll say it until it’s a cliche, but today’s dads don’t babysit; they simply are being active dads.
(Maybe packs of diapers should come with a free “active dad” action figure?)
Reading too much into it, as I love to do, I have realized that each action figure on my Top 5 list represents an important aspect of fatherhood. It’s as if these toys subconsciously taught us what we would eventually need to teach and lead our children:
Masculinity, self-respect and self-defense, the initiative to implement change as necessary, adventure, and spiritual leadership.
After much discussion on Twitter, Facebook, and in real life, I have gathered my version of the Top 5 Most Butt-Kicking Action Figures of the 1980′s:
1. He-Man (1982). It can’t get much manlier when your name is “He-Man” and you ride a green tiger. Granted, he looked a lot like a pro-wrestler, with the velvet underwear and whatnot. Either way, dads are the ultimate examples of masculinity for their children. We are He-Men for our kids.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1988.) Martial arts were a pretty big deal back in the Eighties. From The Karate Kid to Bloodsport, it was ingrained into our brains that we must able to defend ourselves against ninjas. Or in this case, to be ninjas ourselves. Dads must teach their kids self-respect and self-defense. We are Master Splinters for our kids.
3. Transformers (1984.) Everything had to transform in the Eighties. Like Mogwai transformed into Gremlins, so did robots transform into vehicles. I’ve said it plenty before, but today’s dad is constantly having to transform the traditional father’s role from what used to left more to the mom. In theory, we must become more feminine to be masculine. Dads must lead by example and know when to implement change. We are Optimus Primes for our kids.
4. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1982.) It’s funny how I never really remember any of the characters actually getting shot. A bloodshed-free military? Sounds pretty nice, actually. Dads motivate and inspire their children to be adventurous and to be all they can be. We are G.I. Joes for our kids.
5. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983.) This classic sci-fi series came to a chronological end in the Eighties, reinforcing the existence of good and evil and the need to choose the right side. But it takes “the Force” to get the job done. Dads are the spiritual leaders for their family. We are the Jedi for our kids.
Now you know my list of the Top 5 Most Butt-Kicking Action Figures of the 1980′s. And knowing is half the battle.
Thursday, August 5th, 2010
It’s not so much that I will relive vicariously through him as it will be that I will raise him according to what I know boyhood to be; therefore, Jack’s youth will in certain ways resemble mine. And not only will I influence him regarding what it means to be a boy, but also by what it means to have a dad, based on how my own dad influenced my life. Looking back, I can see that my dad was extremely patient with me and willing to spend his free time with me doing whatever goofy thing it was that I was into.
Whether it was helping me make the perfect Pine Wood Derby car for Cub Scouts, going exploring out in the woods, playing “Ninja Turtles” with me (I still have an impressive collection of those action figures at my parents’ house), or playing Nintendo for hours at a time.
Being a dad to a son also means confronting potentially dangerous situations and keeping him safe through it; whether because he has to, or for fun. And in the process, the son learns to trust his dad to take care of him, knowing his dad wouldn’t allow him to get hurt.
Like when he was leading our family in a 5 mile hike in Mentone, AL and he encountered a Copperhead snake- he killed it by throwing a huge rock on it. Then when we got back home he skinned it and displayed it for all of us Cub Scouts.
And like when I was really young, my dad would put me in a pillow case, hold on to the open end, and sling me around the living room. And because I was a boy, I loved it.
I also would sit up on his shoulders while he stood under the ceiling fan, in front of the mirror, so I could see that my head was just inches away from the spinning blades. He called the event “The Head Chopper-Offer”. And because I was a boy, I loved it.
And I always liked to wrestle my dad. Obviously, it was impossible to beat him. He was way too strong and way too big for me; not to mention he had a black belt in karate. And because I was a boy, I loved it.
It was about testing those limits of danger with someone whose job it was to keep me safe. Ironic, yet necessary. My dad and I wrestling on the brown shag carpet represents what being a dad to a boy is all about. The typical “play fighting” allows a boy to test his own strength and power against his own protector and guardian. And it’s a very natural way for a father and son to be physically close- without even realizing it.
Dads and sons are close in their own unspoken ways. And as a dad, part of my job will be to initiate some of these weird ancient rituals. Even if it means confronting danger- it’s part of the journey of becoming a man. And these types of adventures are a rite of passage meant to be passed down from father to son.
Baby Jack is the size of an eggplant.
Here’s what The Bump says about Week 26:
Let your spouse put an ear to your belly — he might be able to pick up baby’s heartbeat (no stethoscope required). Inside the womb, the formation of tiny capillaries is giving baby a healthy pink glow. Baby’s also soaking up your antibodies, getting the immune system ready for life outside the womb. Eyes are forming, and baby will soon perfect the blink — perfect for batting those freshly grown lashes.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
Categories: Nostalgia, People, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: adventure, baby, blog, blogs, boyhood, Cub Scouts, dad, dad from day one, danger, eggplant, Mentone, Nintendo, parenting, pregnancy, protect, ritual, safe, snake, sock monkeys, son, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, weird, wrestling