According to retailers, American Dads don’t do much but play with power tools, do yard work, golf, and wear socks.
If I believe the magazine and newspaper stories I’ve read this past week, dads don’t know how to relate to the children they brought into this world:
“How to Bond on Daddy’s Day!” (You have to be taught?)
“What Kids Need From Fathers Now.” (A man with a backbone.)
Other articles instructed hapless children on what to give their own fathers:
“Homemade is always best!” (Homemade is great if mommy isn’t working full time, down with the flu or still searching for the glue and scissors she swore were right where she left them after the Valentine’s Day craft explosion.)
“Ties are perfect!” (My husband hasn’t worn a tie to work since 1989.)
I was outside mowing and waging my latest war on yard fungus when the thought struck me — we Rineharts live quite a different life from the one portrayed in the typical Father’s Day commercials. When I married Scott, my dowry was vastly different from my college girlfriends’. It consisted not of family linens, grandma’s china and a portfolio of steady stocks, but a socket wrench set and loaded tool box in the trunk of a car with only 36 more payments to go.
Scott came into the marriage with the title to his car, courage in the kitchen and a professional grade mastery of ironing, but a lack of experience in the Mr. Fix It department. In his childhood home, repairmen were called when anything broke or needing replacing. In my childhood home, a broken appliance or light fixture in need of rewiring was an occasion for daddy-daughter bonding. Often all four of us kids were called down to the basement for our latest shop lesson. “Red to red, black to black… who can show me the ground wire?”
The combination of newlywed low funds and fear of looking inept in front of his wife and father-in-law, Scott learned by force to fix and replace just about anything.
Over the past 21 years, he’s installed water heaters, dishwashers, wallboard, showers, speakers, phone lines and sprinkler systems. But my favorite skills of his were, and are, changing diapers, mixing formula by the blender-full, middle of the night feedings, sending me away on girls-only weekends, reading Stop That Ball! eighteen times in a row, understanding my computer, and ironing.
And maybe these aren’t skills, but he exudes integrity, honesty, sensibility, stability, affection and thoughtfulness. It’s these things he’s teaching our children by simply being there for them…at home, school, in the middle of the night, on the phone, with each sandwich he packs in their school lunches and with every personal luxury he’s forgone to give his children a warm home, good education and time. By simply being a great dad.
Now he just needs to teach them to iron.