As I am without the proper programming that occurs when one gazes upon a newborn of their own line (I imagine there's some kind of RF transmission of wisdom/experience/knowledge that occurs), I rely of course, on my own experiences to help shape my image of what a father ought to be. These influences fall into two general categories--1) the father images I have observed closely within my family--namely, Dear Old Dad and my more fecund brothers and 2) images of fatherhood that I saw growing up on television. In both cases, the image of father I conjure is the following: loving, supportive, consistent, smart, no-nonsense, and positive. I got this from Dad, I see it in my brothers, and Mike Brady drove it home in spades.
So I come to my role as sorta-step-dad with an image of what "fathering" ought to look like. It is however, apparently an outmoded, paternalistic, and harmful way of doing the job. How do I know this? Well, I watch TV with the Kittens.
The portrayals of fathers on what passes for kids television (you pick the channel) is ridiculous. They are bumbling, they are milquetoast, they are consistently less intelligent and savvy than their children, and they are generally speaking, potted plants in homes driven primarily by strong-willed, generally favorably portrayed mothers. It isn't only Dads who come in for this treatment--it is virtually any male authority figure, from the cop on the beat, to the teachers and principals to the coaches. Everywhere you look, modern males are weak, dumb, and maladroit. Is it any wonder that "MadMen" is as popular as it is? There, the modern male can watch his grandfather actually BEING a man, while HIS OWN existence--portrayed several channels away on Disney--resembles some kind of Opera Buffa.
|One Popular Image of Modern Fatherhood|
I looked for some background on this subject before writing, and came up with this little article in Forbes. Its one huge failure is in that it treats only with prime-time portrayals of Dads. I don't know about you, but the 9 and 11 year-old inhabiting this house are in bed when those shows come on. Their TV viewing consists of what is on a few "family" or "kid" oriented channels after school and a bit after dinner. Here my friends, is the rub. Kids today are forming at least part of their view of fatherhood ( and male adulthood for that matter) by watching the buffoons who pass for adults on shows like "The Suite Life on Deck", "The Wizards of Waverly Place", "Hannah Montana" and "Sonny with a Chance". Watch these shows some time, folks. And you'll come away with a sense that 1) every young girl in America is or should be a singer 2) every kid in America routinely talks back to adults 3) most adults are idiots who bumble through life waiting for the next instance of brilliant intervention by a "wise-beyond-her-years" teenager and 4) "because I said so", "because I'm the parent" and "because I'm your father" have become phrases of intense parody at best, or at worst open invitations for extended debate--if used at all.
So I ask friends, am I simply over-sensitive? Have I "jumped the shark" on this one and allowed my own insecurities to cloud my judgment, seeing offense to fathers everywhere where little is offered and none should be taken? Or am I on to something?