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Let dads know they count

Original post made by Nancy McGaraghan, Palo Alto Weekly contributor, on Jun 14, 2006

On a recent sunny morning, I sat with hundreds of men and women at the Dads Count Fifth Annual Fatherhood Breakfast and Awards Ceremony.

The official honorees were local father-friendly businesses. But above all, this was a day for dads to take a bow.

There are sad exceptions of course, but this particular morning was devoted to decent, hard-working dads who care about their kids and want to spend time with them.

Some of my favorite people are dads. I don't need to be convinced that they count, but I was happy to be in attendance that morning. Dads are often the unsung heroes, parents cast in the supporting roles, while moms get center stage.

This is no surprise, since historically parenting has largely been the domain of women. More recently dads have been asked to get involved with the kids. It is unfamiliar terrain for some, seeing as the rules and expectations are most often established by women.

On top of this, we often give a confusing message to men. We ask dads to be involved, but don't always give them permission to be themselves. The Dads Count breakfast was a reminder that kids do best when they get the unique style each parent has to offer.

Dads need to know they count even if they give the kids hotdogs for lunch — and dinner — instead of the menu mom suggested. They count even when they take the kids out in the morning still wearing their jammies, and give up on French braids altogether. Kids need a father's playfulness and even his rough edges as well as his strength.

In my opinion, dads deserve all the support and encouragement we can give them. Marriages might end, but parenting does not have to follow. I can only speak from my limited perspective, but I see men all around who are quietly and selflessly working to give all they can to their families. I don't hear them asking for recognition. For many, being a dad is its own reward, its own joy.

I don't even know if they stop to think about how hard they are working or how much they are giving. As far as I can tell, the thanks these dads are looking for is their families' happiness. Dads seldom seem to count the personal cost of all they do.

It's easy to lose sight of this and then get upset about style differences. Or forget that men have a distinct and important contribution to make, even if we don't understand their methods at the time.

I remember one such time. It was another sunny morning. This time in my kitchen. Instead of accolades along with the eggs and toast, I was dishing out a whopper of a lecture to one of our kids. I have no memory of what it was about. Probably his room was a mess — a sure sign of his impending doom. I went on and on.

As I read Neil the riot act, his dad sat reading the sports page. Eventually I ran out of steam. I paused waiting to hear what my husband would say. Looking up from his paper, he looked at me, then at Neil. "So, Neil .... Did you know that the Stanford women's swim team won the tournament last weekend?"

I was shocked, and then indignant. When I asked my husband to weigh in, he agreed with what I had said, but thought the point had been made and it was time to move on.

Looking back on this, my husband denies it happened — at least not exactly in this way. Who's to say? Regardless, for me the memory contains an important lesson.

Breakfast and getting the kids off to school on a positive note was more important. Most of all, my relationship with my son was more important than prolonging a 15-minute harangue about dirty socks on his bedroom floor.

In his own way, by not jumping into the fray, dad had helped put the pieces back together. A different perspective. A different style. And a situation that could have gone from bad to worse was made right.

Now Neil is a dad. Last week we were with him and his family at a playground. Neil ran up a hill and called out to Jack, his young son. Amy, our daughter-in-law, who suspected some mischief from her husband, called back, "No, Neil!" But that didn't discourage him from throwing himself down on the ground and rolling down the hill, much to Jack's delight.

Male bonding. But that bond belongs to fathers and daughters, as well. Our granddaughter is crazy about her "crazy" dad. Show me a little girl who is not.

Dads count because kids miss out on a whole range of emotions and experiences when we trifle with this bond. And speaking selfishly, dads count because moms would be lost without them.

(Published in the Palo Alto Weekly 6/14/06)

Comments (2)

Posted by Glenn Lawrence,
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2006 at 2:42 pm

Why isn’t Father’s Day celebrated like Mother’s Day?

It seems the world rolls out the red carpet for mothers, but does very little in comparison for fathers.

And it’s not just me feeling like this.

Most dads believe moms get better treatment on Mother's Day than they receive on Father's Day, according to a new poll.

The survey by, the free online magazine for fathers, shows a whopping 84 percent of fathers say moms are given more attention on Mother's Day than they get on Father's Day.

Just 17 percent of fathers believe they're treated as well as moms on their special day.

"It does not surprise me," says W. Bradford Wilcox, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. "Our society is much more likely to focus on the role that mothers play in the lives of their children than the role that fathers play."

And although Wilcox says today's married fathers are more involved in parenting their children than they were generations ago, there's been little or no improvement by unmarried dads.

Wilcox says it would be a good idea for society to acknowledge what father's do throughout the year--not just on Father's Day.

"I think it would be good if we could do more to celebrate fathers and to publicly identify the distinctive contributions they make to their families," he says.

Is The Proof In The Spending?
The average person is expected to spend $90 on a Father's Day present, about the same as last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

But going into Mother's Day, the average person planned to spend $122, up $15 from last year.

Yes, I know, money isn’t everything. But money is a good indicator of where dads rate. And that’s not happening yet.

Fathers Want More, Poll Finds
An overwhelming majority of dads surveyed for the poll believe Father's Day is just as important Mother's Day.

Nearly 79 percent of fathers said Father's Day is as important as Mother's Day; 21 percent believed that it's perfectly appropriate for Father's Day to take a backseat to Mother's Day.

We dads do a lot.

Yes, we don’t give birth.

But after labor and delivery, in many homes, dads do just as much. In some cases more.

And dads deserve their due.

Posted by Nancy McGaraghan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2006 at 7:35 am

Dear Glen, I agree completely. Besides having a husband and four sons, I also have four brothers. The ones who have children are really involved with them. I think men deserve to enjoy that part of their lives, and to feel appreciated for all they do. You are correct in saying that Mother's day gets more hype. Maybe that will change as dads are more and more out there with the kids. (Check out, June 16)

If it's any consolation, I think moms also feel unappreciated from time to time--just like dads. We could all be better at saying "thank you." However, the most important thing is not that someone else formally recognizes your contribution, but that you enjoy your time with your children, and know how valuable your relationship is now and for the rest of their lives.

Happy Father's Day

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