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The Value of a Dad

June 12, 2012

Last week, Michael Landauer, a new father of twins, wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Dallas Morning News entitled, “We Have Downgraded Dad,” noting the disrespectful attitude of popular culture toward fathers in general.  I’ve certainly been guilty of rolling my eyes at my husband in our house.  However, over our 27 years of marriage, I have come to appreciate the unique role my husband plays in our family.


When our oldest daughter was about two, my husband starting throwing her in the air and catching her.  Like most mothers, I was greatly alarmed by this practice and certain that he was going to kill her.  Later, I found out that dads instinctively throw toddlers in the air at just the right time to help with the development of their inner ears.  Research indicates that fathers play with their children differently than mothers do.  Fathers are more physical, aggressive and noisy, and this kind of challenging play is an important part of early child development.


I’ve also never forgotten the time my middle daughter came home from an Indian Princess campout on a Sunday afternoon, hair uncombed, covered in dirt and face paint, wearing the same clothes she had on Friday when they left.  “Mom,” she exclaimed, “it was the best time ever!”  Of course, if I had taken her, she would have come home with clean skin, hair and clothes, but it would have been a much less exciting weekend with completely different memories.


And when our daughters were in high school, I really came to appreciate my 6’3” husband, with his broad shoulders, deep voice, and firm handshake.  Many a high school suitor had to have some shaky knees after leaving our house for a date with one of our girls.  Also, one night a few years ago, our 16 year old daughter and a friend were driving not far from our neighborhood when a drunk, disoriented man staggered out of the bushes in front of their car.  She fled home and immediately wanted – not me – but Dad.  It was Dad who offered safety, security and comfort, while I called the police.


I haven’t mentioned the other 17 Indian Guide and Indian Princess campouts he went on, the 8 or 9 Father-Daughter dances, or the late night “come to Jesus” talks he had with our teenagers when they broke curfew.  I like to think I have a lot of good qualities as a parent, but my husband definitely brings things to our family that I cannot.


I find it hard to believe that some women can ask “Are Men Necessary?” as Maureen Dowd did in her famous book a few years ago.  Sure, female celebrities over 40 are adopting babies on their own, and the world laughed at Dan Quayle when he questioned whether planned single motherhood was wise.  I guess I’m just old-fashioned enough to believe that fathers really do matter. No doubt there are plenty of examples of deadbeat dads and dads who disappear, or dads who don’t leave but are terrible parents.  And there are plenty of heroic moms who raise children on their own.  In our own community, though, we are fortunate to have many dads who are at every Scout meeting, every football game, every concert and every track meet.  Their presence and support makes a huge difference in the lives of their children.


In spite of the popular trend to disparage and discount fathers, I was encouraged a few weeks ago by an episode of “Modern Family,” in which Jay, the patriarch, recounted his decision years earlier to stay in a difficult marriage when his children were young.  After a pointless and terrible fight (one of many) with his wife, he took his two children to Disneyland alone, while she stayed home and pouted.  By the end of the day, he was seriously considering divorce when he took the kids to see the robotic Lincoln exhibit.  As Lincoln spoke about “a man’s duty” and “keeping the union together” Jay said that he realized that “staying with my kids was more important than leaving my wife  . . . now that’s not the right decision for everyone, but it was the right decision for me.” The show makes clear that his continued presence in his children’s lives was definitely worth it.


So for all the dads who stick around, who roughhouse with their children and spend their weekends at soccer games and piano recitals, thank you, and Happy Father’s Day.  You deserve it.



Michelle Daniel Chadwick is a writer and an attorney living in Dallas, Texas.

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One Comment
  1. Fr. Joseph VH permalink

    Yes, it’s amazing how much confusion and rancor there is in society about gender — and how often it leaves dads out in the cold in an already pretty fatherless society. Thanks for this nice personal witness!

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