One of my daughters couldn’t hold in her laughter when I mentioned that most of the world sees her dad as a serious, respectable journalist.
She cracked up as she considered how anyone could take me seriously with all the dad jokes, the puns or the silly secret handshakes. How could a man that would do anything to hear one of his children giggle ever be taken seriously?
As we celebrate Father’s Day, it’s interesting to ponder how we see our dads vs. how the world sees them.
I’m relatively lucky. My own dad is pretty much how I thought of him in my head: Calm, measured and good in a crisis. It wasn’t until I worked summers in college in the same factory where he was an electrician that I also learned he shared my healthy distrust of people in positions of power.
My children obviously don’t consider me someone who has interviewed anyone from NFL quarterbacks to governors to children at the fair. To me, I’m just dad.
And frankly, of all the roles a man can play in the world, that’s the one I’ve enjoyed the most.
Being a dad for me has been a prolonged adolescence. It’s my chance to see the world as a child over and over, through the eyes of each of my four daughters. When they were younger, I always tried to act a year or two younger than they did, so they could explain to me how they saw the world. I find it endlessly fascinating. It keeps me young, even if my graying hair and beard betray that youthful innocence they revive in me.
Apparently, my daughters have a treasure trove of cell phone videos of dad making a fool of himself, of times I waltzed into the room to sing them a nonsensical song about the moment, played a goofy game with one of their siblings or overreacted in a comical way to something silly. I’m glad these are moments worth keeping for them, and I only wish I had some tangible reminder of how they grinned as I did those things.
Still, I struggle with people’s perceptions of fatherhood. So many people don’t even see the point in having one around, which is sad to me since I’ve worked so hard to be a steady influence in the life of my children.
Modern culture doesn’t help. It’s hard to find a TV show or a movie where the father isn’t played for laughs as a laughable buffoon or for sympathy as the overpowering controller. There aren’t many good examples of men in modern media who know their children well enough to do what makes them laugh while still respecting their professional abilities.
It’s hard to put together the more complicated dichotomy of a father, who can be both stern and rule-making but caring and playful. It’s harder to visualize a man who can be all of that.
Yet many of us have that in our lives, a provider who doesn’t mind degrading himself for the sweet sound of a child’s giggle.
As we celebrate Father’s Day, I’m sure plenty of ties, grilling utensils and T-shirts will change hands this weekend. No matter your age, give your dad what he really wants, one more giggle to a ridiculous joke or story. It gives him the chance to remember the best moments of your life and his.