Father’s Day ain’t what it used to be…

Father’s Day, a day meant to celebrate Dad and show our appreciation for how hard he works to provide for us,or just to show him how much he is loved. As a Dad myself, I have always held the belief that a day like this should be earned, rather than expected – extreme, I know. You see, to me, there is a clear delineation between being called a Father or Dad versus being a Father or Dad. One is just a title whereas the other is a commitment; a way of life. So if you prescribe to my thesis, then Father’s Day has a completely different connotation. Father’s Day becomes more of a day that simply highlights how much family means to us – in other words, Father’s Day is more about giving to our families, rather than receiving gifts or accolades. Taking all of that into account, Father’s Day was amazing – for the most part. I got to spend quality time with the family, doing different activities and of course, taking the mandatory trip to Disneyland. My Father’s Day unfortunately hit a sour note, when I experienced a situation that reminded me that our Dad “culture” is in need of some serious tune up, especially on a day like this.

It all started off with what was supposed to be a light-hearted Father’s Day “Olympics” hosted by my daughter’s preschool. The “intent” of the day was to participate in several Olympic style events along with our children. I hate to say it like this but, as things typically do when you get a bunch of guys together in a competitive environment, the day quickly spiraled out of control as some Dads began to take the events way too seriously – which all culminated with the final event. The gold medal event was an obstacle course that consisted of several events: 25-yard dash while carrying your child, 10 jumping jacks, 15-second squat, jungle gym run thru, 10 yard skip, a hurdle and then a last 25-yard dash while holding your child – whew, it even tires me out just to write that! Well, I am proud to say that my daughter and I won our first heat! But, during the championship round, it was clear things had taken an ugly turn.

The first thing I noticed, as the winning Dads from each heat lined up for the championship round, the immediate and border-line inappropriate trash talking…in front of our children. As the apparent voice of reason, I quickly retorted, “c’mon now, this is about the kids, lets keep it classy” to which I received no reply. We were off! I fit in nicely in second place as we entered our second event, the 10 jumping jacks. As we got the station, the lead Dad accidentally skipped the station and was on to the third. Upon realizing his error, he quickly returned to the second station but by this time, the rest of us Dads were already on our 10th jumping jack. So what does this guy do? He rejoins our group and yells out “Ten” while doing one jumping jack – so now this guy is a trash talking cheater! As we proceed through the other stations, this guy and I are now neck in neck, tied for first place. As we approach the second to last event, the hurdle, let’s just say that I received a nudge which caused me to temporarily lose my balance – but I still was tied for first. We reach the final event, the dreaded 25-yard dash while carrying our little ones – I am completely out of gas. I muster whatever energy I have left and pick up my daughter and begin to head towards the finish line. At this point, I am solidly comfortable with my apparent second place finish as this guy now has a good 10 yard gain on me. But it’s what happens next that quite literally shocked me and stopped me in my tracks.

Now although I am a believer in what goes around – comes around, because this involved a child, I really hope in this instance, this wasn’t the case. About 10 yards from the finish line, this Dad turns around and gives me a look that I can only describe as a taunt, as if he were very pleased with himself and his first place finish. As soon as he turned back around to face the finish line – he totally eats it by tripping over his own foot and landing on top of his daughter! Seeing it again in my mind’s eye – only in slow motion – it was a very scary sight. My daughter and I immediately stop to pull the Dad off his screaming daughter. Dad is in a daze and the child has bumps and scrapes and is starting to bleed, I couldn’t help but looking at this whole situation from a 30,000 foot level. Was the trash talking, cheating and taunting worth this outcome? And worse yet, what type of example was he setting for his daughter. And just as worse, the damage control I now I have to do with my own daughter who has witnessed all of this!

You see, this Dad was completely blinded by the idea of winning, that he put the safety of his own daughter at risk. And, in a way, this incident is a metaphor for some of us Dads. We can be so consumed by our own goals, desires and needs, that the needs of our children and families often take a backseat. It’s only when we begin to the change the paradigm of what it means to be a Father, that we begin to realize that being one is much more than simply being called one. It’s about cherishing this wonderful and unique opportunity to positively affect the lives of those whom we truly love.

You can do it too!

Much has been and will be said about Superbowl 47. Not only was it the third most watched television program in U.S. Television history, but it was also perhaps one of the most dramatic games ever played! There was drama between the Harbaugh brothers, Ray Lewis’ tumultuous career coming to an end, a quarterback with only 10 starts all season, the lights in the Superdome going out and of course, Beyonce – there seemed to be a little something for everyone.

Like most Americans, I watched the game with my family in the comfort of our living room – and like most Americans, I thought the game was going to be a blowout, so my mind started to wander. Even if you take the Superbowl commercials out of the equation, last Sunday was a very male dominated day. Everything from the snack choice to where the game is watched, more often than not, is androcentric. Now, while I am not going to argue that having a male “holiday” such as the Superbowl is a bad thing, I do wonder, like I often do with a lot of things, how our children interpret such a day – especially our daughters.

For a lot of dads of both sons and daughters, the Superbowl (NBA finals, World Series, etc)  is often a time where the love of the sport is directly transferred onto our children through the watching of such an event. Such was the case for my daughter and I while watching the Superbowl. As much as the attention span of a 4 year old would allow, I would explain the action in terms she was able to understand. And, if you were paying any attention to social media during the Superbowl, it looks like I wasn’t the only dad sharing their love of the game with their children. But it dawned on me, other than the cheerleaders and perhaps a few sideline reporters, there were no other women represented during this entire event. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this was a football game and by virtue of the sport, there isn’t a whole lot of female involvement – but my bigger point is, when it comes to sports, especially on this scale, where are all the women?

It’s all too common to watch a sporting event like the Superbowl with your son and have delusions of grandeur that he will grow up to be the next Flacco or Kapernick but can we dads honestly say we have the same delusions about our daughters? And what does that say to our daughters who are interested in sports or are naturally athletic? I fear that the message our daughters are getting is, your love for sport or your athletic inclinations are just that, feelings that will not really amount to anything I would be interested in watching and getting passionate about. Whoa, that’s a little rough…what I am trying to say is, as dad and parents, we want to embrace and foster our children’s interests, no matter what they are. One way of doing that is by displaying an interest or passion in what they are interested or passionate about – and sports should be no different.

So at this point, the soccer moms and the hockey dads are about to tune me out because this is what they do on a daily basis – they might even argue that they are very extreme when it comes to their child’s sports. While I think, in moderation, it is great to be supportive of our children’s athletic pursuits, I feel that our daughters specifically deserve to be exposed to what their hard work and practice can amount to – that their passion for sports is not just a hobby that will have to be given up for more “realistic” feminine pursuits. And what better way to do that than to expose her to female professional sports – not in a patronizing “look at these girls playing sports…so cute” but in a way that celebrates the athleticism of these women and the contribution they make to professional sports.

Let’s be clear, I do not believe that there is anything wrong with my daughter developing a love for football, or any other sport for that matter, but I am realistic enough to know that her ability to pursue involvement – should she choose to and mom allows – will only go so far in some sports. And believe me, I am all for gender equality in sports and I would hope that one day in my daughter’s lifetime there would be true equality, but that’s another post for another day.  Should my daughter develop a love for soccer (you should see her dribble) she’ll know that if she works hard and applies herself, perhaps she can make it to the Olympics. Or, if she chooses to pursue basketball (due to her height and her natural shooting abilities) she can become a Lady Bruin and even play in the WNBA – the skies are her limit!

So in the meantime, I am pledging to balance my enjoyment of sports (I see a Sparks or Lady Bruin game in the very near future for us) all in an effort to show my daughter that athletes come in all shapes and sizes and genders. When it comes to sports do you seek to strike a balance for your children? If so, how do you achieve that balance?