Moms have it easy. Included with apple pie among the staples of American life, mothers get baby showers and their names tattooed on bikers’ biceps. Put a TV camera in front of your face and who do you say ‘hi’ to? Mumsy.
Dads are definitely the neglected parents, probably because they have to fight the rep of being emotionally unavailable disciplinarians who wear their socks up to their knees. Too many of them have skirted the task of child rearing, thus becoming public enemy number one in their children’s therapy sessions. Books are written on how to be a good dad, non-profits are started to get young males to engage with their kids. You’d think all men were cut out for were grunting at dinner tables and mowing lawns.
I don’t have a father. Well, of course, I have one, I’ve just never met the man. I like to think he’s a Saudi prince or Bill Cosby, and one day soon, I’ll get a call. Bill and I will enjoy a tearful reunion then he’ll wire a heap of cash into my account. At least enough to pay off my student loan.
When you’re a “fatherless daughter,” – yes, it’s a syndrome – you’re supposed to become a drug-addicted high school dropout pregnant by the age of sixteen. As fun as that might have been, I somehow managed to avoid this fate. Maybe it’s because I have rock hard survival instincts. Or maybe because I had something just as good as a dad.
I had a stepdad.
Stepdads are supposed to be even scarier than regular dads. You’ve seen the movies, haven’t you? Stepdads come off friendly but always end up being psychotic serial killers who try to bump off your entire family.
Thankfully, I got a kind, generous, non-murderous stepdad. He came into my life when I was already sixteen, so mostly past the bitchy, resentful period of girl teen angst. He supported my creative aspirations and Kerouac fixation, and never batted an eyelash when I told him my plans for marrying Simon LeBon. My stepdad wasn’t a substitute. He was the Real McCoy.
My stepdad, like lots of men from his generation, was raised by one of those sock-to-knee wearing, emotionally distant papis of American myth, which may explain why he and other Boomer dads rock. These guys know their own fathers did their best. But unlike them, lots of today’s dads participate more fully in their children’s lives. In turn, their kids get more than a “wait-‘til-your-father-gets-home” keeper-of-the-wallet. They get a buddy.
Our relationships with our families aren’t so hot in America. We live far away from them, cringe every time they call, complain about having to go home for the holidays. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in my travels, it’s how marvelous it is to have folks in the world who give a darn about you no matter what you do or say, no matter how your career is going or how often you land flat on your ass.
So, for those fathers, and stepfathers, who’ve decided raising a kid is the most important job they’ll ever have, I offer a big kiss and huge thanks.
I may even get a tattoo.
Happy Father’s Day!