Father's role has evolved

By Peter Ehrlich

Like most Baby Boomers I occasionally like to reminisce about my childhood when Sunday night meant Walt Disney and Ed Sullivan, a time when I wasn't yet a slave to my testosterone.

When I want to time-travel, I use YouTube.com. It quickly puts me back in front of my old plain brown TV set, the one with three channels.

My favourite family-oriented shows were Andy Griffith and My Three Sons. Oddly enough, these shows were about the trials and tribulations of being a single father.

Looking back, I don't think Andy or Fred (MacMurray) ever said "I love you" to their children. Neither can I recall seeing those single dads hug or kiss their children.

And Batman, custodial father to Robin, was also pretty stiff. But he's not the best role model anyway. That duo kept getting lowered into over-sized vats of sulfuric acid.

I watch those dad now, with their starched shirts and approach to being loving and demonstrative, and wonder: were dads really that way and if so, why? This Beatles- and Stones-raised single dad who still cranks up Hendrix's "Axis Bold as Love" sure doesn't resemble them.

Dr. Michael Kaufman works internationally as an educator and consultant promoting gender equality with the United Nations, governments, businesses and schools. I asked for his take on how the nature of being a single dad has changed: It "mirrors the amazing and rapid changes in how we define manhood and how we define our priorities as men,'' he says. ``There are fewer and fewer guys who see their worth only in bringing home the bacon (or should that be tofu?).

"Both women and men realize that a nurturing, loving father can play an important role in the lives of children. Both women and men want men to play a more active role in all parenting activities. There is only one job that men are bad at, and that is breastfeeding."

Personally, I think of the kick-ass single moms I know and they want to have a rich and satisfying work life. That takes time, and the only way for them to achieve it is to hand off some of the work associated with parenting.

I know lots of single dads and I cannot recall one of them complaining to me about the hand-off. It is a natural paternal yearning that compels them to want to spend as much time with their child as their ex gets. Dads today want their time. And if they don't, then shame on them for their selfishness.

If he is a solid, attentive, loving, responsible guy, and the child is old enough to accept the back and forth or "wants" it, then let's allow the child's feet do the talking, the universe to unfold as it should.

In the past 15 years, we have witnessed the onset of a golden age in how single dads take on the challenge of being one. They are involved, connected and demonstrative. I can tell you, after the lawyers it's not easy to stare into your child's bedroom with resigned melancholy and not see children. It's painful to bear witness to toys that mock the single dad in their silence. But they go on. They dust themselves off and go on.

Happy Father's Day, guys.

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