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Moms…and dads

Tracing the generational shifts that enable her own grown kids to share childrearing equally with their spouses

What’s it mean to be a mom on Father’s Day?

Fleeting memories of hushed conversations with my sisters about what to get our dad, shopping with our mom, and our irrepressible excitement as Dad opened our carefully chosen and clumsily wrapped gift on that third Sunday in June.

My favorite was the ceramic kangaroo which remained on my father’s dresser until he died, with its pocket opening for bills and change and its long, curved tail where he placed his wedding ring each night.

Similar recollections in my own home, as our four kids wrangled with choosing just the right gift for their dad, who wore so many hats, coach, teacher, mentor, not to mention husband, parent, son, and was, and still is, their infinite source of stalwart support and unconditional love.  A new running watch, a current best seller, the latest hi-tech gadget? They pooled their funds, intent on buying something sure to elicit surprised delight.

But Father’s Day has this year has special resonance, with a son celebrating his first holiday not just as a son but as a dad. It’s been an amazing experience for his dad and me as parents, from our first glimpse of the new father cuddling a little bundle and gently nuzzling her head to listening to him speak with authority about feeding schedules and sleep anxiety to watching him deftly navigate a stroller with his precious daughter through the city streets.

The pride in being a dad, and the instinct to care for, nurture, guide and protect our offspring is still the same, yet, in so many ways, being a dad has become a much more engaging, and fulfilling, endeavor. As more and more children have two working parents, or are being raised by single moms or dads, fathers are more intimately, and in many cases equally, engaged in the care and feeding, not to mention bathing, playing, and comforting, their offspring.

My dad left each morning in a white shirt and tie, brief case in hand, to return each evening promptly at 6:15 for dinner. My mom was the parent in charge in the intervening hours, her work day often extending well beyond my dad’s, through homework and bedtime stories, often folding laundry or soothing an anxious child well into the night. And while on the weekends, my dad took us out to the zoo or the park, gamely pitched balls at us in the front yard or recruited us to help with the lawn, he was flummoxed by our favorite game of playing house, of our penchant for dolls and dress up, by dancing lessons and Brownie sleepovers. Those were girl things.

Our kids, and our stint as parents, bridged a generation between what was then and what was now, with more dads coaching soccer teams and more moms lugging the water jugs and snacks, with more dads making it to school conferences and plays, but still more moms staying home with sick kids and chauffeuring them to Hebrew school. But yet, more girls playing flag football and boys in the kitchen and more shared active parenting than our parents, as work and family models began to change with more women in the work force and a blurring of gender roles in the home and heightened awareness of both the joys of parenting and the profound impact of both moms and dads on their kids’ development.

So I watch in wonder as my kids work to make it work, as they juggle child care and workplace responsibilities, as they divvy up household tasks and deftly hand off the baby to each other as easily as passing the peas.

It is a new world, a wonderful new world, where parents who are lucky to have choices can make them, where each parent, and each family, can strive to make the right choices to create the loving environment that best meets the interests of both parents and children.

Not easy to figure out, not easy to do, but the ultimate gift this Father’s Day to give to themselves, and to their kids.

A writer and editor, Vicki has been recognized for excellence by the American Jewish Press Association, Arizona Press Club and Arizona Press Women. Her byline has appeared for more than 30 years in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and in a variety of other publications. A Wexner Heritage Scholar, she holds masters degrees in communications and religious studies from Arizona State University and is currently a PhD candidate in religious studies at ASU and an adjunct professor in religion at Glendale Community College.

About the Author
A writer and editor, Vicki has been recognized for excellence by the American Jewish Press Association, Arizona Press Club and Arizona Press Women. Her byline has appeared for more than 30 years in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and in a variety of other publications. A Wexner Heritage Scholar, she holds masters degrees in communications and religious studies from Arizona State University and a Ph.D in religious studies also from ASU.
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