Fathers, step up — make the cut (and give us our donut day!)

September 17, 2016 5:42 am

I do not know about you, but I often save little notes, drawings, birthday cards and other artifacts my kids give me throughout the years. Like an old, lost friend, I sometimes will pull the box of cherished memories down and nostalgically take a stroll down Flashback Lane.

While looking for something else in the top of my closet the other day, I came across this sheet of paper sitting on top of my treasure chest of little notes, letters and keepsakes I have collected over the years. It made me chuckle then and still does today.

You see, on Saturdays, I am typically attacking some to-do list I have made for myself. Along with miscellaneous yard work, I will putter in the garage, straighten the house and do laundry, wash a car, etc. Occasionally, I will petition, threaten and bribe the kids to help me pull weeds (their least favorite chore). But on many Saturday mornings during the spring, summer and fall, you will find me feeding horses, mucking out the stalls and doing general, all-around cleaning in the barn.

Early one fall morning several years ago, I am working in the barn cleaning and winterizing and Lady (our deceased 33-year-old Arab — may she rest in peace) starts banging her stall, a clear indication she is old, bitchy and hungry. 

Now, in order to feed our old Arab, I had to pull down a few bales of hay from the top of our mountain of alfalfa feed. So, I climb the stack of hay and while crouching as to not hit my head on the barn ceiling, at the very top I see what I think is dolls. This surprises me a bit. Not something I would expect to find way at the top of our mass of hay in the corner of the barn. Puzzled, I decide to investigate. As I crawl over to the very cramped corner, I find a few Barbie dolls, towels and zip lock baggies with old Oreo’s that I am sure the mice have been dining on for the last several months. I did not need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that my youngest daughter had been up in the top of the barn playing with her friends and their dolls sometime that summer. As I am collecting the dolls, snacks and accessories, I spy a piece of paper. As I grab it, I realize it is a list of club members.

Club ListIt was the cutest thing ever. What really made me smile was seeing my name on the list. Dad made the cut and I did not even know there was a cut to be made. That summer I was officially a member of “Mac’s Barnyard Club.” Heck, I even made the list before the dogs and horses.

This brought me the biggest smile and chuckle then and still does today.

So now yesterday, I read this story about a well-meaning, loving single mom named Yevette Vasquez. As I understand the story, she crashes a Donuts with Dad event held at an elementary school dressed up as a father, with a flannel shirt, baseball hat, fake mustache, etc. I am sure her motives were pure; she did not want her son to feel left out and thus, she dressed up as a man and attended the event with the other dads. Looks like it was all taken in good stride by most in attendance, but for some reason I read it and felt uneasy. It appeared to me that Vasquez was trying to send a bigger message. But what is that message?

In many articles and interviews, she makes it clear that the events focused for fathers does not bother her as long as she can attend in the future.

So why does this make me uncomfortable as a single father? I know my opinions on this may be controversial to some. Most editorials I have read on the Internet have been very supportive of this young, loving mother. But if mothers can start attending Dad-only events, they will quickly become events anyone can attend, defeating the very purpose of the event itself. IMHO, this would be a travesty. 

So let’s apply Kant’s law of “universalizability” and ask a few rhetorical questions. My youngest daughters school has a Muffins for Moms event designed to foster closer mother-child relationships. If my daughter’s mother is unable to attend, should I dress up like a woman complete with wig, fake breasts and curvy hips, in a dress, covered in makeup and crash the muffin madness? Take pics all over the place and then post them on social media? I wonder how that would go down? I wonder how other mothers would feel about my attempt to make a statement? I wonder how the school administration would feel? More importantly, I wonder how my daughter would feel? Would she be proud of me? Would she support me and be my partner in crime?

Again, Vasquez motives were pure, I get it. She did not want her son to feel the pain of being left out. But isn’t that part of life? I remember as an impressionable young man being cut (left out) from sports teams. I can still feel the pain of rejection when I asked a young lady to be my date at a school dance and being rebuffed (left out). As a youth with dyslexia, I was often labeled as slow and told I could not attend this class (left out) because I would not be able to keep up. Later, I was told I could not attend (left out) this particular university because I was not smart enough. After graduating, I was told I could not apply (left out) for this job or that position because I did not have what it took to be successful. I know full well the stinging pain of exclusion. It hurts like hell and as a parent, I would move heaven and earth to protect any of my children from such an emotional ordeal. But may I suggest that learning to deal with life’s disappointments (being left out) is a critical ingredient in a well-balanced mature adult.

I can tell you, as a single father, it is the mother who is most often involved in the day-to-day lives of their children. When I go to parent-teacher night, I see very few fathers. This does not mean every father not in attendance is bad, uncaring or disengaged as a parent. It just may mean that traditionally mothers have shouldered this burden far more than fathers.

So when your child has a Donuts with Dad day at school, let the dads step up. Mothers, let there be those few events that Dad can go to and celebrate their relationship with their children. Those dads who are on the peripheral of their children’s lives are going to feel far more comfortable attending an event where they know they will be shoulder-to-shoulder with other dads. Mothers — even you single mothers — give dads this opportunity. Let’s be honest: there are tons of mother or parent-focused activities for you to attend. Give us this one.

I know that many families today do not have an Ozzie & Harriet, Donna Reed Show or Leave it to Beaver story-line and cast.  Divorce is rampant, fathers and mothers die from cancer or car accidents, etc. Some parents are diploid long-term to all corners of the earth for vocational reasons. We do not live in a society where June Cleaver meets Ward Cleaver at the door each evening at 5 with a kiss and freshly baked bread. Nevertheless, I submit that we need dad events. Dads are not replaceable, not even by mothers dressed up like fathers. Children need dads and dads need their children.

When I see all the mayhem happening in the world today, I truly believe that much of it can be resolved if fathers truly stepped up. Dads single or married, be there for your kids. Be present physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially. Let’s not relinquish Donuts with Dad day. Attend dad-focused events wherever and whenever possible.

I am not a perfect single dad. There are so many things I do and don’t do where I woefully fall short. But I have never missed a Donuts with Dad event and I made the cut on my daughter’s barnyard club. When I am feeling anxiety that I am not doing enough as a father, I look at this club list and smile. It says “Art, you are OK. Keep doing what you are doing. You made the cut. Now check your schedule to make sure you are in town for Donuts with Dad this fall.”

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This post was written by Art

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