“Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then. It’s a love without end.”
Image: John Darkow
By Li-Young Lee
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.
Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
Li-Young Lee, “The Gift” from Rose. Copyright ©1986 by Li-Young Lee
“How come my three year old son knows every species and genus of dinosaur and I can’t even remember my home phone number?”
“I rescind my early statement, ‘I could never fall in love with a girl who regularly poops her pants.’ (I hadn’t met my daughter yet).”
“The older I get, the smarter my father seems to get.”
“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.”
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
“You can tell what was the best year of your father’s life, because they seem to freeze that clothing style and ride it out.”
“I gave my father $100 and said, ‘Buy yourself something that will make your life easier.’ So he went out and bought a present for my mother.”
“Fatherhood is great because you can ruin someone from scratch.”
“There should be a children’s song: ‘If you’re happy and you know it, keep it to yourself and let your dad sleep.”
“It is so embarrassing how I went from a person who did not care about anyone’s children. Then you have them, and you brag about the same stuff that you never cared about. And you tell people, ‘he’s got four teeth,’ like they care.”
“On our 6 am walk, my daughter asked where the moon goes each morning. I let her know it’s in heaven, visiting daddy’s freedom.”
“Having children is like living in a frat house: nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up.”
“My daughter got me a ‘World’s Best Dad’ mug. So we know she’s sarcastic.”
“A father carries pictures where his money used to be.”
“Good parenting means investing in your child’s future, which is why I am saving to buy mine a hoverboard someday.”
“Getting a burp out of your little thing when she needs it is probably the greatest satisfaction I’ve come across at this point in my life. It is truly one of life’s most satisfying moments.”
“The only way I can describe [fatherhood] – it sounds stupid, but – at the end of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ you know how his heart grows like five times? Everything is full; it’s just full all the time.”
“When you’re young, you think your dad is Superman. Then you grow up, and you realize he’s just a regular guy who wears a cape.”
“When I was a kid, I said to my father one afternoon, ‘Daddy, will you take me to the zoo?’ He answered, ‘If the zoo wants you, let them come and get you.’”
“Raising a kid is part joy and part guerrilla warfare.”
“When you’re young, you think your dad is Superman. Then you grow up, and you realize he’s just a regular guy who wears a cape.” – Dave Attell
“Four-year-old: Tell me a scary story!
Me: One time little people popped out of your mom, and they never stopped asking questions.
Four-year-old: Why?” – James Breakwell
“He has always provided me a safe place to land and a hard place from which to launch.” – Chelsea Clinton
“Me and my dad used to play tag. He’d drive.” – Rodney Dangerfield
“There should be a children’s song: ‘If you’re happy and you know it, keep it to yourself and let your dad sleep.’” – Jim Gaffigan
“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” – Anne Geddes
“I just sit there and make up songs and sing to [my son] in gibberish. I’m very good at gibberish now.” – Elton John
“I found out that I’m a pretty bad father. I make a lot of mistakes and I don’t know what I’m doing. But my kids love me. Go figure.” – Louis C.K.
“Men should always change diapers. It’s a very rewarding experience. It’s mentally cleansing. It’s like washing dishes, but imagine if the dishes were your kids, so you really love the dishes.” – Chris Martin
“I’m probably the most uncool guy that [my daughters] know – as far as they are concerned anyway – ‘cause I’m Dad. I mean dads just aren’t cool – especially when I dance! They don’t want me to dance.” – Tim McGraw
“Having a kid is like falling in love for the first time when you’re 12, but every day.” – Mike Myers
“Having children is like living in a frat house: nobody sleeps, everything’s broken, and there’s a lot of throwing up.” – Ray Romano
“The older I get, the smarter my father seems to get.” – Tim Russert
“My sisters and I can still recite Dad’s grilling rules: Rule No. 1: Dad is in charge. Rule No. 2: Repeat Rule No. 1.” – Connie Schultz
“You can tell what was the best year of your father’s life, because they seem to freeze that clothing style and ride it out.” – Jerry Seinfeld
“Fatherhood is great because you can ruin someone from scratch.” – Jon Stewart
“I’ve had some amazing people in my life. Look at my father – he came from a small fishing village of five hundred people and at six foot four with giant ears and a kind of very odd expression, thought he could be a movie star. So go figure, you know?” – Kiefer Sutherland
“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” – Harry S. Truman
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain
“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.” – John Wilmot
“Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game.
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice,
To see him come and to hear his voice.
Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.
Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way.
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all of the love of them.
Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small.
Doing with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.”
“Only a Dad” – Edgar A. Guest
When I was 3 months old, in February of 1964, a major ice storm hit Dallas. My parents and I lived in a tiny two-bedroom apartment above a garage behind a home belonging to my father’s oldest sister and her husband. Shortly after the area became coated in ice and snow, my mother realized they were out of baby formula. My father simply walked a couple of blocks down the street to a small grocery store and bought some formula. It was an otherwise arduous trek – although the store stood nearby – because of the ice and the frigid temperatures. But, I needed that formula. My father didn’t think twice about it. He just took off, despite my mother’s initial protests.
Some thirty-six years later, I worked as an executive administrative assistant at a large bank in downtown Dallas. I had just finished lunch one day with some colleagues when the subject of parenting came up. A couple of the women complained about kids running rampant, undisciplined and disrespectful. I mentioned that part of the problem was the lack of an adult male presence in their lives. “That’s where fathers come into play,” I said.
“Nah,” retorted another woman, Sandra*, a 20-something leftist feminist who rarely had anything good say about those of us with penises. “I’ve seen fathers who just don’t seem to care.”
Another woman, a 50-something Hispanic divorcee who rarely had anything good to say about Latinos with penises stood next to her, nodding her head in my direction.
My reaction to Sandra was nothing short of vitriolic. Her drawn-out ‘nah’ is what set me off. In the sanctity of that little break room, all of us attired in proper business wear, I practically screamed at Sandra. “You have such a cunty feminist attitude towards men!”
I was only one of two men in the room at the moment, and everyone turned towards me; shocked and horrified at my sudden outburst.
“Excuse me,” replied Sandra. “What did you just say to me?”
I stood up and repeated exactly what I’d just said, adding that – despite her previous comments – men actually serve a purpose in the raising of children. We’d had similar conversations before, and I’d tolerated Sandra’s misandric rants. You might have trouble finding that word – misandric, or even misandry – in a standard dictionary, which doesn’t surprise me. But, on that day in early 2000, my political correctness flew out the break room door. Sandra and I usually got along – and agreed on many issues – until she tumbled into that uber-feminist mode. Then, she metamorphosed into an almost completely different person, like the little girl in The Exorcist – screaming, cussing and reaching for the nearest set of testicles to crush.
“What purpose do fathers serve?” she asked. “Men have never raised children.” She could have been speaking from personal experience; considering her own father abandoned her and her siblings to take up residence with a much younger woman their mother. They almost never saw him, she’d explained previously.
“The real question,” I said, “is what purpose your disrespectful feminist attitude serves.”
Here we were – at the threshold of a new century and a new millennium – and Sandra espoused the contemporary feminist belief that fathers were relics of an ancient past; like the Mayan pyramids. That still seems to be the popular opinion, as the family unit undergoes dynamic restructuring in contemporary America. Dismissing the value of men in the lives of children – even their own children – has become standard theology among those who reside in the universe left of Barbara Tuchman.
Some women say it’s retribution for centuries of male domination in patriarchal societies. But, whose fault is that? Certainly not mine, or my father’s, or any other man who just tries to do the best for his kids and get through life in one piece. We didn’t create that world a thousand years ago and can’t be held responsible for it.
I recall, in the mid-1990’s, when singer Melissa Etheridge and her then partner, Julie Cypher, announced that “they were having a baby.” Etheridge was on tour at the time; what she called a “baby shower our” where concertgoers tossed baby items onto the stage. Etheridge had sonogram pictures of “their” baby positioned prominently on either side of the stage and beamed like a proud father in a sickening display of egotistical bluster.
“I didn’t know she’d grown a penis and testicles,” I told some people at work. I was in the wire transfer division of the bank at the time. Or, maybe Etheridge was actually a hermaphrodite, I added, alternating between genders with the ebb and flow of the tides. Regardless, seeing Etheridge behave as if she had impregnated Cypher was as ludicrous as it was outrageous. In 1996, the couple appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine with the headline: “We’re having a baby.” I looked at that word – ‘We’re.’ Just as Bill Clinton tried to re-define the verb “is,” Etheridge and Cypher were trying to re-define parenthood. In both cases, they failed.
When Etheridge and Cypher revealed the father of their child was David Crosby, the situation became even more absurd. And, what woman wouldn’t want an aging hippy / drug addict / ex-con to father her children? David Crosby and a Dixie cup? Perish the thought!
In May of 2006, a friend showed me a copy of the Dallas Voice, a weekly publication aimed at the city’s gay/lesbian community. That particular issue was the periodical’s “Mother’s Day” edition, which was filled with ideas on where people could take their mothers to eat or shop; where they could buy mom some flowers; etc. Three of the paper’s regular editorial contributors wrote glowing pieces about their respective mothers and the special bond they shared. In the preceding months, the paper had also asked its readers to send in memories of their mothers; my friend was one of them, and the paper had published his story.
I was curious, though, to see how the Dallas Voice treated Father’s Day. Surely, I thought, a community that called for equality and respect for everyone would bestow similar accolades on its male parents. So, a month later – on the Friday before Father’s Day – I retrieved a copy of the paper…and was sadly (angrily) disappointed. For their “Father’s Day edition,” the paper had decided to focus on the challenges of gay/lesbian parenting overall – especially in a state as hostile to homosexuals as Texas. They highlighted 2 couples: a female duo with children and a male couple who discussed the legal difficulties of international adoptions. The women made no mention of their kids’ father, and the two men didn’t even have children yet; they were still trying to work through a bureaucratic morass. I then noticed that the same 3 editorial contributors who’d composed extraordinary pieces about their mothers had absolutely nothing to say about their fathers.
One penned a nauseatingly saccharine bit about the 25th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS. Some background: it was on June 5, 1981 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first published a report about 5 young gay men in Los Angeles who were mysteriously afflicted with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a rare type of pneumonia usually caused by a suppressed immune system. That eventually led to the “discovery” of AIDS, which most certainly was around long before 1981. Even now, more than three decades after AIDS had been identified, the AIDS death toll in the United States still hasn’t surpassed the 700,000 mark. In that same period, I asked myself, how many people had died of cancer? Of leukemia? Of cardiovascular disease? From gun violence? From drunk driving? How many of them were fathers who’d been trying to support their children? Many gay men treat AIDS in the same manner that some Jews treat the Nazi Holocaust – they’re the only ones on planet Earth who have ever suffered such trauma and the entire world should stop spinning to consider their plight and only their plight. The vast majority of gay men aren’t even HIV positive, much less suffering from full-blown AIDS. And, there are plenty of gay fathers who do what millions of other men do every day – love and support their kids.
Meanwhile, another columnist talked about some obscure “Canadian power dyke” in that same paper. Don’t even ask me to explain what the hell that was all about because I have absolutely no idea, or interest, in it. Finally, the third columnist bemoaned his technological disconnect; writing as if he had been best friends with Jesus and now found himself in a brave new world with such scary things as cell phones. And, that was it; that was the paper’s “Father’s Day” edition. No ideas where to take dad for a Father’s Day lunch, or buy him gifts; no readers’ stories about their fathers.
Three months later another friend invited me to an informal meeting of the Stonewall Democrats, a local group dedicated to reversing Texas’ slide into Republican-controlled dementia. Good luck. Among the speakers was an assistant Dallas Voice editor. I questioned him about the logic behind the paper’s “Father’s Day” edition. “Why,” I specifically asked, “did you not have at least one column by someone talking about his or her father?”
He looked as if I’d asked him to explain Keynesian economics and how it pertains to cotton farms in Idaho. “Well,” he finally sputtered, “none of them had anything to say about their fathers.”
“Well then, ask for some! Why didn’t you just ask your readers to send in stories about their fathers the way you did with Mother’s Day?”
He still had that Keynesian economics look.
Then, some gal jumped in and spouted off the usual feminist crap about fathers not serving a purpose and added that “most fathers would probably kill their gay children.”
I guess she thought I would back down, cowering like a puppy, as her finger jutted out towards me. “First of all, get your fucking finger out of my face,” I retorted. “Second, that’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.” I looked at her in the same way I had stared at Sandra six years earlier. “Fathers serve a purpose. Broads like you don’t.” I suddenly felt like David Duke at an NAACP rally. How dare I question a female – any female – about parenting! How dare I consider fathers more important than AIDS! I’d pissed off a room full of elitist liberals. But, as I scoured the increasingly hostile crowd, I didn’t care. Political correctness isn’t my strongest attribute. It has the tendency to trample over the facts.
Political correctness isn’t a belief many of my own friends hold close to their hearts. One is openly gay with an adult son; a young man he loves more than anyone else. He gave everything he possibly could to his child – just like any dad, just like my dad. Another close friend is an older lesbian woman who speaks fondly of her father; a man who accepted her when she came out of the closest just before he died several years ago. She still gets emotional when she talks about him. Fatherhood is not a sexuality issue; it’s a human rights concern.
Political correctness is what John Stossel said would be turned “on its ear” during a 20/20 program a few years ago, which focused on gender roles in America. I suspected it wouldn’t be too male-friendly – and I was right. Some highlights: a clip from MTV’s Jackass – which makes Survivor and Dancing with the Stars look artistic – and a claim it’s a perfect example of typical male behavior and testosterone; a man stating, in a clearly effeminate voice, that fathers don’t serve any greater purpose beyond a “sperm bank;” a glowing bit with correspondent Elizabeth Vargas discussing motherhood and mentioning that some women have orgasms while breastfeeding. Excuse me? I can only imagine the reaction to men supposedly having orgasms while roughhousing with their kids. Yes, the program was politically correct alright – it bashed men and made women look flawless. Just when I thought 20/20 would improve with Barbara Walters’ departure, they come up with that mess. I haven’t watched much of 20/20 since.
Only in recent decades has debate raged over the role of fathers; a debate that’s been manufactured by none other than the feminist left and their token male eunuch comrades. Modern feminism is riddled with blatant hypocrisy and two-faced antics. Every self-righteous feminist talking head from Gloria Allred to Gloria Steinem slams the role of fathers, but turns around to scream and yell like drunken hookers on a rainy Monday night about the handful of men who abandon their children. So, men don’t have any function in raising children, but when financial support is needed, where’s the father? Suddenly, those children become their kids, and the term “deadbeat dad” is tossed around like shot puts at an Olympic track and field event.
Then, there’s that ubiquitous sperm bank line: “Women don’t need men because we have sperm banks.” That’s like saying we don’t need farms because we have grocery stores. And, while you don’t have to visit a farm to buy your food, society still can’t survive without penises. Some have tried; they just can’t. Bumping vaginas doesn’t cause an egg cell to start cleaving; it just causes sore hip bones. Parthenogenesis doesn’t occur in humans, no matter how hard the likes of Gloria Allred and Melissa Etheridge dream otherwise. But, by saying they don’t need men because they have sperm banks, these gals express a vitriolic hate and disrespect for the male of the species. They hate men so bad they will remove as much semblance of us from their world as they can and state ‘we’re having a baby;’ and claim one “inseminated” the other, when in fact, she just injected her partner with the sperm cells. Yes, I’ve actually heard lesbian couples say that! But, no matter how much they twist the terminology around, they still can’t escape the fact that they need men to procreate.
I have no respect for people who patronize sperm banks – whether they’re making a deposit or a withdrawal. They’re all a bunch of arrogant jerks who feel they – and only they – can save the human race. The men obviously believe their sperm cells are as valuable as gold bullion and must be preserved like the crop seeds stored in Norway’s “Doomsday Vault;” otherwise humanity will perish. They’re not special; they’re irresponsible. Placing themselves in an ivory tower above the rest of us lowly mortals, they want the satisfaction of knowing they’ve passed their genes into the world; they just don’t want to deal with dirty diapers.
On the other side are the women who clearly view themselves as deistic; omniscient and omnipotent. They proclaim self-righteously that they don’t need a man in their lives without realizing that no man needs them. What man would want to deal with that much bitchiness?
None of these think about the children they produce. They don’t realize their progeny will want to know something about their family history; where they come from and who they are. No, these people – wrapped in the narcissism of new-age technology think only of themselves.
Men have been raising children since the beginning of time; long before some idiot invented sperm banks; long before lesbian couples started pairing up and calling each other “family;” long before single motherhood became Hollywood fashionable.
My father worked in the printing business his entire life. He and my mother came from an environment where people entered a particular profession and stuck with it. No one hopped from job to job in their day; not really. My father labored for more than 30 years in one place on the edge of downtown Dallas; standing on his feet in soft-sole shoes on concrete for hours a day. His feet and knees are paying the price for it now.
One of my best friends, Preston*, and his wife have three children. Preston has endured some tough times in recent years. When the tech bubble burst in 2001, he found his software programming skills were not as in demand as they’d been just a year earlier. Struggling with limited choices, he – certified in every certification Microsoft has to offer, holder of a Masters degree in computer science – went to work for a home improvement outlet. He didn’t balk at the thought of it; he had a daughter to support at the time. Now, he and his wife also have two boys. Preston broke a small bone in his neck in a freak tree-trimming incident and had a brief bout with cancer. He had no lucrative trust fund or wealthy benefactor on which to rely; he just had himself. He did what my father and millions of other men do every single day and night of their lives: they find a way to support their children. They don’t stand up on a hilltop to trumpet their actions. They just do it because it needs to be done.
It’s been that way for millennia. All the political correctness and gleaming scientific technology won’t – can’t – change that. I envy my father and friends like Preston. I always wanted to get married and have children of my own, but that never happened. Women, it seems, aren’t attracted to ugly shy men who like cars and true crime novels. Oh, well. While I don’t have kids – although I often call myself a single dad of a dog – I still know what it takes to be a father.
Sandra had told me fathers don’t nurture children in the same way as mothers. For once, she was right.
“No,” I told her, “they don’t.” Men nurture children in a different way; in their own special way; in the way that only a dad understands – dads and their children. It’s not superior to the way women do it, but it’s definitely not inferior. But, there’s a reason for that. People of both genders were meant to raise children together. Humanity couldn’t have survived without it. We just can’t do without our fathers.
*Names have been changed.