Cynic’s Guide To How To Be A Good Father

What Makes a Good Father?

In trying to come up with an innovative approach to commemorate Father’s Day this year, I scoured the Internet for inspiration. The only thing doing so accomplished was to thoroughly depress me and incite me to riot. I am an equal opportunity offender when it comes to disliking both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I’ve tried to figure out what it is that rubs me so wrong about celebrating a day devoted to each of my parents in particular. Don’t mothers and fathers deserve to be celebrated? Hell, yes, they do, but not like this.

how to be a good father

Theories On Why I Hate Father’s Day (And, no, I did not have a traumatic childhood):

  • It could simply be the oppression I feel about all Hallmark Holidays. Stop telling me how my life is supposed to look and feel! It doesn’t look OR feel like the inside of a greeting card.
  • It could also be the angst over whether I’ve punctuated the day correctly. (Is it Fathers Day or Father‘s Day? Fathers’ day? Do you have to capitalize “Father” or “Day” or both or neither?) Because, grammar!
  • It could be that I resent having to purchase a $4.50 card to proclaim my devotion to the fathers in my life. Plus a $ 0.49 cent stamp. Mothers’ and father‘s clearly deserve much more. Besides, my father doesn’t like to read unless it’s in hard back or an enormously large newspaper.
  • Then I’m reminded that Father’s Day isn’t really a holiday, and I go into irrational orbit.
  • Mostly, I think it just plays to my rebellious nature. The forced gratitude demanded by Father’s Day makes me crazy. I was going to be grateful until you told me I had to.

how to be a good fatherI found plenty of articles about how to be a good father. Some of the articles mentioned worthwhile tips such as to “be present for your child”, “teach them about finances” and “be a good listener.” Fair enough.

Then shit gets crazy.

These same articles also listed “don’t be violent” and “don’t abuse your kids” as some of the criteria to avoid if you want to be a good father. These were mainstream websites that populated the first page of a Google search, not websites telling Tony Soprano how to be an involved dad or model good behavior. I’d hate to see what life lessons the authors might suggest for aspirational mediocre fathers: “If you’re going to abuse, and we discourage that, inflict psychological damage that can’t be photographed.” “You don’t have to be pleasant but try not to be a COMPLETE tool.”

The articles also warned dads to “Be good to yourself.” Is this really a thing? Are there fathers out there who are subjugating their life’s dreams for their children and need to be reminded to take a load off? I know a ton of great fathers out there, but ne’ery a one needs to be reminded to stop being so family-oriented. Men have it right on this one. The first thing they get right is that sometimes sex is just sex and doesn’t mean everything. The second is moderation in all things, including family.  I don’t know of any male person who is in danger of losing his identity because of his fatherhood, and that is as it should be.

how to be a good father

Still others advocated to “do ‘mom’ stuff” like “help out” around the house. These are not articles from the 1950′s. I don’t recall my wedding vows including my husband promising to “help me out” when I asked or needed it. According to the authors of these articles, to be a good family man, a partner just needs to “help domestically” on occasion. I mean in addition to not beating people. Oh, and be patient. And listen.

In the same breath, they give another helpful tip to being a good dad: “Be good to mom”. Since when did being a decent husband or an adequate mate equate to being a good parent? That seems like a pretty low threshold to me. Take her to dinner. Do chores for her. Check! What a good dad you are. Make that GREAT dad! This attitude is why a man with two children in tow at the grocery store gets admiring smiles from strangers. Just do your job, wanker. You signed up for this, remember? And guess what else? Not all dads have wives or girlfriends.

The articles also encouraged good fathers to “teach your child the important life lessons.”  and “to be there for the milestones.” [Emphasis mine] Insinuating that the little stuff will sort itself out, or can be handled by others, or the lessers. Be there when she graduates from high school, but cleaning up her vomit in the middle of the night isn’t teaching her anything important. How about this: be there for both. I kind of expected my mom and dad to attend all my graduations. Where being present really counts is the vomit. Vomit is the stuff of true parenting. Vomit is the glue that binds.

how to be a good father

To suggest that fathers need only not be self-absorbed assholes to be a good dad insults fathers and mothers, not to mention children. Instead of diminishing the role of a good dad to outdated sexist clichés of how to be an ordinary decent human being, let’s up the ante, shall we? Is fatherhood important or isn’t it? Having a vagina, I feel wholly qualified to dispense advice on how to be a good father. I propose the following criteria to aspiring Good Dads:

how to be a good father

  1. Teach your child healthy coping mechanisms and model them yourself. Then teach me, because I didn’t get schooled on that one adequately.
  2. Teach your child how to suffer fools graciously. They are going to run into a lot of them, and it would be helpful to know how to deal with these fools other than cutting their heads off to kill their brains or wearing garlic to protect themselves.
  3. Convince your child that the relationships they develop and nurture are what will save their soul.
  4. Be a good role model, to a point. Your child can learn from your mistakes and your apologies.
  5. Show your child how to be a devoted friend.
  6. Let your kids make mistakes, ones that make them cry.
  7. Make your children do as much as they can for themselves.
  8. Talk to your kids often about what they want to be when they grow up. Neither ”Making lots of money” nor “Follow your dreams” are viable in the world today. They probably never were.
  9. Teach them not to burn bridges, unless they fully understand the consequences.
  10. Teach your child to act according to their own moral code, not in response to how someone else treats them. We don’t need to breed any more assholes.
  11. Let your children see you try things that scare the hell out of you thereby empowering them to do the same.
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