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Karen Brazas: Dads of yesterday, dads of today

Other Voices
Karen Brazas

Father, Dad, Daddy, Pop … whatever we call him, we all have one, or had one.

Mine passed away six years ago at age 96. He was “Dad” to the three of us children, a dad very typical of fathers of that generation. He was first and foremost the “provider” for our family. Because back then when most mothers were “housewives,” the fathers were the “bread winners.”

My dad’s work load left little time or energy for a more personal type of engagement with us kids. He willingly supported our activities by attending my brother’s ball games and my and my sister’s band and choir concerts, but actual physical contact like snuggles and hugs were simply not in his purview. He, as well as most of his contemporaries, were members of “The Greatest Generation,” World War II soldiers who returned home for the sole purpose of providing for their families.

The generation of fathers who followed were generally more “hands on” when it came to child rearing. Attending childbirth classes and being present in the delivery room marked the onset of parenting for many fathers, including my own husband. Because more women were entering the work force, dads became more than providers. With two parents working outside the home, fathers became more involved in their children’s activities. They coached ball teams, they accompanied mom to parent teacher conferences, and they helped with science projects. They played backyard games, went on camping trips, and once the training wheels came off the bike, they ran along side, balancing their young cyclist.

Although the lion’s share of the housework and the nurturing continued to be borne by us mothers, most fathers of this generation became caregivers as well as providers. Their children felt more comfortable seeking advice from them and talking through problems than we as children had done with our fathers.

The new dads of today, the good ones, seem to have become even more involved with raising their children.

My father would have scoffed at the very idea of “house husbands,” those special dads of today who stay home full time while moms go to the workplace. Today’s in-house duties tend to be shared, or cleaning crews and gardeners are hired to allow for more precious family time. Fewer dads shy away from the nurturing aspect of parenting and seem to spend more quality time with their children. Play days at the park, family dinners in the nice restaurants that used to be “adults only” terrain, and extended family vacations are accompanied by the hugs and the “I love you’s,” — all foreign territory to most dads back when I grew up.

Daddies of today’s little girls might build a doll house or engage in a tea party with their little princesses. Daddies of little boys might spend an entire day on the living room floor amidst piles of Legos, building train depots and fire stations. These are the dads who “play catch” in the back yard for hours on end, who run through sprinklers and build sand castles, who play “hide and seek.” They seem less demanding, more fun, and not afraid to show affection.

Yes, these are generalizations. Not all fathers fit into neat categories. But the definition of fatherhood has changed through the years, and for most it’s changed for the better. Although my own dad was a very different breed of father than my husband, and a far different one from my two sons who are extraordinary young fathers today, I am grateful for him.

Today I honor him, my husband, and my sons. Father’s Day is our chance to let all the dads, daddies, pops and fathers know how much we appreciate their sacrifices, their devotion to family, and their love.

And even though yours may have a hard time saying “I love you” out loud, don’t let that stop you from saying it to him.

Karen Brazas lives in Nevada City.


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