By: Vincent Weaver
(Editor’s Note: This will be the first in a series of blogs on various aspects of why dads matter.)
One of my favorite afternoon activities growing up was watching reruns of “Leave it to Beaver”. It’s hard to say what was particularly appealing about the show that drew me and millions of others in. After all, even in my generation growing up in the 70s, the show’s premise already seemed unrealistic – a bit too “tidy” to be believed. But, there were a couple of aspects that were both appealing AND realistic. First, you had a couple of boys who were truly boys (Wally and “Beaver”). They were curious; they enjoyed rough and tumble play; they called each other names occasionally; they (frequently) made mistakes; and, they knew that ultimately, their parents were in charge.
That brings up the second appealing aspect – this show portrayed a mom and a dad who enjoyed each other’s company; who thought a lot of their boys; who didn’t always make perfect decisions (nor did they claim to always have the perfect answers); and even though the mom (June) was vitally important to Wally and “Beaver”, it was the dad (Ward) who showed the boys what it meant to be a boy, and how to grow up to be a man. More often than not, an episode would conclude with Ward having a heart-to-heart with one of his sons to set them straight. All four of the main characters, in fact, knew that Ward was best-suited for these conversations and resulting lessons.
If you turn on the TV these days, it’s virtually impossible to find a show portraying a father in a truly positive light. The sad reality is that Homer Simpson may be the most positive example of a dad on mainstream TV today.
What does that say to men (and boys) about expectations for them? It says that standards for dads are low; that they aren’t capable of much; that they don’t have anything of value to offer their kids. In fact, the drumbeat throughout our society of “dads are unnecessary” has been beating for decades. The increasing absence of fathers in American families reflects the result of that message being driven home. The effects on the family and on our society are devastating.
Next time, we’ll look at some of those effects, as well as some of the profound ways that fathers can and do positively impact their children’s lives.