Dads - Then and Now.

By: Lorraine Iverson

As Father’s Day approaches we naturally reflect on our fathers and grandfathers and remember, for the most part, the good times. That’s my experience anyway - I know lots women do not remember their fathers fondly. I feel very fortunate to have had a great dad, albeit a detached dad. I have found many women of my age had the same kind of 1950’s dads. They were there as the head of the family. They drove the car on outings, not mom. They worked and provided for us. But they didn’t participate in the day to day processes of raising us. That was mom’s job. My father would come home from the office, fix a drink, pick up the paper and wait for dinner. All hell could be breaking lose between the living room and the kitchen but he was oblivious. Unless the noise level got too high. Then he would put down the paper and yell in a very deep booming voice, “Knock it, off. Hazel (my mom) shut these kids up.” That worked.

If things got really intense as they did with teenage daughters, he would ride in on his proverbial white horse and take charge. But that was only if he felt my mother was losing control of the situation. 

My brother was born when I was 12. Finally a son for my dad. But he wasn’t a whole lot different with him, at least when I was still at home. He wasn’t a coaching little-league sort of father. Maybe an occasional game of catch but I might be making that up just so he doesn’t look like too much of a schmuck.  He really wasn’t a schmuck at all, I just think he didn’t know how to relate to children. His own father was a grocer and worked crazy hours. He also spent a lot of time in bars. He didn’t play with his kids or bathe them or feed them. The patterning was in place. 

But what a difference the next couple of generations have made in this whole daddy dynamic. My husbands were much more involved in the lives of their children and my sons are amazing fathers. They too work all day at demanding jobs but come home, cook dinner, coach baseball, get down on the floor and play, bathe and read bedtime stories. What has happened that men now seem to be much more involved with their children than in the past? It certainly isn’t that they have more time. They work much more mentally demanding jobs than our fathers did when we were kids. 

Is it possible that we have all emotionally evolved over the last five or six decades? Or is this because women have become more powerful in the workplace and house and kid duties now have to be shared. I grew up with neighbors that had two working parents and mom still had to do all the house and children jobs. So I’m going with “we’ve evolved." My sons and the other young fathers I know aren’t involved with their children because their wives are too busy. They really love and enjoy their time with them. They seem to be a kinder, gentler dad model than I remember. My dad was kind and could be gentle if I needed him to be but he wasn’t hands-on. 

I also believe that deeper paternal involvement is due to the fact that men now see their children birthed. Many actually assist with the delivery. They bond at a much deeper level by seeing their little beings come into the world and into their bodies. I don’t remember who wrote this but I once read that if more men saw their children born they would be less likely to send them off to wars to die. God, I hope that’s true.  

My husband did not see his son born but he was there to hold him and bond with him right after the cesarean that was his entrance to the world. Their relationship is one of the strongest father/son bonds I’ve ever witnessed. His son, Ross, did not live with us full-time. He was with us on weekends for the most part. Now Ross is across the country at college but they talk and/or text almost every day. Ross shares all his college experiences with his dad. They are best friends. How did this happen between a part time dad and his son? I believe that it is the results of unconditional love from the father. Sure there are some judgements and reprimands as needed but there has never been a doubt about the intentions or the love that underlies their relationship. How do we all achieve this level of trust and communication with our children? 

Discipline 101:

Take a breath. That old saying about counting to ten really helps before going into full blown reaction.

Put yourself in their shoes. Whether they are two or twenty, take a second to be them. What are they feeling? Did they eat a lot sugar? Are they afraid? Tired? Jealous? Just take that moment to identify with them before moving on to what’s needed.

Don’t judge. Based on the above action, this will be easier. Judging them makes it about them and not about what they did.

Encourage them to talk about what they did and how they are feeling. Then discuss what needs to be done whether it be consequences or fixes. Let them know you’re on their side and you are there to help but you are the parent and you have a job to do.

Be consistent. We all know that kids need boundaries and rules. But they also need to know you are always there and that reactions and consequences are solid. 

Communication 101:

Communicate all the time. Keep the lines open and don’t save heart-to-hearts for only when they are in trouble. Sadly, it seemed to me that my dad only got involved in my life when there were fireworks. Just having a chat about nothing in particular wasn’t part of our relationship until I was an adult.

Did I practice what I’m preaching? Of course not, at least not as often as I should. But I knew it and a girl can preach, can’t she?

All this perfect communications happens when your children are actually old enough to communicate with you on some level. The early bonding starts way before then. And if Daddy changes your poopy diapers just as often as mommy and he puts you to bed and reads to you and does all the things mommy does, he’ll have an equal bond. He won’t just be that guy you have to ask for the car keys or bail money.

This Father’s Day I will say a little prayer to my dad. I miss him all the time. Do I wish we had been closer? Sure I do. Could I have loved him more? Maybe. But I do know that watching my husband and my sons celebrate Father’s Day will be a wonderful experience. But I also know that everyday should be Father’s Day with these men because they are the best.

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Rain Iverson has traveled many paths and is always recreating herself. As a business woman, she co-founded and managed a technology public relations firm and one of the first computer conferencing software companies. She has served on non-profit boards, retired at 50 to become an artist and then 10 years later came out of retirement to become CFO of her son's company. Rain is the matriarch of a large, blended family with a great husband, children, grandchildren and lots of extended/blended family members.