- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 18, 2006

Stand up and cheer for Dad. Applaud. Holler. Dad rocks. Dad is stalwart, wise, brave, kind, patient, good-humored, affectionate and sentimental when nobody’s looking.

He is the guardian of abandoned dogs, rickety cars, wakeful children, tired wives, disappointed daughters, faltering sons, aging parents. He will de-flea the abandoned dog; fix the rickety car; and vanquish bedtime specters, self-doubt, dubious suitors, bullies and fading memories.

No one can say a mealtime blessing like Dad. Nobody can carve a turkey, pilot an automobile or produce a strange but intriguing Sunday night supper dish like Dad. And when everything is failing, there is Dad’s voice, cutting through the chaff, the flack, the caterwaul:

“Hey. You’re gonna be all right, kid.”

Thanks, Dad. And happy Father’s Day to all: May the dinner be savory, the company convivial, the chitchat cordial and the day satisfying.

(Sound effect: slight screeching as small soapbox is moved into place.)

Rest assured, all ye dads. America holds you in high esteem despite churlish TV shows, commercials and movies that depict dads as clueless buffoons, petty tyrants or boors. A pox, in fact, on all dad-bashing producers who typecast fathers as hapless ninnies at the mercy of sly womenfolk, defective merchandise or conniving offspring. Enough, already.

Who are American dads? Here are some official statistics about our 66 million fathers — these from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — based on recent, massive population surveys, clear proof that the Hollywood version of dad is erroneous.

The surveys revealed that — surprise — American men prize fatherhood. Of those men with children, 94 percent said being a parent was worth it, despite the cost and effort. The number was 90 percent even among men who had no children or never had been married.

Another 81 percent played with their children daily, and 72 percent ate meals with their children every day. More than half — more than 52 percent — said they helped bathe, dress and even diaper children younger than 5 years old every day. Another 64 percent said they shared their activities and workday with their children daily.

Meanwhile, mothers concur that fathers hold their own in family matters. According to a survey of 2,000 mothers and fathers by the BabyCenter — an online parenting information Web site — 97 percent of the moms agreed that the parenting skills of menfolk matched those of womenfolk.

So don’t mess with Dad, Hollywood, lest you rile the sleeping giantess and all her little giants. Movement is afoot on several fronts to right the cultural wrongs that have been festering ever since “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It to Beaver” were replaced by “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Simpsons.”

Petitions, product boycotts and letter-writing campaigns directed at erring ad agencies and manufacturers have been organized by those weary of dad-bashing. Books such as “Embracing Your Father” also counter the trend. The author is Linda Nielsen, a Wake Forest psychology professor who teaches a college course for young women on father appreciation.

On an edgier note, there’s also “The Future of Men” by Marian Salzman, an Englishwoman who urges men and marketers both to revel in such instinctive traditional male traits as strength, honor and character.

“What happened to men over the past 30 or so years is that they moved from defining the world to having their world defined by women. Men have been the butt of the joke too long,” Miss Salzman growled to the Times of London.

That said, it is time to return to the lighter side of Father’s Day.

(Sound effect: sighs of relief, slight screeching sound of soapbox being moved back under the bed.)

Father’s Day was inspired by the Rev. Robert Webb, who conducted the nation’s first Father’s Day service at Central United Methodist Church in Fairmont, W.Va., in 1908. Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., also publicly advocated for Father’s Day that same year to honor her own father, a widower who raised six children alone. The idea got considerable support from the Lion’s Club and the YMCA — and was in full swing by 1910.

This year, Americans will spend $9 billion on gifts and outings to honor their fathers today — up a billion from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Our fathers, bless their hearts, also suffer from modest dad syndrome. Half of all shoppers report they have trouble buying for poppa because he is too polite to tell anyone what he wants, according to Circuit City.

What to do for Dad on his big day? Dad’s favorite meal consists of “steak and potatoes, corn on the cob and pie or ice cream — preferably both,” according to a Better Homes and Gardens survey of 2,500 daddies. Another poll of dads by — yes — Dad’s Magazine revealed that the “least favorite” gifts are power tools, socks, underwear, aftershave and, at the very bottom of the heap, neckties.

What? How could this be? (Sound effect: sputtering and muttering.)

“Men like to make their own tie selections because the tie is one of the only articles of his clothing that allows men to display personality,” the magazine explains.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and questionable ties for The Washington Times’ national desk. Contact her at 202/636-3085 or jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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