A Father's Day Tribute

I can tell that (like many of my posts) this one is going to be TLDR, and will take a while to get to the point, so please ignore if you’re so inclined. What I report is purely anecdotal and may not reflect what you see in your immediate surroundings.

I live in a “nice” suburban neighborhood, which interestingly, is heavily populated with single moms. When we first moved into the neighborhood, this meant twenty-something moms with 7-year-old boys who occasionally annoyed the neighborhood by throwing toys on roofs and breaking tree branches. They later evolved into 14-year-olds who kept the neighbors awake by riding their motorized scooters late at night. Now they are 20-something young men who by day, congregate in a group of about a dozen to tinker with cars and drink beer, and by night, hot-rod through the streets, leaving donuts and skid marks on every street corner. To my knowledge, they don’t go to school (much) or have jobs that take up significant parts of their days. I don’t think they are criminals – they simply seem to have too much time on their hands. Where are the twenty-something women? They have moved on – law school, an out-of-state internship, a couple at University, and a next-generation working single mom who moved to a “more affordable” neighborhood. The now forty-something moms speak proudly of their daughters’ accomplishments, but I don’t hear similar proclamations about the sons, who clearly are still at home and, I’m sorry to say, don’t treat their mothers very respectfully.

Why have the young women (largely) successfully launched and the young men fallen through the cracks? I believe that the girls looked to the example of their mothers who through hard work, were able to carve out pretty decent lives for themselves. What did the boys see? That men are absent and unneeded. I know that there are plenty of sons of single moms who successfully transition to a productive, self-supporting adult life, but unfortunately, they don’t live in my neighborhood.

Mercifully, my son got to see a better model than that. My husband is a great dad who works hard and is deeply involved our kids’ lives. During my son’s early adolescence, he and I had serious conflicts that only my husband was able to resolve. There were times that I felt my husband was too lenient – he permitted vocabulary and video games that sent me nearly ballistic, but he held fast in those few instances when it really counted, and in time, his strategy paid off – concede small battles to win the war. Now my son is a great guy who treats me respectfully, whom I am pleased to call a friend, as well as a son. This I attribute to the intervention of his dad.

When I see girls succeed in robotics, I receive vicarious pleasure in their accomplishments as an extension of how far women have come. But when I see guys succeed, I also receive vicarious pleasure, perhaps as a mom by proxy. I am so glad that you have chosen to work toward something meaningful, rather than tearing up your (or my) neighborhood.

To all of you dads and surrogate dads out there (and especially to my kids’ dad), thanks for the countless things you do that mean more than you know. Give your kids a hug today.

I don’t quite know what it is, but a lot of my male peers (even ones with great fathers) just seem to care less than girls do. I know far less girls who don’t care if they pass or fail classes (just one example) than guys.

I really can’t relate to their thought process at all, so I can’t offer any insight there.

On the other hand, with the exception of when I was very young, my dad has had very little to do with my upbringing; and I like to think I turned out all right.

Perhaps this is simply because I’m a pessimist but I see this sort of thing and don’t think that the positive role model of the mom is the reason that the girls are doing better. Being a part of that age group myself I see many more young women having rather extreme conflict with their mothers and going on to succeed almost out of spite. Same with young men and their fathers. Also being a part of this age group and being at a large university I would say that simply because somebody looks to be making something of themselves means little for the actuality.

I don’t wish to say that we shouldn’t honor our fathers. I have an amazing relationship with both of my parents but part of the reason that I want to be a good engineer is because my father was an excellent engineer. If I had the correct personality this would probably inspire conflict between me and my father. Now I will admit that this would mean I was following the good role model of my father I don’t think that its something to be inspired about.

So while I fully support honoring the good fathers of the world on Father’s day I don’t think we should look towards single mothers raising wonderful daughters and terrible sons as a good example of why our fathers should be thanked.

I hadn’t intended the message to come across this way, but looking back, I can see why it did. What I mainly intended to mean is that that fathers are very important, and sometimes we don’t know how good something is until we imagine what it would be like to go without. I’m sure that the girls also experienced some negative effects, but perhaps they’re not quite as obvious (with the possible exception of the young single mom).

There was a serious incident with one of the young men yesterday that left me feeling somewhat angry with the situation, but also profoundly sad for him and the others. That, combined with the obvious mechanical abilities of some of the men, juxtaposed with Father’s Day today left me ruminating in some odd directions.

Happy Father’s Day nonetheless.
I know there are a lot of Mentors who are also parents. A difficult task if you ask me. Congrats to the Dads who have enough time (and a bit of creative juggling) to manage a job, kids, and a robotics team.