I traffic in reality. For instance, not more than five minutes ago, the part of my brain that drives my hands to write honestly about being a work-from-home dad noted and stored the following: my adorable four-year-old daughter wandered into my office while I was trying to hammer out a rather complex form I need to do my job. “Daddy, I’m FIRSTY,” she said, batting her eyes at me. If this was a TV commercial featuring a Good Dad, I would’ve stopped what I was doing, swept her up in my arms, given her a big hug, and taken her to the kitchen for some lemonade and then to the park to play on the swings and then to the the Pony Store to buy her a pony and whatever the hell it is that Good TV Commercial Dads do. Or – if this was a TV commercial featuring an Idiot Dad – I would’ve knocked over my laptop, which in turn would’ve caused an electrical fire, which in turn would caused my daughter to start crying, which in turn would’ve prompted Beth to come running down the stairs with the Ronco Mister Extinguisher in hand, she would’ve saved the, then looked at me, head cocked, hands on hips, shaking her head, while I sat there sheepishly. But as TV commercials are generally completely unrelated to anything that happens in real life, I did the following: told her to go find Mom, because I’m busy and can’t help you right this very second, watched as she did so, then went back to work.
There was a kerfluffle with Huggies earlier this month – apparently they made a commercial depicting dads as incompetent, unable to change a diaper, or some shit (pun intended). This upset a few people, namely dads, and when the Huggies people showed up to Dad 2.0 and heard from dads who were upset about their ads, they decided to yank the campaign and try something new. This was heralded as a great victory, by those who care about the opinions of companies who make shit receptacles.
Full disclosure: I no longer purchase diapers, as my kids have outgrown them, but when I did I was usually too tired or busy to give much thought to the socio-political implications of commercials featuring products designed to hold urine/feces. I traffic in reality. For instance, I just got a text message from Beth: Lucas is sobbing over the school project that he spent a few hours building last night. The kids were told to design and construct a Simple Machine; he chose to build an Inclined Plane, figured out the design, found the materials (Legos and a flat slab of cardboard), put the whole thing together himself, and wrote a report about it. Did the whole thing by himself, as per the teacher’s instructions. And so of course when he brought his into class, he saw that most of the other kids’ parents had constructed elaborate Rube Goldberg devices using wood, handtools, pulleys, wheels, and everything else that these parents could buy for their kids at the local Home Depot. He’s devastated. I’m livid. I’m sure that I’ll do the right thing – tell him that he did the right thing, and that I could not possibly be more proud of him. I’m sure that won’t help. I’m not sure how I’m preventing myself from picking up the phone, calling his teacher, and screaming my lungs out at her. (The afternoon’s not over, folks.) Make an ad out of THAT, Sterling Cooper.
This is my world. I suspect that if you’re a parent it’s probably yours as well, and it’s one that’s far removed from that of the TV Commercial Idiot Dad and the TV Commercial Uberfather stereotypes. To me, one’s as irrelevant as the other. I no longer get upset when I see yet another variation of the Hapless Dad on TV or in the movies; I no longer sing the praises of shows that portray dads as the modern-day incarnation of Atticus Finch. These misrepresentations are just so much white noise, gibberish from some alien planet, broadcasts from a Bizarro Earth. There will never be a TV commercial that accurately portrays what I know to be true about fatherhood; that sometimes we are idiots, sometimes we’re not, and most of us muddle through, hoping not to do too much damage along the way. And when the TV starts blaring out the usual myths and lies about dads, I don’t get mad – I turn it off.