I remember sitting outside on a warm spring day a year or two
ago and watching a painfully long game of Tee-ball. To help
alleviate the boredom, a friendly argument ensued over the poem,
Casey at the Bat.
"I love that poem," one of the Tee-ball dads shared, "especially
when the kid wins the big game at the end."
"Nah," I disagreed, fairly certain the man was thinking of some
Hollywood baseball movie and not the poem. "Casey strikes out,
No joy in Mudville…remember?"
And this is where the tragedy of modern technology comes in.
Several parents whipped out their iPhones and looked up the poem
so quickly that there was no reason to continue on with the lively
discussion. Instead of drawing more people into the light-hearted
debate and collecting side wagers, the conversation ended abruptly
and without warning.
And for the record, Casey did strike out. I might not remember
my own kids' names, but by God, I remember useless facts. Call me
The Little League games this season have proven much more
enjoyable than those early days of Tee-ball. Kids actually make
contact with the ball. Nobody picks dandelions in left field. Our
local alderman, Matt O'Shea, even serves as a frequent pitcher. And
the dads? They just beam.
This Normal Rockwell like image got me thinking about actress Jenny McCarthy's article in the Chicago Sun
Times this week. Ms. McCarthy offered up a sad lament on dating LA
guys. Having grown up on the southside of Chicago, she is now in
short supply of those "meat and potatoes" men who eschew makeup and
recognize a real pizza when they see one. She writes:
L.A. does not breed down-to-earth men. Even when they become
fathers, they send their nannies to their kids' sports games. Who
does that? I'll tell you who doesn't do that - Chicago guys. They
might show up a little toasted, but they are there in the front
row, cheering on their DNA.
I can't help but notice there are lots of different kinds of
fathers in the world. Some men correlate their parental success
with their professional success. This is not necessarily a bad
thing, especially when one considers how many fathers shirk their
financial responsibilities and leave children struggling for the
very basics. These men epitomize hard work and discipline. They
take great joy in their jobs because it is how they show their love
and commitment to their families.
These men also seem to have a big picture view of parenting.
They bear a heavy weight in attempting to serve their kids the
American dream up on a platter. At the end of the day, these men
think of themselves as the last barrier between the cold world and
their loved ones. While some may decry these dads as old-fashioned
and unengaged, I cannot be as critical. After all, it was this
brand of man who faced down depression and war in the 1940s. It is
this kind of man who throws aside his own dreams in favor of even
bigger ones for his children. There is much to be admired about
this kind of father.
There are also the dads who live and breathe for their kids'
day-to-day lives. Without being prompted, these men will study game
schedules and take the necessary means to attend all important
events (school productions, dance recitals, field trips). They
change diapers, know the pediatrician's number by heart, and help
with carpool. They will skip golf outings and social events to
coach Little League and chaperone dances. They spend money not on
vacations and luxury, but on camps, ballet slippers, and cleats.
These men rarely talk about their jobs and instead prefer to regale
anyone who will listen with tales of their kids' latest
Naturally, there are many other kinds of fathers who fall
everywhere in between. But Jenny McCarthy had it mostly right about
the southside dad. These guys are the firemen, police officers, and
teachers of the city. They recognized early that their chosen
professions would never make them rich. Yet they also knew how
living in a working class neighborhood would impart a deep sense of
community and family on their children. Many of these guys are
exceptionally bright and accomplished. They could have easily
selected different paths which included stock options and bonuses.
One such neighborhood dad I know holds both a law degree and an
engineering degree, but he opted for a career as a Chicago
policeman. At first, I thought the guy had to be nuts. Taking
bullets over a corner office?
I get it now.
So as we head into Father's Day, I would like to applaud all the
different dads out there who give so much of themselves. They might
not share the same strategy, philosophy, or focus, but they get the
job done in more ways than can ever be fully acknowledged.
I would also like to thank my own dad and husband whose styles
are both represented in this essay. They have definitely brought
much joy to Mudville and far beyond.
Because when it really matters, the mighty dad never strikes
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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