Having an engaged father is something Mandy Brasher didn’t grow up with so she is thrilled to see it becoming the rule instead of the exception.
The most vivid memories I have of my father happened after we had eaten dinner in front of the television, oak TV trays strewn throughout the living room and the three of us would hover over him to watch his weekly ritual. He would pull out his brass cleaner and black shoe shine, sit on the floor with one of our old beach towels and carefully lay his police boots and gun belt out for their mandatory cleaning. Mom would help us with homework while dad finished his routine, had a toddy and headed to bed. My dad knew how to read, but he never read to us. He was a smart man; capable of multiplication facts and science fair projects, but that was not his job. He was the man of the family. He was the person who went to work, mowed the yard and instilled fear in us when we weren’t behaving the way he thought children should behave. As a young child, I assumed that all men were like my dad, that they shined their boots, worked holidays, expected dinner to be served by their wife, and became extremely upset when someone laughed too loudly.
Even as a child, I understood that my dad was ill equipped to care for us without my mother around, patience wasn’t a virtue that he strived for and it was painfully clear to all of us. Acting like a child while we were out for a family drive would set him off, so we learned very quickly that it was of utmost importance to be quiet at all times. To be little adults and say things that would gain us immediate favor in his eyes. Like most parents, my dad did the best he knew how to do with what he had, but I never understood why his role in our family was so different from my mother’s role. There were moments with him that made me want to cheer and I hated how quickly they flew by, the clock racing toward his imminent irritation. Memories set in our fishing boat, his long legs resting around my brother, sister and I as he showed us how to take a fish off the metal hook that was permeating its throbbing cheek. A dark cloud was always waiting, but in these flashes of childhood he was happy and we felt that he may even be happy with us. My dad was a reflection of what men were taught for decades; to be the provider and the disciplinarian. It took years for me to realize that there was another type of man in the world, a man who was patient and knew how to feed his children without a woman in the house.
When I met my husband, he had been an uncle for over a decade and was eager start a family of his own. At one of the first family parties I attended with him, he jumped into a football game with the kids, wrestled with his nephews and then patiently made plates of food for all of them. He held babies so tenderly that it made me uncomfortable to watch, I had never seen a man who was so openly loving and sensitive. After the birth of our daughter, my husband and I were both dumbfounded at how much work our newborn required and on her insistence at crying during nocturnal hours, but I wasn’t alone during this most trying of times. Late nights, after he had worked a full day and I had cried for the eight hours he was gone, my husband would gently take our daughter in his arms and tell me to go to bed. It was their time together and he would take her downstairs, crank up some Eminem and sing and dance with her while I showered and passed out on the couch. Bedtimes were, and still are, a joint effort at our house and now that we have two kids, we switch off every other night so that no one misses a school update or a chapter of Junie B. Jones. My husband has a gift that my father never possessed; he is a full- time parent with me as well as a provider for our family. When the kids get loud in the car, he laughs and I cringe, waiting for the yelling that never follows. Evenings are spent together at the dinner table and homework is a time for both of us to check math problems and go over spelling words.
My husband is a modern day father and this is what I believe we should strive to teach our boys as they grow up in a world filled with skewed ideals about money and misogynistic tendencies. My daughter has a father who is her biggest cheerleader, a man who pushes her to excel in math and a man who patiently cradled her as a small child. Our son has a model of a father who hugs and kisses his children, reads books with them every evening and shows his wife the love and respect that we all deserve in a relationship. My husband is a modern day man, the type of father we should all champion and a man I am happy to know exists in this world.