Portraits of the Patriarchy
Father Time examines the progressive shift in modern fatherhood
Before the 1950’s sitcom Father Knows Best dispensed an idealized American family value each week to television audiences, the program originated on radio, where Father, actor Robert Young, was pretty rude to his kids. There was also a question mark at the end of the title, poking fun at Father’s sarcastic wisdom.
The morals of the 1950’s have withered some, and the image of the classic American family has changed. While fathers still play a vital role in the family, the previous depiction of Dad on a pedestal has evolved into that of a member of the team—an integral part of the larger unit. The patriarchy is shifting, and for good reason.
As a father in 2018, I welcome this change in the composition of a family. It’s long overdue that families celebrate one another versus bowing to, or idolizing one, member. For there to be forward movement in families, the table must be round, not rectangle.
One night, deep into sleep, our four-year-old began crying. I rushed into his room to find him moving uncomfortably in his bed, wide awake. I dismissed it as a nightmare, soothed him, and walked out. All the sleep training books I had read reminded me to let kids cry it out in the middle of the night, lest they start a new pattern of parental dependency. He continued crying, and soon, my wife was up to check on him. I firmly advised her not to go in there, that he would be fine—whatever it was—but she heard something different, said she couldn’t let him cry like that.
It turned out he was having a severe foot cramp (he had ridden his bike that day after not riding for a while) and only Mommy knew the spot to rub. In the dim light she whispered to me, “I used to get these when I was little, too. They were always in the same spot, same for him.”
I went back to bed humbled. My instinct was off. Rather, maybe it wasn’t on at all. Father didn’t know best in that case.
I’m reminded each day how what I think is only one of a few opinions in my home. Not all, if any final decisions or actions occur because of my sage wisdom alone. It’s a discussion, a collaboration, and a collective willingness that ultimately remedies a family situation. That’s teamwork at its finest.