Social media isn’t always pretty, but Doyin Richards thinks it helped to move the conversation forward about what it means to be a dad
When I was a kid, I watched The Flintstones all the time. It wasn’t very educational (what cartoons were educational at that time?), but Fred and Barney were hilarious and I found myself doubled over in laughter watching them get in and out of trouble each episode.
In terms of fatherhood, Fred was far from being a deadbeat, but he certainly wasn’t going to win any Father of the Year awards either. After returning home from work at the rock quarry, he rarely played with his toddler daughter Pebbles, changed her diapers or read to her because that wasn’t his job. His role after work was to sit down on the couch, break open a cold cactus cooler and yell, “WILMA! I’m home! What’s for dinner?!”
Wilma, his stay-at-home wife, handled all of the child-rearing, cooking, cleaning and other household duties, as assigned.
The interesting part is that neither of them had a problem with the arrangement, and all seemed well in the Flintstones household. And hey, if they didn’t have a problem with it, why should I?
As I grew older, I noticed that the representation of fathers as paychecks instead of parents permeated all aspects of the media. I couldn’t look anywhere without seeing images of dads stumbling around the domestic arena as hapless buffoons. I mean, how difficult is it for a man to change diapers or keep a baby clean, fed and happy? From what I witnessed, it seemed to fall somewhere between explaining the Higgs boson and learning Mandarin.
And don’t get me started on black dads. It was a given that I would see these men depicted horribly in the media on a regular basis. As a black man myself, I didn’t understand it.
But then I looked at my own dad and became even more confused. Although he worked full-time as a university professor while my mom stayed at home with the kids, he happily took part in many traditional parenting tasks (bathing, reading stories, feedings, etc.). He was far from clueless (Legend has it he potty-trained my twin brother and me when we were 2 years old in one weekend while my mom was out of town). And he wasn’t absent or getting into trouble with the law, unlike most black dads I read about or saw on the news.
Is my dad an anomaly? A freak of nature? Of course not. When I was growing up, there were plenty of dads out there who were just like him. The problem was that we didn’t know that these great men existed in such prolific numbers until social media came along.
With the help of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social sites, dads are proudly sharing their passion for daddyhood with the world. No more waiting for the media to deliver positive messages to us. We’re taking control by delivering the message ourselves — and society is noticing.
I receive daily e-mails from men and women offering thanks for demonstrating that being a dad is cool or just to say, “You’re just like me!” Corporations all over America are running social media campaigns celebrating fatherhood. Around the country, people are tweeting their gratitude for good fathers, illustrating that hands-on dads — rather than Fred Flintstone types — should be the norm.
Most importantly, with the help of so many different dads — from celebrity fathers to organizations committed to hands-on fatherhood, such as the National Fatherhood Initiative – the antiquated and intellectually lazy portrayal of uninvolved dads is finally starting to fall by the wayside.
Sure, social media isn’t always pretty, but neither is being a dad. It’s about time we focus on the positive aspects both can bring to our lives.
Photo from Bigstockphoto.com