I was recently looking through some old photographs when I noticed a picture of a tea party setting. In the picture, my daughter was seated at a little table surrounded by teddy bears and tea cups. That image unlocked a flood of memories.
I remember attending that tea party with my daughter and her stuffed pals Beary Bear Claire, Angel Bear, and another bear whose name I can’t recall. My daughter was a gracious, but stern hostess. She often chided me for my poor tea party etiquette.
“Daddy,” she said. “You’re drinking all of the tea. You have to share.”
I complied with her instructions because I was a bit embarrassed that my manners were worse than the three little bears. Although that tea party occurred over seven years ago, I remember it as if it were yesterday. As I was reliving those fond memories, it occurred to me that I could not recall one time when my father played with me – no catch, no checkers, nothing.
My parents divorced when I was 5 years old, but I saw my father a few times during my childhood. Even if I saw my father more often, I doubt that he would have played with me. He just wasn’t that type of dad. He believed that kids should be seen and not heard and he didn’t have the patience or desire to tend to my playtime needs.
Fatherhood has undergone a profound change in the past 50 years. According to Scientific American Mind, fathers spent 2.6 hours a week interacting with their children in 1965. In the article, developmental psychologist Michael Lamb said, “When I started studying American mothers and fathers [in the 1970s], the majority of the fathers I studied had never bathed their children. Many of them had never changed a diaper. Now men would be embarrassed to say they hadn’t changed their children.”
Whether it’s changing diapers, giving kids a bath, or playing games, modern day dads are much more involved in their children’s lives. This increased involvement is not only good for the children, but it also gives dads the satisfaction of knowing they’re making a positive contribution to their children’s lives.
I would have loved for my dad to get on the floor with me and play G.I. Joes with me or toss me a few balls in the backyard. His refusal to do so left me feeling empty and unfulfilled. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with three beautiful children who have filled those empty spaces in my soul.
Join the conversation: How is your parenting style different from your father’s?