The King’s Speech. Almond Joy. The Kia Sportage. Sour cream and onion. Podcasts. Bud Light Lime. Cardigans. The pastries at Panera Bread. Babysitting other people’s kids.
These things, in my humble opinion, are okay. They are not great (Full Metal Jacket), nor are they horrible (Weekend at Bernie’s II). The Oxford-American Dictionary defines “okay” as “satisfactory but not exceptionally or especially good.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of fathers who think they’re a cheap domestic beer with citrus flavoring. And that’s not okay.
The Pew Research Center recently released “A Tale of Two Fathers,” a study that revealed two contrary ideas: Today’s fathers who are living with their kids are more involved in their kids’ lives, but the number of fathers living apart from their kids has risen sharply over the past 50 years. The nugget that caught my eye was hidden at the end of the study: Among fathers who live with their children at least part of the time, 11 percent classify themselves as “okay” dads. When you apply the law of averages, that means nine of my Facebook friends are South Korean–made SUVs.
The reason some guys consider themselves coconut-almond candy bars is that, for the most part, starting a family is easy. Fertility, an inborn ability, is the only true prerequisite for fatherhood. That no-problemo approach doesn’t fly postpartum, when the heavy lifting begins. Next thing you know, family dinners become drive-thru pick-ups; fun-activity frequency goes from daily to weekly to monthly. It doesn’t help that more than half of dads say fathers are replaceable by mothers and other men, according to a survey conducted by the National Fatherhood Initiative.
Listen up, all you dorky button-up sweaters, you glitchy, monotonous downloads: Fake it until you make it. This should be a cinch because I’ve never met a guy who admitted to being okay at anything. We always claim to be good, and only when forced to display our skills do we show weakness (see: golf, darts, sex). So the fact that some dudes admit to being marginal at the second-most important job in the history of mankind is mind-boggling.
We need to attack fatherhood like everything else we do: with equal parts unsubstantiated confidence and stubborn stick-to-itiveness. I’ve been a stale cherry Danish on many, many occasions. But I’m always trying to be a fresh-baked Cinnabon.