June 15, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
It’s that time of year again when we set aside a single day to celebrate fathers and all the things they do for their kids and families. It’s harder than ever to be a father these days what with increased demands of childcare that fathers everywhere are shouldering, plus the usual requirements to work and earn. That’s meant fathers, even more than mothers, are reporting greater stress in trying to balance work and family. And of course they do it all against a backdrop of virulently anti-father messages in the news media and popular culture. Most remarkably, they do it in the face of a family court system that daily consigns fathers to visitor status in the lives of their children all the while claiming to do so in “the best interests of children.”
Given all that, we’d have to conclude that fathers are among the greatest heroes anywhere.
And finally, there’s an advertisement that truly grasps the concept. In the past fathers’ rights organizations across the country and around the world have fought tooth and nail against the denigration of dads in pop culture, including television advertising. Two years ago, for example, it was the Huggies ad that assumed that if Mom went away and Dad was in charge at home, chaos would ensue.
Thanks for nothing. Fathers and their organizations came down on that ad with both feet, and, to its credit, Huggies maker Kimberly Clark changed the wording to make it more father-friendly. Still, the message was clear that fathers, but not mothers, can be the targets of such frankly demeaning and of course inaccurate statements.
This Father’s Day seems a bit less dad-phobic than we’ve seen in the past. I’ve seen little, apart from one Pennsylvania county’s message to all dads to celebrate their special day by paying their child support (whether they owed any or not), to indicate the usual misandry occasioned by Father’s Day.
But here’s the good news: Unilever, maker of Dove Men + Care actually came through with an unabashedly beautiful and deeply touching paean to fathers. Here it is.
It’s a series of shots of children, mostly from the view point of their fathers. They’re at all stages of life from an infant who’s just grappling with his first words to a late-teen ager stranded by the side of the road, her car broken down. Each is saying a single word “Daddy,” and the word takes on the wide array of meanings depending on the situation the child finds him/herself in.
So the little boy pushing himself off from the side of the pool into his father’s waiting hands is both excited and nervous but reassured by his father’s presence. The girl by the road, a little afraid and in need of help, is calling Daddy on her cell phone. The boy being swung in a long arc by his father’s arms is screaming beyond excitement, beyond thrilled. The sobbing child being picked up by Dad has suffered some childhood trauma and calls for Daddy for comfort.
The first caption about dads reads “For all the times they’ve answered your call.” Because yes, fathers are there to soothe, protect, teach, excite, and love. They answer their children’s call in the middle of the night, when the car breaks down, when things go unaccountably wrong. They answer the call when their kids need reassurance that the swing, the water, the ball game are all safe because Daddy won’t let it be otherwise.
The final caption of the Dove Men + Care ad reads “Isn’t it time we celebrate Dads?” The answer is, “it’s long past time.” But this Father’s Day is as good a time as any to start.
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