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Celebrating Fathers' Day, Plural
On Sunday, my household will observe a holiday that is somehow universal and statistically rare all at once: Fathers' Day. Note the location of the apostrophe, indicating the plural possessive form, which is to say two dads but only one day.
We've been celebrating (and punctuating) this way for six years now, since Diva was a peanut small enough to rest comfortably in the space between my palm and elbow. In the years since, we've gotten quite an education about what society thinks a father is and is not. Based on my not-especially-scientific reading of all the relevant cultural indicators -- commercials, sitcoms, and the greeting card aisle at CVS -- we've become aware of the following definitions.
Father (noun, singular)
1. Parent who does all or most of the following: throws a ball; plays golf; farts copiously; watches sports; thinks he's a stud if he can make pancakes; uses tools to fix (or claim to fix) broken things; buys women jewelry at the last second before a birthday, anniversary or holiday; and says "ask your mother" without interrupting what he is doing.
2. Parent who cannot do any of the following: sew; dance without embarrassing all parties present; cook a meal not involving pancakes; choose a decent outfit from the current decade to save his life; please the woman he bought the jewelry for; or understand why he has not pleased that same woman.
By this definition, Diva might as well be fatherless. While I am a former Little League outfielder who does sometimes toss a ball with her, and I can make dazzling Mickey Mouse pancakes with chocolate chip eyes, that's still less than half of the required behaviors from the list above.
Worse, there are so many strikes against me (sewing, dancing, cooking, matching my own clothes), that I end up not just getting a zero on the fatherhood scale, but owing points! (The hubby just barely fares better, though only by being a copious farter. Sorry, dear.)
When Diva was little, her day care didn't know quite what to do with dads who came as a set when the June holiday rolled around, but they meant well. That year's gift was a photo of Diva wearing a hard hat and pretend tool belt, along with a picture frame made entirely of nuts and bolts.
This was designed with seriously Old School dads in mind (you could almost smell the Right Guard), but Diva's teachers tried to adapt the gift for the new reality in the only way they could think of: They sent home two of the exact same thing, so we could each have our own butch present.
As Diva has gotten older, more gay dads have appeared in the public eye, from theater ("25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee") to television ("Modern Family") to the pages of glossy tabloids (Neil Patrick Harris, Ricky Martin and even Elton John, parenting at the age most fellas are sizing up Depends).
Happily for us, their lives have been educational, so that a steadily increasing number of people are now aware of our presence. But if you base gay parenting on this small sampling, we should have a Tony, Emmy, Grammy or Oscar lying around, and I am 99 percent certain we do not. (I can't say that with 100 percent certainty, because it would require me to look underneath all the American Girl doll clothes taking over Diva's room.)
I'm joking, of course, but it is true that limited, silly notions of how men parent are still pervasive. And gay dads aren't the only ones who mind. A friend of ours in Los Angeles recently vented on Facebook that none of the greeting cards she found resembled her husband (a film buff who collects watches), either.
But I have to believe this is going to change; bit by bit, the fathers in this generation are writing new definitions with their lives. Straight dads who know the names of all the My Little Ponies ... Gay dads who coach their kid's hockey teams ... Hugh Jackman ... The world is chock full of exceptional dads.
To my fellow dads of every stripe, let your freak flags fly. And, since we're in this together, why not join me in a little plural action here: Happy Fathers' Day to us all.
Veronica Rhodes and David Valdes Greenwood alternate weeks writing the Family Gaytriarchs. Look for them on ParentDish every Wednesday.
David Valdes Greenwood has written about marriage and parenting for the Boston Globe and in his first book "Homo Domesticus: Notes from a Same-Sex Marriage." The author of three nonfiction books and the creator of the blog "Diva Has Two Daddies," he also finds time to be a kindergarten room parent and Barbie pretend play expert. Read his blog on Red Room.
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