Toasting today’s young fathers

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

Mothers, like everyone else on the planet, can be prone to bouts of self-doubt and insecurities. One thing we usually hold tight to is that we KNOW our children.

We don’t always agree with them or fully understand their motivations, but, basically, we know them – how they are likely to respond to situations, what pushes their buttons, what makes them smile.

Until our sons become fathers.

I see it in my own family and in the families of friends and relatives with whom I share life. We gape in amazement and stand in awe of these sons as they embrace fatherhood. We are mesmerized by the fathers they are, the way they interact, the duties they perform.

My boys had a great role model because they have a great father. But let’s be perfectly honest here: Just as their father did thing very differently from his father, our sons are also breaking the mold on parenting their children.

I am sympathetic toward the fathers of my generation. God bless them. They learned to be parents in a world that was changing so fast around them that very little of what was modeled for them by their fathers had any relevance. Their wives were different from their mothers, with different expectations, different time schedules, different goals. Community values were changing. It was no longer a badge of accomplishment to show up in your three-piece suit at kick-off, cheer for your son and offer a word of encouragement at game’s end. They were expected to coach, manage, drive the carpool and pick up pizza on the way home. Two-income families and dual responsibilities were the norm instead of the exception. Teacher conferences, church duties and civic commitments were two-fers, not a mom-only thing.

And just when you would think we have modeled and prepared our sons for this brave new world we have conquered, the world turns upside down, shakes on its axis and everything is different again.

They become fathers, and we, their mothers, watch in amazement as they embrace the role with wild abandon – joyfully and uninhibited. They don’t worry about company politics or pensions, but ask about work/life balance and policies on working from home when needed. They anchor car seats and carefully read the labels on fruit drinks for the added-sugar that may be hidden there.

And we stand and watch, our mouths gaping open in astonished pride as they change diapers, fix hair bows and pack lunches.

It’s not just watching my own sons that fill me with wonder. J Retinger, Tom Hale, David Melendy, Brian Jeffrey, both Andy and Randy Burleson, Van and Courtney Major, Chris Phillips, Jay Hageman and a host of others who are in my circle of young fathers constantly raise the bar on excellence in fatherhood.

There is much I don’t understand about this Generation X/Millennial group of kids, which is where my circle of young fathers fall. I can’t even begin to imagine the world my grandsons will call home.

But on this Father’s Day, I am grateful, humbled and proud of today’s young fathers. Happy Father’s Day to you all!


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