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Alex McRae Columnist

Published Sunday, June 24, 2012

Uncle offers help for Dad

Father’s Day is best seen from the sidelines. It’s nice to get a call or a card from your kids, but there’s nothing like watching your own son and son-in-law try to learn the ropes of what is, at best, a tricky and, at worst, an impossible task.

What social scientists now call “fathering” seems to get a little more complicated each year. At least according to the so-called experts.

You have to wonder why. If humans were intended to breed you figure they should come equipped from the factory with basic parenting skills. And it seems like for millennia, they did. Especially fathers.

A mother’s role is vastly more complex, not to mention painful. Moms struggle every day to keep the kids fed and clothed, arrange play dates, monitor internet usage and make sure the children don’t develop poor math skills.

In the parenthood department, guys have it made. They can spend some time each day making a living, then come home, tell their daughter how pretty she looks, remind her she can’t date until age 25 and then play catch with their son. If the kids are really good, dad can take them to a ball game or amusement park, look like a hero for a while, then take a nap.

Of course, being a dad isn’t a total walk in the park. Dads are also supposed to teach kids stuff, like the importance of telling the truth, the value of hard work and why it’s a good idea to have a job and a marriage license before kids have kids of their own.

If dads teach the basics in a way kids can understand, junior or junior-ette will generally not wind up in prison or in politics. It’s fun to watch my son and son-in-law experience the frustrations, excitement and sheer joy of raising kids. And as far as I can tell, my boys are doing a great job.

But in an era where personal responsibility is as fashionable as a Klan rally, more and more dads are looking elsewhere for advice — and someone to blame when things go wrong.

Luckily, Uncle Sam is ready with answers. This advice on how to be a dandy dad can be found at a government website called fatherhood.gov">www.fatherhood.gov .

Here, confused fathers can find “a wide range of tips and resources for teaching men how to be a father.”

Some men are probably excited that the government would go to all that effort and expense to help dads do better. I’m a tad dubious. If the government’s advice on fathering is as good as its advice on financial responsibility, our kids don’t have a chance. But since government is getting involved in every other aspect of our lives, it’s no surprise they’re taking a stab at Fatherhood 101.

And who knows? Maybe this program will work. It’s certainly comprehensive. The fatherhood.gov website promises to promote “responsive fatherhood and healthy families.” As supposed to “slacker parents and obese kids,” I presume.

Topics covered on fatherhood.gov include: Father Presence, Economic Stability/Unemployment, Health & Safety, Fathers and Education, Strong Families, Healthy Relationships, Step Families, Domestic Violence, Child Support, Custody, Visitation, Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Looks like the only topics not covered are Hard Work, Honesty, Discipline and most important of all, showing your child every day how much you love them.

Oh, and the site doesn’t say anything about going to church.

But it does discuss another destination government figures dads and children should be familiar with. Details are explained in the chapter titled Incarceration/Reentry.

Thanks, Uncle Sam. What father could ask for more.

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(send your email comments to alex@newnan.com)

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