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Happy Dad’s Day to 50% of the DNA!

It’s June; Graduations, weddings and…FATHER’S DAY. Although the commercialism of the day may overshadow the origins of the holiday, I think, truly, what any father wants, more than whatever a kid can buy him on that one day a year, is the feeling that they have been a good father.

But what is a “good father?” As a marital and family law attorney for over three decades, I’ve gotten to know a lot of dads. Men, who come to me in earnest, when their marriages have gone south, or when the mother of their child (or the father) decide their relationship is over. And during this time I’ve seen a lot of “good dads” and many “great dads” and some “really, really awesome dads.”

Of course, I’ve seen some pretty sorry dads as well. But, if truth be told, since represent a lot of moms too, I’ve seen some sorry excuses for moms as well.

So when the topic of the children comes up in an initial client meeting, one of the first things I ask my mom clients is, “Is he a good dad?” Often, the answer is “yes.” I give credit to those women who acknowledge that the person they created other people with loves his kids, and tries to do good by them.

However, the answer is not always yes. Often, however, when I probe what makes them not so great dads, I get responses like:

-he feeds them McDonalds (or other junk food of your choice) all the time

-he sometimes doesn’t have them take a shower every day

-he forgot to sign the homework log

-he brought them to school late (once-not each day)

-he never packs their lunch (that’s because you’re doing it mom)

-they didn’t get their school project done at his house

-he had to do/go into work on a weekend

-he pushes them too hard

-he doesn’t push them enough

-he lets them get away with everything

-he is too strict

Just to name a few.

But here’s he reality- Fathers and Mothers parent differently, and we each think we are doing it best. My father never made my lunch for school, he never wrote me a letter at camp, took me to the doctor once (and then bought me a plastic trumpet at Eagle Army/Navy after-which is probably why I remember) and the ONLY time I was late for anything was the one time he took me to ballet class. But he left me with so much more. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by when one of his sage teachings – what I affectionately call his “Lenny-isms”- doesn’t come to mind. I pass them on to my clients and they are words I live by.

The father of my two adult children, being a dad of the ‘90s, did a lot of those “mom” things my father didn’t. But he still missed failed to see that, while literally sitting in his lap, my youngest was happily munching on a hand full of dirt; I came home once to find that same child playing in a puddle of makeup foundation, sitting in the broken glass that released it. And to make matters worse it wasn’t even her shade! (the last part was a joke in case you really thought that was my main concern). He let them get away with a lot more than I ever would. But, he was not only a father to our two children. He was a father, and the best, to our daughters’ friends who had lost fathers, who had the “bad dads” that were no longer around, and I overhead more than once, “I wish my dad was like yours.”

I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a dad like mine or have a father of their children like mine, who gets today’s “Father Of the Year Award” (I get to confer it, it’s MY blog). But dads…all dads have important contributions to make to a child’s life. Give them a chance, embrace the differences in parenting styles-the kids will learn important life lessons from both parents. Remember, those kids are the confluence of 50 percent of both of your DNA.

So, on this Father’s Day, even if you are no longer with your children’s father, while he has the kids and you have some down time today, be thankful that they do have a father in their lives.   Your children will grow to be the best of both of you, and really, that’s pretty darn good!

-Cindy Vova


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