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Fathers’ Day Genuine Dads (06/21/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Any man can become a father, but it takes someone special to be a “DAD.”

No one has reached perfection in the responsibilities that come with bringing a child into the world – ready or not! It takes a loving, supportive, patient, and compassionate couple to raise a child in an ideal situation. Yah right! Well it’s never easy! Every era has its stumbling blocks and negative influences to threaten good intentions of even the most devout mom and dad.

When my mind wanders back to the forties and fifties, while I was very young, nestled comfortably in the small, farming community of Lewiston, the oldest of three sisters and one brother, very few negatives come back to me. It wasn’t the Beaver Cleaver or the Brady Bunch experience, but it wasn’t the Three Stooges or the The Kardashians either.

Bad, distasteful scandals were going on, certainly; most were hush-hush or swept under the carpet, and spoken in dim, and smoky dens of iniquity. Dysfunctional home lives have been reality down through the corridors of time, but never more exploited and sensationalized as they are now. It seems today there are labels for every sort of peculiarity, tendency, and disorder, which can be used to rationalize away indiscretions that people inflict against one another.

Television and movies today leave no stone unturned. Children in grade school talk naturally at very early ages about divorce, cheating going on in relationships, and a boy and girl “going with” each other. I overheard two second grade girls talking about a classmate’s “ex.” Heaven help us!

I hadn’t planned to stoop to this, but there’s something sinister going on in the land of “Jon & Kate Plus Eight,” a reality TV show that kids and adults alike have made the most watched show on the network. Receiving $47,000 an episode, the Gosselin family has already starred in 100. It has been a warm and fuzzy, in-your-face love story of the everyday struggles of a beautiful, extremely functional family, including a superhuman mom and dad, their set of twins and sextuplets, filmed in their home and on outings, plane trips, grocery stores, and all over the place.

Well, don’t touch that dial! Now my granddaughters, eight and thirteen, are all abuzz about the recent tabloid scuttlebutt, that Jon went out on Kate and that Kate cheated on Jon, and he left the overflowing nest. With all that said, Jon’s been showing up on the new episodes, humbly and moodily playing the role of Mr. Mom, “for the kids.” Kate, in the meantime, is off on speaking and book signing engagements, “for the kids.” There’s been talk that the rights of these eight children are being violated, by filming them at such a young age. I smell a lawsuit!

Young people accept what they watch on TV as the way of life – the “everybody’s doing it” message. Could it be that the show’s producers will contrive any deception for the ratings? Yup. What about the couple’s real-world relationship? The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. Can Jon and Kate withstand the pressure?

What makes a dad great? Whether Jon and Kate have been too good to be true or not, the show’s example defines super daddy traits. Apart from the obvious, a topnotch dad: makes a child feel special with every opportunity – occasionally pretends he didn’t see the mischief – never turns down hugs and kisses – shares secrets from mom – listens more than he scolds – doesn’t sweat the small stuff – allows no question to go unanswered – admits when he’s wrong – isn’t above bending the rules.

Regardless how old your father is, if you’re fortunate enough to still have him around, compile your own personal list and make sure he reads it.

Dads and moms, tune into your family and keep communications static- free and on the same wavelength. If you must watch, use television shows as learning opportunities for quality discussions with one another. The kids know more than we think they do. Have a happy journey together!

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com 


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