dad from day one: The Return of the Classic American Father (Being the Modern Day Ward Cleaver)

Week 16.

While it is a bummer that the classic American father has become a bit of myth these days in popular culture, I can serve as a representative in “dad from day one” as one myself.

I would like to begin with the discernment of a female comedian named Sarah Haskins; I highly recommend watching this humorous 3 minute video clip regarding the following quote of hers:

“Single men in commercials look good, drive fast, and drink beer. Then they meet women, get married, and become good-for-nothing doofy husbands. And what happens if the husband tried to plant his feet and not get bullied in real life? Divorced, money split, wife takes the kids, forever in debt.”

It’s strange how I never gave it too much thought before: How so many commercials and sitcoms really do revolve around a funny yet overweight and slightly incompetent man who happened to score a thin and hot wife who overlooks his bumbling and pathetic behavior.  From Kevin James to to Homer Simpson. (Of course, I fully realize the annoying irony of the fact that it is mainly men who are writing those commercials and sitcoms.)

Yes, they makes us laugh.  But in some subconscious ways, these stereotypes of men also take power (and more obviously, respect) away from men, in general. Does anyone really care whether or not men are portrayed positively in sitcoms and commercials? Or are we just content to just ignore the occasional facebook status hype that “all men are jerks”, or best, the subliminal message that men are jokes?

As a man with solid moral principles and a backbone, I know the truth: Good men still exist.  We’re embarrassed by the worst examples of men; the ones who make the most noise and the most messes. The truth is, being a good man is everything to me. I live for being a good husband and a good father.  It’s crucial that I earn respect from those who know me.

Fortunately, my obsession of being respected as a father and husband isn’t simply my own personal quirk.  I was so relieved and encouraged when I read the book For Women Only. Here’s an insightful quote from female author Shaunti Feldhahn, explaining a major difference in the wiring of men and women:

Notice that one of the main biblical passages on marriage- in Ephesians 5- never tells the wife to love her husband, and it never tells the husband to respect his wife (presumably because we each already tend to give what we want to receive). Instead, over and over, it urges the husband to love his wife and urges the wife to respect her husband and his leadership. Women often tend to want to control things, which, unfortunately, men tend to interpret as disrespect and distrust (which, if we’re honest with ourselves, it sometimes is).”

Shortly after getting married, I read both that book and its counterpart, For Men Only. Thank God for those books!  Marriage makes so much more sense after learning the unspoken things that men and women assume the other already knows on a daily basis.  But if I had to pin it down to one major thing I learned from reading them, it was that men want to be respected by their wives and that women want to feel loved by their husbands.  And more importantly, these books clearly explain to a man how to successfully express his love to his wife and they explain to a woman how to successfully express respect to her husband.

By going against so many of the negative stereotypes about men, I can truly show my wife and son that I love them. I can’t express the value of the reward of feeling like a respected husband and father. So I think if a man proves himself to be respected by people, then people should respect him enough to tell him they noticed his “goodness”, in some way. There’s not a whole lot of that happening these days.

So I do.  I take the time to tell good men that they are good.  Even coming from me, another guy, I know it means something.  Because subconsciously, though we men would never admit it, we appreciate being noticed for being the good men of this world.

I embark on a mission each new day to be the best good man I can be. And I know that the little things are the big things: Helping take care of my 3 month old son in every way I can, not leaving all or most of it on my wife, is a daily staple for me in my effort to be a good man.  I don’t want my wife to be able to joke with her friends about my shortcomings or shortcuts as a dad and husband. Instead, I live to give her every reason not to ever be tempted to do that, even for an innocent laugh.  And despite my constant strive and desire to be funny, when it comes to being a good father and husband, I want to be taken seriously. It’s not a joking matter.

Admittedly, my skills regarding home repairs and car maintenance are lacking- big time.  But I know that being able to fix a car or a garbage disposal doesn’t ultimately prove my manhood.  Being an active, supportive, responsible father and husband does.  Man was created in God’s image. Not Charlie Sheen’s.  Not Archie Bunker’s.  Not Peter Griffin’s.

Recruiting the help of my facebook friends, I tried to come up with an example of a popular American father on TV, who is recent (in new episodes since 2004) and not a widow, a martyr, a robot, or an alien.  Turns out, there was no real, obvious winner. So instead of naming who the modern day Ward Cleaver is in the title of this entry, all I could do was just generically say “the modern day Ward Cleaver”. And while it is sad that the classic American father has become a bit of myth in popular culture, I can do my part outside of my home life:

By writing “dad from day one”.  I can continue making a positive presence in the gorilla marketed world of “baby blogging”.  So it may not be as big as TV, but I still count this blog as contributing to the entertainment industry.  Not that I am THE classic American father, but that I am simply a clearly communicating representative of us all.  It may be nearly impossible to think of a respectable TV dad these days, but I know so many in real life- and that’s what actually matters.

If the respectable American father won’t show up on TV, he can more importantly show up in the real world.

Bonus:

Just to show you an example of the way it has become normal to stop taking men seriously, check out my challenge below.

You get to help me with a small part for my upcoming “dad from day one” entry…

Give me an example of a popular and current father/husband on TV who is respected and loved by his family and is NOT known for constantly making comical messes- especially when it comes to goofing up home repairs or misbehaving in social outings.  *Bonus points if the guy is not shlubby and overweight yet married to a thin wife who is smart-witted, as to humorously contrast the father/husband’s character.

Examples of who I AM NOT looking for:

Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin of “Family Guy”, Kevin James of “King of Queens”, and Jim Belushi of “According to Jim”.

Remember, I’m looking for a current example, so Ward Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” or Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” would be disqualified.  I will define “current” as “since 2004″, which is the year Friends went off the air and Lost began.

Also, he has to be a popular character on a decently cool and relevant show.  No ABC Family or Hallmark stuff.

He must be intelligent as well as faithful to his family, but he can’t be nerdy either.  So Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” won’t work.  Also, he can’t be a widow who is overcoming his wife’s death.  He has to be currently married to his wife on the show, giving an ongoing example of what a good husband and father is.

And… he can’t be killed off the show or marginalized in any way.  He has to be a solid, consistent character.

He is not perfect; he does make mistakes. Therefore he is a real man and human being; he is not an alien or a robot.

The winning example will be published in the upcoming “dad from day one” post (possibly as part of the title itself) for thousands to see.

Answer the question: “Who is the modern Ward Cleaver?”

Impress me, friends.  Because in all my creativity the only example I can come up with is Adam Braverman on the series Parenthood.

You get to help me with a small part for my upcoming “dad from day one” entry…

Give me an example of a popular and current father/husband on TV who is respected and loved by his family and is NOT known for constantly making comical messes- especially when it comes to goofing up home repairs or misbehaving in social outings.  *Bonus points if the guy is not shlubby and overweight yet married to a thin wife who is smart-witted, as to humorously contrast the father/husband’s character.

Examples of who I AM NOT looking for:

Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin of “Family Guy”, Kevin James of “King of Queens”, and Jim Belushi of “According to Jim”.

Remember, I’m looking for a current example, so Ward Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” or Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” would be disqualified.  I will define “current” as “since 2004”, which is the year Friends went off the air and Lost began.

Also, he has to be a popular character on a decently cool and relevant show.  No ABC Family or Hallmark stuff.

He must be intelligent as well as faithful to his family, but he can’t be nerdy either.  So Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” won’t work.  Also, he can’t be a widow who is overcoming his wife’s death.  He has to be currently married to his wife on the show, giving an ongoing example of what a good husband and father is.

And… he can’t be killed off the show or marginalized in any way.  He has to be a solid, consistent character.

He is not perfect; he does make mistakes.  Therefore he is a real man and human being; he is not an alien or a robot.

The winning example will be published in the upcoming “dad from day one” post (possibly as part of the title itself) for thousands to see.

Answer the question: “Who is the modern Ward Cleaver?”

Impress me, friends.  Because in all my creativity the only example I can come up with is Adam Braverman on the series Parenthood.

***

Since writing this, I finished the post.  You can read it by clicking the title below:

dad from day one: The Return of the Classic American Father (Being the Modern Day Ward Cleaver)

dad from day one: The Due Date

Forty weeks.

Don’t ask me how, but all week my wife and I have had the theme song to the ‘80’s sitcom Mr. Belvedere stuck in our heads.  In the mindset of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, we downloaded the song as our ringtones for when we call each other.  That has caused me to revisit some of my most favorite theme songs from these sitcoms that served as the backdrop of my childhood.  A very interesting trait that many of these TV shows had in common with each other (and accordingly, the lyrics to their theme songs) is that premise was that an outsider moved into the household, therefore throwing normalcy out of whack.  Which totally relates to what’s going through my head right now about our upcoming new addition, a baby boy. (In order to qualify, the sitcom had to actually start in the 1980’s; Diff’rent Strokes, Mork and Mindy, and The Facts of Life don’t qualify since since they premiered in the ’70’s.)

For example, here’s a sitcom that had it all, yet could have only existed in the 1980’s: An all-American family, laugh tracks, and an Alien puppet. Of course, I’m referring to Alf. While the song had no words (instead it sounded like what would happen if you pressed the “demo” button on a $200 Casio keyboard in 1988), the thought of a little creature running around the floor chasing cats loosely translates having a baby boy. For Family Matters, the intended outsider was Estelle Winslow who moved in with her son Carl’s family, though unexpectedly the true outsider instead became Steve Urkle (intended only as a guest star) instead a few episodes into the first season.

In Mr. Belvedere, a British butler moves in with an American family living in Philadelphia: “Sometimes things get turned around and no one’s spared… There’s a change in the status quo.  Preparing for our new arrival.  We might just live the good life yet…”


Another prime example is from one of my favorite sitcoms ever, which happens to have my favorite TV show theme song ever.  In Perfect Strangers, city slicker Larry Appleton is thrown for a curve when his distant cousin Balki moves from his mysterious Mediterranean village to live with Larry in Chicago: “Sometimes the world looks perfect- nothing to rearrange.  Sometimes you just get a feeling that you need some kind of change…”


In Full House, it was  Joey and Uncle Jesse who mixed things up by moving in with the Tanner family: “What ever happened to predictability?”

There was CBS’s version of Diff’rent Strokes: Webster.  As a kid, I actually liked Webster more than Arnold: “Til there was you…”


The next two sitcoms both premiered in 1984 and featured an Italian-American who moved into the household as a “manny”. Who’s the Boss? contains my 2nd favorite theme song ever and often caused me to believe that Tony Danza was my uncle: “You might awaken to a brand new life around the bend…”


Even though I never watched it, I know it was a big deal to a lot of people- Charles in Charge: “New boy in the neighborhood…”


You’re welcome… for being led into a world of nostalgia.  It’s pretty much a fact that you’ll be struggling to get one of those songs out of your head for the rest of the day.  So being such a sentimental guy as I am, I’ve been thinking about the current events that are going on right now.  That way I can tell Jack what was going on around the time he was born:

Interestingly, on November 5th, the movie Due Date hit theatres.  Daylight Savings was two days later; meaning that when it’s that time again to set back the clocks every year, it will almost be time for Jack’s birthday.  Conan O’Brien’s new show premiered this week (November 8th) and sure enough on last night’s episode during the monologue Conan pointed out that it was exactly nine months ago that his gig at The Tonight Show ended; so if because two people felt sad for Conan losing his job they decided to “get frisky” to be happy again, their child would be born this week.  Good call.

It will also be pretty neat that I will be able to show Jack the November 2010 issue of American Baby, in which in his birth was anticipated.  He is not making his debut unannounced; that’s for sure.  Today, November 11th, is not only Jack’s due date but it’s also my dad’s birthday, whose name is also Jack.  So even though he won’t have the same exact birthday as my dad, their birthdays will always be close.

Of all the pregnancy advice I’ve been given, the one thing no one warned me about is this: For first time moms, it’s normal and expected to not delivery until a full week after the due date.  So if you or your wife are approaching your due date, don’t do like I did and get all psyched, thinking the water is going to break at any moment.  Because then everyone is constantly asking for and expecting baby news, but sure enough, the baby is unaware of his due date.  He’s coming out when he’s good and ready.

I have to remind myself that my baby is not a Hot Pocket, with an exact predetermined time of two minutes in the microwave.  In fact, that would be pretty weird if he truly was born right near the due date.  We went to the doctor today.  Thank God, Baby Jack has still got a strong heartbeat and is in a good position.  He’s turned the correct way and everything.  But as far as when he gets here, I’m sure it will be the moment that I (and everyone else) least expects it.  He’s a sneaky little guy.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com




dad from day one: Last Minute Expectations

Thirty-eight weeks.

It is almost a given that a family sitcom will reach its peak by Season 5 or 6, where in attempt to bring back ratings, someone has a baby.  (Examples include Full House, Growing Pains, Family Ties, Step By Step, and even though it’s not a family show, The Office).  There is often a way too familiar seen where the soon-to-be new mother’s water breaks during an inconvenient situation or random location and the soon-to-be new father clumsily rushes her to the hospital, only to continue being more dramatic than his laboring wife.  And for added effect, he passes out from exhaustion while his wife happily holds their new baby.

actual footage

Will that bumbling husband be me?   I sure hope not. Tomorrow morning we will do the final packing for D-Day: clothes, toiletries, snacks, Italian champagne, bottled water, gum, camera, cell phone charger, our birth plan,  and the birthing ball.  We’ll pack our bags into the car (I installed the car seat in it a few weeks ago) that we will drive to the hospital.  We will be all set.  It’s weird to pack for the birth of a child, yet it seems kinda like we’re going on a road trip to a state 8 hours away instead.

Since most of my expectations are based on laugh track infused sitcoms that first aired during the 1980’s or clips of worst case scenarios played out on birthing shows on networks that I only watch because my wife watches them, I’m sure the way I am playing out D-Day in my head is pretty far from reality.  I have a feeling it will be in between the two extremes.  I know it will be surreal.  Soon, I will experience the event that neither words nor snapshots will be able to describe.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Vintage Family Portraits are Like Sitcoms with Laugh Tracks

The term “picture perfect” is becoming less relevant these days.

Last week I was in Dallas on a work trip and the week before that I was northern California on vacation spending a lot of time with my wife’s side of the family, which explains the extremely low number of posts for the last couple of weeks.  (I’m not the kind of guy who announces “I’m on vacation on the other side of the country!” as my facebook status- I don’t think it’s a good idea to announce to the world when I’m not at home.  Maybe that’s just me.) While in Sacramento, I saw a studio portrait of my wife’s family, circa 1985.  Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, wearing big smiles (for the most part), all looking at the photographer (for the most part), and best of all, a fake forest backdrop was used as the background.

Granted, this was the mid ‘80’s, so anything that happened during that time was bound to be excessively cheesy compared to now.  But here’s the thing- even today, many professional family portraits are still, at best, hokey.  Because they represent a family at a perceived idea of their best, not what is normal or natural.  In the past decade as reality shows have begun dominated prime time, sitcoms have become more sophisticated and life-like; by being more satirical and less slapstick, and also by removing the laugh tracks.  Yet it can be a difficult thing to make studio family portraits less fake and more real.

And that’s why I’m a snapshot kind of guy.

Just as every family has a “family tree enthusiast”, every family also has a default photographer- and in some family circles, I’m it.  I always have my camera with me anywhere I go, ready to snap some shots of whatever unique, random, or funny situation I find family or friends in.  That means that a lot of times, not everyone is looking at the camera.  But a snapshot can often tell such an interesting story- even if the picture isn’t “picture perfect”.

I am so into snapshots, that it’s part of the name of this website.  Last week in Dallas, I met a person who after I told them the name of Scenic Route Snapshots, said to me, “I get it”.  I thought that was pretty cool, since a lot of people when they hear the name and try to repeat it, ask me, “Seen a cloudy slapshot?” But in case it needs explanation, the concept of my site is that I tend to write about things that most people wouldn’t think to question on their own.  I take an alternative, more laid-back approach to things (the scenic route) and take plenty of snapshots to remember them by (memoirs and journal entries).

But do professional photographers exist that take family portraits that don’t run the danger of being as corny as the opening theme song montage of Full House?  Is it possible for a family in the 2010’s to have a portrait made which represents them in a realistic and relevant way?  Yes, I’m seeing more and more begin to pop up- often following the “on locale and in character” formula of high school senior portraits and engagement photos, by placing the family in an environment which is familiar and natural for them.

When I think of a professional photographer who perfectly captures the realness and believability of snapshots in his professional work, I think of “Photo Joe” Hendricks who I’ve been friends with since I first moved to Nashville five years ago.  As I was trying to conjure an image of what the modern family portrait should look like, I immediately thought of his work, which I’ve included in this post as examples (minus the one at the very top of my wife’s family in 1985). These pictures are the equivalent of a sitcom without laugh tracks- more sophisticated, more natural, and more original.

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com