Sunday 17 December 2017

Comment: 'George Clooney's gag only serves to reinforce the stereotype of hapless, inept dads'

George became a first time dad last week.
George became a first time dad last week.

Colette Fitzpatrick

This just in. Dads know how to parent too. I know this as my own dad did and my children's dad does it too. He does it more than my dad because of the nature of his work - he's around more.

It's also a generational thing. We all know better now. We recognise that not physically giving birth to the children doesn't mean you're not vital to help nurture, bond with and rear them.

Unlike previous generations, we know how important dads are in their children's lives.

However, it feels like dads and fatherhood have become something of a laughing stock, and it's like we've become so immune to it that we all collude with it.

Look at the announcement this week about Amal and George Clooney's twins.

"This morning Amal and George welcomed Ella and Alexander Clooney into their lives," the Clooneys said in a statement.

"Ella, Alexander and Amal are all healthy, happy and doing fine," it added, joking that "George is sedated and should recover in a few days."

It reeks of "we have to make a joke of George's involvement". To be fair, it's a nod to Amal having done the heavy lifting, but it does point to the archetypal "sure the fellas haven't a breeze when it comes to kids".

Just look at how dads are portrayed on television. Daddy Pig, Homer Simpson and Fred Flintstone - all depicted as dimwits and inept. The mothers - always long-suffering - come to the rescue and fix everything the hapless dads have messed up.

It's a pity there aren't more strong father role models on TV and that the ones that are there are regarded as such a nuisance.

We now know that if a child's father is affectionate, supportive and involved, he can contribute to that child's cognitive, lingual and social development and instill a sense of well-being and good self-esteem.

Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of their dad. If their father is kind, loving and gentle, they reach for those characteristics in men.

Boys, on the other hand, often model themselves on their fathers.

They will look for their father's approval in every- thing they do and copy those behaviours that they recog- nise as both successful and familiar.

If a dad is abusive, controlling and dominating, those will be the patterns that their sons will imitate.

Crucially, if a father is loved and admired, boys will want to be too.

According to Stephen Bidd-ulph's Raising Boys and Raising Girls books, dads are particularly critical when their boys are aged six to 12, and they can be their daughter's greatest advocates.

I do hope that George is as involved in his twins' lives as Amal. I'm sure he will be. As will the endless team of nannies/minders/helpers/nurses that millions can buy.

Spending quality time with your children is a lot easier and more fun when someone else is doing the endless mind-numbing tasks and the drudgery that comes with parenting.

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