There’s something special about the relationships fathers have with their children. I remember thinking dad was a superhero when I was a young boy. In essence, he was the one who fixed my 1994 Blue Cavalier when it smelled like a dead skunk in the winter, taught me about responsibility when I struggled understanding trigonometry, and supported me as I went through my first breakup.
Lying in bed, hurt and sad, dad walked over to me and asked me how I was feeling. I told him I wasn’t sure. He reassured me things will get better. And I’ll never forget what he said as he walked out of the room.
“Let’s go get Mighty Taco.”
And over a couple of 3-Cheese Nacho Burritos, dad gave me advice about love, life, and relationships.
So as I get older, and talk of having children starts to increase, I’ve not only looked back to the lessons I’ve learned from the men in my life, but also the men on my television screen. I began to wonder what lessons can I take about fatherhood from the best tv dads?
Always be supportive and invested in your kid’s lives
Dad is not a traditional sports guy. He likes dirt races, mud runs, and basically anything that involves being outdoors and an engine. Baseball does not fit those criteria. But as a kid, I loved baseball. At an early age, I started with tee-ball and moved up through little league. One summer, my baseball coach broke her leg, making her unable to finish out the season.
And what do you know, dad jumps in and becomes the best damn little league coach ever. Even if he stuck his only son in right field all of the time (don’t worry, I’m over it now). Dad didn’t like baseball, but he loved me and wanted to be invested in my interests.
Terry Jeffords from Brooklyn 99 shows the same enthusiasm every time he talks about his two little girls. The one thing Terry maintains throughout the series is how invested he is in his kid’s lives: sometimes the muscular bound detective is playing tea party, or on a recent episode finds himself trying to leave the precinct early so he won’t miss his daughter’s recorder concert.
Terry’s interests don’t necessarily align with his daughter’s interests. The same way dad didn’t like baseball as I did. But what makes them both great dads is how that doesn’t matter: as a father, it’s important to take an interest in what your kids are interested in. Be supportive: whether it’s being their loudest fan at an elementary school recorder concert or taking grounders on the front lawn, how you support your kids will stick with them all through life.
And don’t put your son in right field.
You don’t need to be a father to be a father-figure
Dad wasn’t just dad to me. Well I mean, technically, yes I am an only child. But dad remained a father figure to my entire friends group. Some of my favorite memories as a teen were of how dad interacted with Dan. Dan was a good kid, a little strange, but well-meaning and hilarious. One sleepover, Dan decided it’d be a good idea to eat all of dad’s pop tarts. So to get back at Dan, dad decided to duct-tape Dan to our basketball pole.
As wild as it may sound, Dan thought it was hilarious. And quickly, whether he realized or not, dad became a father figure to Dan too. And then suddenly both my parents became like second parents to all of my friends.
I’m reminded of this whenever I see the famous scene between Will Smith and James Avery, better known as Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where Will breaks down over the realization his father doesn’t love him. At that moment, as the emotion runs high and Will takes so much of it out on his uncle, Phil stands there and listens. I still get goosebumps every time I watch it. But we realize that Uncle Phil is Will’s father, whether he is listed on his birth certificate or not.
As a father, you have the opportunity not only to be an amazing father to your son or daughter but also to be a father figure to others. You don’t have to be someone’s birth-father to be their father and role model.
Being a father doesn’t mean you need to lose your childlike wonder
Dad loves to laugh. If you were to ask me about my favorite day to day memories with dad, I’d go back to when Comedy Central would air re-runs of Conan O’Brian at 7 P.M. every night. Together after dinner, we’d plop on the couch and watch the episodes from front to back. Or it could be the New Year’s Eve comedy special marathon’s he’d throw on. Or his complete Monty Python Collection on DVD.
No one exudes the idea of being an adult with childlike wonder than Phil Dunphy of Modern Family. One of the first episodes Rachel showed me, Phil became the human father to a group of ducks. He loved them, took care of them, and soon the house was flooded with ducklings. Or how most seasons, there’s at least one episode where Phil and his son Luke have devised some outlandish idea.
But where Phil’s childlike wonder truly shines is when he is allowed to display his love of magic. As adults, it’s easy for us to forget how important it is to play. Being a good father means that it’s essential that you don’t lose that sense of imagination and wonder as you grow old so that you can pass that down to your children.
Your passions are important
I always hear soon-to-be dads freaking out about losing all of their hobbies once they have a kid. And yes, you are indeed going to lose quite a bit of that “you” time because your child is going to require a lot of love and support growing up. But it’s also important to understand that the best fathers are also the ones who are keeping up with their passions. Just because you have a kid doesn’t mean you have to stop loving professional wrestling or video games, it just means how you enjoy those passions might need some re-adjusting.
Dad’s greatest passion is working on cars. I can’t count on two hands the number of different classic cars he’s worked on over the years. There was the power wagon that smelled like burning gas every time he accelerated or the Dodge Dart that also smelled like burning gas every time he accelerated. Hmm…Maybe I should ask him about that.
Anyways, even though dad loved me, invested in my passions, that didn’t mean he had to give up his. And that’s part of what inspired me to continue writing as an adult. I learned from him the importance of your passion projects.
Bob Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, a father of three, still manages to pursue his passion for cooking even though most of his day is spent working in the kitchen of his restaurant. There’s no better example of Bob’s love of food than the show’s yearly Thanksgiving episode. Every year, Bob attempts to cook the best turkey possible, and somehow life always gets in the way. But that never deters Bob, never stops him from pursuing his love of food.
Even though your passions might not pass down, you still need to show your children the importance of having passions.
Be a positive example for your child
Dad taught me a lot about hard work, about growth, and about being supportive. When I was in high school, I told my parents I wanted to be a filmmaker, and they both supported my decision. When I was in college, I told them I wanted to become a writer, and they both encouraged me. And after getting a job offer 400 miles away, it took some convincing, but they helped me.
I consider dad to be one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. He built our garage, our shed, even multiple additions on our home. His ingenuity always reminded me that I could do anything. Louis Huang from Fresh off the Boat is similar in the sense that he is consistently a positive role model for his children.
Louis opens his restaurant to show his family that anyone has the chance to succeed if they work hard enough, and always puts his family first.
Several characters didn’t make the cut for being one of the best tv dads including Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, Danny Tanner, and Rey Mysterio (come on, the guy wrestled in a ladder match for custody of his son, what more can you ask for from a father). Who are some of your favorite tv dads?
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