Betsy Hart

I just watched the classic Hitchcock thriller, "The Birds" with my older kids. It made me think about Father's Day.

Seriously.

"Mitch" (the very gorgeous Rod Taylor) is the ultimate manly man and something we don't see portrayed enough in our pop culture, or appreciated enough in our modern culture: the fellow who sacrifices for and protects his family, and women and children in general. The man who knows how to use his testosterone for the good.

"Miss Daniels" (Tippi Hedren and wow is she beautiful) is gutsy, but ultimately it's Mitch who saves her from being plucked to death by psycho sea birds.

Today, for every "Cinderella Man" — a strong, protective, sacrificial father — we're likely to get several of the bumbling dad Homer Simpson, the well-meaning but witless "Papa" in the popular Berenstain Bears series, or the just-short-of-loser-dads in the recent "Click" and "Deck the Halls." There, it's the wise moms who consistently try to step in and save dad from himself.

That's because in our culture, too often we want men to be. . . women. Assistant wives. Deputy moms. Mother knows best, she is best. A fellow can be sacrificing in many ways to support his family, but it's only changing a certain number of diapers or showing up for junior's pre-school field trip — while connecting emotionally with mom — that will win him the title of "top dad."

I have a friend who told his wife (and mother of their five kids) and me one evening, "I just don't get it. My friends and I are so much more involved in our kids' and families' lives than our dads ever were — and all we get is lambasted for not doing even more. What do women want?"

That was a gutsy question to put out there. But this is one couple which has agreed that what she wants most, and what she gets, is something an "assistant mom" couldn't provide: for her 6'4" husband to stand with her and say to their kids, "you treat your mother with respect or you'll have me to deal with!"

For the record, he helps out a lot with the kids, and also for the record I am all for that. I see the dads in my neighborhood piling their kids in the car for a game, or playing catch with them in the yard, or saying "no, you can't honey," or going to the grocery store and I think how wonderful that is.

There are a lot of manly men in this world. I just don't think they are appreciated enough. From Oprah to Dr. Dobson, it's men who are constantly being nudged to be more sensitive and emotional when it comes to their wives or girlfriends. But are the wives and girlfriends ever told "don't be overly sensitive," or "don't look to your man to be your best gal pal.?" Um, no.

Qualities like aggressiveness, competitiveness, superior physical strength are kind of "icky" when found in guys. (Ironically, in gals we celebrate those things — "I am woman hear me roar" — but that's another column.) And not talking about feelings? That's the worst.

But the reality is, men generally do have those qualities to some degree. And they can be put to good use and celebrated, or we can try to make men into women and then we all lose.

I adore my large circle of good women friends, but if I were being attacked by psycho birds, I'd trade them in a heartbeat for a strong brave guy there to protect me, whether or not he understood my feelings about it all. (And if happened to look like Rod Taylor, all the better.)

Guys, you get a lot of confusing messages on what it means to be a man. But in my book if you are faithful to your family, if you are protecting them and making their well being your priority — even if you don't always understand the feelings of your family or meet a diaper quota — well, you are a great dad.

Happy Father's Day.


Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart is a nationally syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service. Her column on cultural and family issues, “From the Hart,” is distributed each week to hundreds of newspapers cross the country. Betsy’s first book, "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting out Kids – and What to do About It," was released in September, 2005, and was a top seller for its publisher, Putnam Books.