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Fatherhood's a piece of cake

When I clicked on Grants post below, The definitive interpretation of Palin, the video opened with a public service announcement on fatherhood from President Obama. The transcript of the ad reads:President Obama: To be a great dad is the most important job in a man's life, but it doesn't have to be hard. All it takes is a few minutes of your time. Because the smallest moments can have the biggest impact on a child's life. Take time to be a dad today.It doesnt have to be hard. Really? All it takes is a few minutes of your time? Again, really? I wont quibble with the claim that fatherhood is the most important job in a mans life or that the smallest moments can have the biggest impact in a childs life, but do we really want the government peddling fatherhood as a piece of cake?Check out The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse for more of the governments efforts.



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The message is more pointed than that. The fact that black fathers are notoriously absent sends a strong message to afro/American fathers who have championed this president of color. In that sense the add is enormously important.

Well, it only takes a few minutes to become a father... I doubt that's what he means, though! Maybe it would make more sense if he said "your kids deserve more of your time," or "being a better father takes just a little of your time..." But, yes, misfire.

I'm inclined to give the president and the ad campaign the benefit here. Small moments are indeed important to children, and what they offer in return will hook any father who invests a little time at the outset.On the other hand, we could hammer away at the concept of childrearing as an investment, count out the money and the hours a good parent gives, and sure: we'll have our prison population giving up drugs, clamoring to get out from behind bars, and shouldering the burden.

Just watched the whole thing. I think what makes this awkward is that the intended audience is apparently men who are already fathers -- it goes along with Obama's frequent refrains about turning off the TV and paying more attention to your kids. But the tone is striving so hard to be gentle and encouraging and non-hectoring (as Todd notes) that it avoids saying anything like "If you have kids, you owe them your attention and time." And it ends up sounding like an infomercial -- "You won't believe how easy it is to be a dad! Try it today!"

Anybody have data on how much time dads actually spend with kids in this country?

Paul,Here's the transcript of the full (30 second) version, which seems like perfectly good advice to me.

President Obama: To be a good father is the most important job in a man's life, but it doesn't have to be hard. Play catch, go to a park or visit a zoo. Help your child with their homework. Sit down together for dinner. Ask them how their day was. Things get busy, and sometimes we all fall short, but the smallest moments can have the biggest impact on a child's life. Take time to be a dad today.

I would say the message is directed at men who are already fathers, and is definitely not saying, "Go out and father a kid! It's easy!" And it's saying that seemingly small, everyday things matter. I think there is research on the positive effect on families that eat dinner together, for example, but I don't have time to look it up now.The 15-, 10-, and 5-second versions lose a lot, but how much can you say about fatherhood in a public service announcement?I think you are being too critical.

An ad is different than a detailed message. It is to the point. Quick and hopefully effective. There is not enough attention span to put all the good stuff in. From that standpoint it is marvelously effective. It is an ad not a treatise.

David, it's not that the advice is bad. It's just that "it doesn't have to be hard" is a dubious thing to say about parenting (at least, it strikes me that way). Parenting pretty much has to be hard sometimes if you're going to do it well. I'm not genuinely concerned that someone will be duped into conceiving because this ad convinces them it's no big deal. I just wish they'd found a less dopey way to say "Being a good dad involves little things as well as big ones."

I'm inclined to agree with Bill. This is not a definitive statement on the nature of fatherhood. And, as Mollie says, it's not as though someone viewing the ad for the first time is going to feel fooled when he realizes that raising children is not a piece of cake (except for my own dad, obviously).

If you really want something to criticize, note that it is ungrammatical to say, "Help your child with their homework." It should be either, "Help your children with their homework," or "Help your child with his or her homework." I know it is easier to use "their," and using "his or her" sounds awkward. Using "his" when the child may be either a boy or a girl is just not an option in this day and age. I suppose one could just say, "Help your chid with homework." I confess to using a plural pronoun with a singular antecedent now and then to avoid saying "his or her" or "he or she," especially when I'd have to say it over and over. I wouldn't do it in formal writing, however. I will never forget receiving a manuscript back from a copyeditor who had mindlessly applied our company's guidelines for inclusive language to change the phrased "shuffled his feet while he walked" to "shuffled his or her feet while he or she walked." As I recall, I changed it to "shuffled their feet while they walked."

I don't think many people would be critical of the intent behind the public service announcement, but the whole endeavor strikes me as kind of absurd. The tips of the day on the website reminded me of the Pre-Cana weekend that my wife and I attended 30 years ago, at which an earnest and ridiculous couple recommended that Lisa and I always hold hands when we argue.Obama doesn't need to say anything; just let the cameras roll when he is with his daughters.

What an odd thing to do - criticize the President for saying something positive about fathering.I call that reaching.

What is interesting is that we can concoct numerous theories of parenting but may miss the simple things by spending time, asking about the child's day etc. So the ad may have something to teach those who might be too cerebral about parenting. " earnest and ridiculous couple recommended that Lisa and I always hold hands when we argue."Paul, this is generally an effective therapeutic maneuver. Certainly difficult to do always but it brings back into focus why a couple is together in the first place. Then again some things are not for everybody. Certainly little things can be superficial or even hypocritical. Yet they are effective when done right.

Perhaps not the best written PSA, but it seems unfair to me to be critical of Obama for delivering a positive message. He did forget an essential aspect of fatherhood, however. "A good father will send his children to Notre Dame." :)Thanks, David N., for highlighting the "their" grammatical error. The error has become quite common, especially in verbal communication. I wonder if there will be a usage tipping point where the error becomes merely another quirky example of the English language, in much the same way "who" is now acceptable in some instances where "whom" is the grammatically correct choice.

"What an odd thing to do criticize the President for saying something positive about fathering.I call that reaching."I call it trivializing a very important and difficult job. --It's true that the smallest moments can make the biggest difference. The problem is that we don't know what those moments are, so we have to be there for a lot of them. For some kids, it may be hepling with homework, others being at the dance recital, for others coaching the team.Fathers (and mothers) need to cover all those bases, which requires more than a few minutes of time.

"The tips of the day on the website reminded me of the Pre-Cana weekend that my wife and I attended 30 years ago, at which an earnest and ridiculous couple recommended that Lisa and I always hold hands when we argue."Hmm, had we tried that in our marriage everytime I said or did something dumb, my hands and fingers would have been compacted to the size of a walnut about 20 years ago.

Cathleen, re father/mother time with kids:"American children spend an average of 2.5 hours a day with their fathers on weekdays and 6.2 on weekends, according to a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, study that paints a national portrait of paternal behavior in two-parent, intact families. "For about half that time, fathers are directly engaged with their offspring--playing, eating, shopping, watching television with them, or working together around the house. During the rest of the time, dads are nearby and available to their kids if needed. ..."Studies done in the late 1970s found that the average father spent approximately one-third as much time directly engaged with his offspring as the average mother. By the early 1990s, that proportion had jumped to 43%. According to the new study, fathers spend about 65% as much time with children as mothers do on weekdays and around 87% as much time on weekends." to something I heard on the radio while driving not too long ago, one of the barriers to fathers taking more of a role is the fact that some women criticize HOW their husbands interact with the kiddies. Tell a man he's incompetent around the baby enough, and he'll start avoiding the job for the next 18 years.

Dang it, Jean's on to our best excuse!

I truly do think that President Obama talking about being a good father somehow seems credible in a way that a celebrity telling kids not to do drugs did not, back in the '80's.Didn't Betty Ford's advocacy of breast cancer testing do a lot to raise awareness as well?

I call it trivializing a very important and difficult job.John McG,And you know, he's not even a citizen.

John McG - you wrote: "I call it trivializing a very important and difficult job."Really? Do you have that criticism of all PSAs? They're Public Service Announcements. Required to be run free on broadcast media in order for said broadcast media to maintain their licenses.Several PSAs that I'm aware of:Someone shares that once again her father is's followed by a voice saying: "If you have a problem with someone else's drinking call Al-Anon Family Groups." I suppose this trivializes the devastating effects of alcoholism. It makes it look so simple. It doesn't take into consideration the various ways alcoholism can present in a family. Makes it look like its always the dad. Or that solving the problem would happen with a simple phone call.Voice on the radio tells a short anecdote about someone's mother wandering during the night, followed by reference to a local Alzheimer's Support Network. This too? Trivializing? I mean, it makes it sound so easy on how to deal with Alzheimer's if it shows up in your elderly parent.I stand by my original comment that it is picking nits with someone that you already don't support, and you choose to be hyper critical of - The President.Which is fine. It is your right to do that. But just don't imagine that it is some kind of great "Truth-with-a-capital-T" that you're really talking about, such as parenting.

Cindy, I think you may be reaching. I'm by no means hypercritical of the president, but I still think this spot is silly. I don't think many people here are actually criticizing Obama "for saying something positive about parenting." We're criticizing the script for being dippy. It's not the positivity that makes this PSA amusing.

Mollie- you may be right. It just seems to me that PSAs are, by nature, short and often dippy. They are targeted toward people who really may not have access to all the information that is out there. Certainly people who take parenthood seriously wouldn't need any kind of PSA, or even an entire documentary, to teach them about it. But perhaps someone who doesn't take it seriously may hear it when they're particularly open ... or perhaps the voice of someone they admire may open their eyes. Stranger things have happened.Please accept my apology for insinuating that you are hyper-critical of The President. I should have been more careful in my comment. I was flowing along in a response to a particular person, but made that comment generally.

The two top-selling books on Amazon at the moment are Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies by Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine. Glenn Beck just said on national television a few days ago that Obama was a "racist" and ""a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." I am not sure why we're ignoring that here and criticizing Obama for "peddling fatherhood as a piece of cake."I think most of us on either side of the "fatherhood controversy" here consider it to be an extraordinarily minor matter, but when someone accuses Obama of "trivializing a very important and difficult job," he seems to be taking it seriously. These public service announcements are not the only thing Obama has said about fatherhood, and in addition to what he has said, there's also the fact that he is a very good example. And as a black father and the president, he is a good example to the black community, where fatherhood is a particularly serious issue.

"I am not sure why were ignoring that here..."I have not read those books, but from the descriptions on Amazon, they don't seem to say anything regarding parenting. Based on that, I would imagine they are being ignored because they are not relevant to the content of the public service announcement in question nor the link provided to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

Cindy, no apology necessary, but thanks. I think some PSAs are better than others, but this one certainly has its heart in the right place.David, I don't know about John McG, but for me the Obama factor is hardly relevant in my response to the PSA -- it would sound unintentionally silly no matter who was saying it.

Mollie,I do not expect to see even the slightest hint at a criticism of Obama when I come here. I read this over on Vox-Nova (from a commenter, not an official contributor):

Several of the regulars at Commonweal, for example, were also leaders in Catholics-for-Obama groups, and they routinely ban people whose posts express reservations about the One. The blog at America likewise screens for anti-Obama sentiment.

Remember, that Obama is the One, and He would not say something in a public service announcement -- it's easy for you to say PSA, because you are a woman -- if it were silly. Ergo, most of this string is out of line and several people are in danger of being banned. (tee hee)

"PSAs are, by nature, short and often dippy."Well, that's a sure-enough mouthful. As someone who is both a parent (nod to original thread) and who teaches Our Young People how to write PSAs, one of the points I make in class is that the most memorable (not necessarily most effective) PSAs are the ones that are most widely parodied (cuz you can't parody something that people don't readily recognize). I usually show some of the classic PSAs (you can go over to the Ad Council's site and see some), and the one that gets the most recognition and the biggest laugh has done for many years:"This (egg) is your brain. This (fried egg) is your brain on drugs. Any questions?"

David, you're right. I've been forgetting to follow our own unwritten rules! I may just have to ban myself.

No, Obama is not THE One but, rather THAT One!Those of us men of a certain age have a different take on the term PSA.

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