What’s Wrong with Fathers Today

The day after Father's Day I can only think about how my generation of dads hasn't measured up

I sit in the wake of a wonderful day and worry.

It was a Father’s Day of kayaking, my favorite dinner, crayon drawings and “I love you Daddy” picture frames. My two twentysomething children were home; my three- and six-year-old stayed up late.

I know, I know. I have two full generations of children. A friend likes to call my ilk “Déjà Vu Dads.”  It comes with some derision. At the shower for my now six-year-old son Michael, I was given Pampers for the baby and Depends for me.  When my three-year-old son David was about to be born, my nephew asked me if they will allow me to play catch at the nursing home.

I laugh, but I think it is they who don’t understand. I truly can’t think of a better way to spend the rest of my life than raising children. [SIGNUP]

I loved it the first time. I love it even more now.

Being an older dad does come with one drawback — perspective. I think of things at 53 that never would have concerned me at 33. Back then I was immortal, now I know I am not.

And so amid the wrapping paper and the gifts, I wonder what we, the nation’s fathers, have given in return.

My father was from a generation dubbed as the greatest. It was steeled in depression and a war against tyranny. It left the world a better place for those who followed.

I come from a group dubbed “the me generation,” living for the now and not the future. We recently avoided a depression by borrowing from the future.

Avoiding problems rather than dealing with them is what we do best.

Social Security, immigration, clean energy, the deficit, Wall Street reform, the list of problems that we have avoided, leaving them instead to our children, is long.

Contrast that to the generations that have come before. John F. Kennedy said in 1962, “…we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone…”

That quote should embarrass today’s fathers on this day after our day, as our generation chooses not to do the things that are hard. We are more than willing to postpone.

Our generation has been about ourselves, not our children. We love them, and are more than willing to sacrifice as individuals, but not as a nation. We borrow beyond our means; we allow corruption as long as we get ours; we do what is expedient, not what is right.

And so I worry about what we have left our children.

In the current crop of candidates running for office, I see none willing to do the hard things. All are more than willing to put political party and themselves over what is good for our children. We are still the me generation, and I fear the nation’s problems will not be dealt with until we move on into history.

My dad was able to look at me on Father’s Day with the pride that the world would be a better place for me and my generation. I look at my children with no such pride.

Instead of our children being able to look to us for answers, we look to them. That is not the way it is supposed to be.

But all is not lost. As I look at the pictures of my children on this morning after, I do feel the promise that greatness may just skip a generation. The problems we leave will be their opportunity to be great; an opportunity that we selfishly squandered.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Monday and Thursday. See his video commentaries at wpix.com.