Sue Scheff: Happy Father'sDay 2009

Happy Father’s Day 2009 to all fathers as well as father figures! And many mothers out there that have the role of both mother and father, as myself.

Take the time to spend some time with that special person that deserves to be recognized. Take the time to appreciate those that love you unconditionally, they are priceless.

A special note to my father, thanks for all your support – always! Also to my son-in-law, who is a fantastic dad to my grandchildren! I am very fortunate.

Here is an article about father’s today.

Experts: Dads embracing active parenting more

by Karina Bland – Jun. 21, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

It’s just after lunch on a Friday, and Johnny Ruiz of Gilbert is outside with his three boys, pumping up the tires on their bikes.

Like a growing number of fathers, Ruiz spends a lot of time with his kids, juggling part-time jobs so he can be home when they get out of school.

In most families, it’s still Mom who does the majority of the work when it comes to raising children, but in more and more homes, Dad is coming close. Over the past 10 years, experts say, a new breed of dad has been surfacing: He’s more hands-on right from the start. He’s going to appointments with the obstetrician and reading to his baby in utero. He’s more touchy-feely, hugging and kissing the children as much as Mom does. He’s taking the kids to school, volunteering in their classrooms and helping with homework.

“We’re seeing lots more dads assuming these roles,” says Peter Spokes, a father of six and president of the Kansas City-based National Center for Fathering, which earlier this year released a study of 1,000 dads with the National PTA comparing fathers now and a decade ago. It indicated that 54 percent of dads take their kids to school, up from 38 percent a decade ago. And more dads – 28 percent, compared with 20 percent in 1999 – volunteer at school.

With both parents working, dads already have assumed more duties at home – cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kids. Men know that research indicates kids with involved fathers fare better in school and with life in general.

With a laptop and cellphone, Dad can have a more flexible work schedule, meaning he can make the parent-teacher conference and still keep in touch with the office.

And while the divorce rate has basically held steady in the past decade, dads are asking for – and getting – more time with their children in divorce settlements. Going it alone, they have to do it all, including the things Mom typically took care of, such as hair braiding and packing lunches.

For many fathers, being a modern dad requires a big change of attitude.

“It used to be cool to not want to change diapers and all of that, and now it’s not,” says Greg Bishop, founder of Boot Camp for New Dads, a non-profit program for fathers-to-be, and author of two books on fathering. In fact, he says, now men likely will harass a buddy for not doing his dad duty.

Making time for family

Ruiz and his wife, Roxanne, both worked full time when their three boys were young, so the children spent much of their time in day care.

“We were letting someone else watch our kids grow up,” says Ruiz, 40, who trimmed his hours as a driver for FedEx and took a part-time job at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa with more flexible hours to be home more. “I just feel if you’re going to be a parent, you should be there.”

Seven-year-old Garrett throws a football to his dad, who jostles 9-year-old Dallon out of the way to catch the pass. Ruiz throws it back to Garrett and calls, “Nice catch!”

Ruiz gave up golf to run his boys to baseball, football and hockey activities.

“It just feels good being with the kids,” he says.

Dallon loves the time he spends with his dad: “He helps me with baseball and football. And if I don’t know how to do something, he’ll teach me, and I’ll get better and better.”

Jacob, 11, sees that his parents share equally the responsibilities of keeping the house clean and taking care of him and his brothers. Ruiz does most of the laundry and insists on ironing the boys’ clothes. Dallon explains: “If we leave the house with our clothes not matching, he’ll yell at us.”

Most of the time, Ruiz is the only dad waiting after school to pick up his kids. Sometimes he feels like he should explain to the moms why he’s there: “I want to tell them, ‘Hey, I do work, but I also want to be with my kids.’ I want to be a good father.”

Joint custody increasing

Ironically, divorce is making some men better fathers, Bishop says, as more men are asking for more time with their children.

In the 1990s, only about 5 percent of divorced spouses nationwide opted for joint custody, where kids spend a third to half of their time with one parent and the rest with the other, according to a 2007 study by California psychologist Joan B. Kelly. But places such as Arizona and California, which adopted statutes allowing joint custody in the 1980s, a decade earlier than in most states, had higher rates, ranging from 12 to 27 percent. Kelly says such legislation paved the way for dads to ask for more time with their kids.

Looking back further to 1976, only 18 percent of noncustodial dads saw their children ages 6-12 at least once a week, according to a study published in the February issue of the journal Family Relations. But by 2002, that number had risen to 31 percent.

“Men are genuinely valuing their role with their children more,” says Robert Emery, author of The Truth About Children and Divorce who co-authored the study. Because parenting roles are more balanced these days, he says the dads likely were more involved with their kids before the divorce.

Dan Behm of Tempe was a hands-on kind of dad even before he and his wife split three years ago. So it was easy to continue those routines when he moved into his own place.

A machinist at Honeywell, the 48-year-old goes to work early and leaves at 2:30 p.m. so he can get 10-year-old Margaret after school.

Together they cook dinner and go over homework.

He learned to put her hair in a ponytail, and he volunteers at his daughter’s school, church and theater group.

“I just want to be part of her life,” he says. “I want to be there for her.”

His own father, a police officer, worked long hours, mostly at night, and Behm remembers being quiet after school because his dad was sleeping. His dad helped out at Scout meetings, but it was his mom who took care of him.

Margaret confides in her dad about fights with friends and worries over spelling tests. He hopes that as she gets older, she’ll continue to look to him for advice and support, and when she’s old enough to choose a partner and father for her own children, she’ll choose someone like him or, he quips, “somebody even better.”

Becoming better dads

Today’s dads are gleaning information about parenting from their own fathers, brothers, cousins and friends in hopes of becoming even better dads. In Spokes’ study earlier this year, 37 percent of dads said they talk with other dads for support, up from 17 percent in 1999.

And they’re learning that being a good dad does not mean becoming more like mom but finding their own ways to do things, says Bishop of Boot Camp for New Dads, a father of four. Being a dad isn’t about losing your manhood, he says: “It makes us better men, and men in the finest sense of the word.”

Most of today’s dads who are spending time with their kids say they enjoy it. They say there’s something fulfilling about having a little human being look to them for protection, love and support.

Job flexibility helps

Charles Fleury’s job as a lawyer for American Family Insurance allows the Phoenix dad to work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the flexibility to come and go when his kids need him.

He coaches his kids’ sports teams and plays golf with 7-year-old Charlie and tennis with the girls, 11-year-old Libby and 12-year-old Molly.

He goofs around with them in the backyard pool. And he even signed up to take piano lessons with his kids, though all three have bailed out and he’s the only one still playing.

“I know it sounds a bit cliché, but they do grow up fast, so I want to spend time with them,” Fleury says.

He also thinks the kids enjoy having him around – at least for now.

His oldest is getting to the age when having Dad around can be a bit embarrassing.

When Fleury was a kid, dads only came to school on Career Day.

But when his kids were in preschool, parents were required to volunteer, and he and his wife, Sara, have continued to do so.

He likes the rock-star reception he gets when he shows up at school.

Mostly, Fleury hopes that when his children are grown, they’ll remember how much fun they had with their dad – and that he was always there.

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