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Modern Parenthood

Father's Day is every day with surfer dad and 'adventure time'

Father's Day can be every day because this surfer dad's wife feels the need to 'give Papas back their John Wayne meets Father-Knows-Bestness' and ditch the popular culture mantra that Dads can be loveable but incompetent nitwits. 'Adventure time' is prime evidence of this dad's awesomeness.

By Lisa SuhayCorrespondent / June 14, 2012

Father's Day can be every day: Robert Suhay and Quin, the author's husband and son, go surfing. Robert's "adventure time" is prime evidence of this dad's awesomeness.

Courtesy of Lisa Suhay


Norfolk, Va.

Being raised in an all-female, post-divorce household, I was part of the man-hater's club that believed men were incapable of "real" parenting skills. Just look at our culture and see how commercials, movies, and cartoons frequently paint fathers as loveable, but incompetent nitwits.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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Now that I am the mother of four sons, ages 8, 13, 17, and 18, who will someday be in this role, I feel the need to give Papas back their John Wayne meets Father Knows Bestness, starting with my own husband.

Of course he has his moments that are worthy of a sitcom. An example might be putting a timid autism spectrum eight-year-old who just learned how to swim out in the ocean, tethered via his little ankle to a “supertanker” Dewy Weber surfboard and launching him onto a wave without a life jacket, alone!

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I didn't learn this story all at once, mind you, but in jubilant pieces from the child when he jetted in the front door and began to disrobe in a sandy trail of tale.

"Pop tied me to the big board and the leash wouldn't come offa my ankle and I got dragged under and had to not panic," Quin, 8, crowed. "And then I didn't drown! Pop is awesome !"

In my entire vocabulary, the word "awesome" was not even a distant competitor for the space following the words "Pop is." My top pics were: bonkers and doomed.

Yet who could argue with the glow of accomplishment on our youngest son's face? He was empowered. He was stoked. He was trailing sand all over my floors because my husband doesn't believe in towels, snacks, chairs, or umbrellas at the beach. My husband packs for a day at the beach by checking to see if he has his surf wax.

"Awesome," I said to my son. "So you had a good time?" To which he answered the same exact pronouncement he has always made each and every time my spouse has taken the boys on an adventure, "It was the best day ever!"

However, the boys never, ever want to go on a Papa outing. They dimly recall the fear, pain, small injuries, and emotional trauma associated with "adventure time." My husband is always forced to bluster and insist until they capitulate. He laments this, groaning what all good fathers groan at such times, "I failed them. Where did I go wrong?"

Somehow they always come back in exaltation, having mastered something new and we can only assume death-defying. Then it's always "awesome." I think this is akin to the way women "forget" the pain of child birth and go ahead and have several more, as I did. Boys would never grow into men if they didn't have that nagging feeling that the adventures with Papa were going to be dicey, but worth the x-factors in exchange for bragging rights. I often stumble upon a whispered conversation, smothered laughter, among the boys that includes the words, "Remember that time Papa made us..."


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