By Tiffany Ran
For Northwest Asian Weekly
I was raised by Dad, a single father.
It was as big of a shock to me as it probably was for him. Most people don’t try having kids thinking that they’d be raising the kid alone, but that is what happened to him. On the other hand, most children of divorce don’t come out of it expecting to live with their Dads instead of their Moms. But that’s where I ended up.
So there we were. I was about 9 years old, approaching puberty. My Dad was alone in facing the delicate process of parenting a pre-teen.
Growing up, I remember that the most prominent example of the single dad on TV was Danny Tanner from “Full House.”
But let’s face it, my Dad was no Danny Tanner.
My Dad once compared parenting to nurturing a tree. You do what you can to foster its growth and ensure that the tree grows as straight and evenly as possible, trimming any branches that grow awry. Each year, as the tree sheds its leaves to grow new ones, you pick up after it and prepare for the changes ahead.
Besides that metaphor, however, he had no idea what he was in for.
I used to wish that as a family, we had more help. I used to wish that I didn’t have to go bra shopping with my Dad. He probably wished for someone to help share in the carpool duties. I know we both wished that someone else would cook for us.
But without those things, I was able to see that I had a father who was emotionally, mentally, and physically present in so many aspects of my life. I saw with many of my own friends that, even with both parents present, their dads would fade into the background or play more singular roles of just making the money or instilling discipline.
For a long time, the questions behind the issue of my growing up with a single parent included what I’ve missed in life. But as I started talking about my experience, I had much more to say about what I’ve gained.
I grew up having to figure out the girl stuff by myself, and much to my father’s dismay, I wasted no time figuring out the boyfriend issue.
I grew up with the knowledge that my upbringing was less like a constant gardener to his tree, but more of a partnership between my Dad and me to take care of each other.
More importantly, I grew up, and I grew up quickly.
As an adult, my Dad is still my sounding board, even though I disagree with him on almost everything.
He is the one who has known me through all the different phases of my life (some which he refuses to let me forget). He was the one who, when advice fell short, filled my head with stories and legends, which inevitably served to be sound advice in disguise.
While single mothers have long been popular in mainstream perception, single fathers have more often been met with skepticism and the assumption that males would have a more difficult time playing more maternal roles with their children.
But I’m happy to see that perceptions of these roles in the media has evolved from the Danny Tanners to more well-rounded TV dads who weren’t pressured to act like “Mr. Mom.” Perhaps what we all need more of is to see the value of what Dads can be and what they can provide. (end)
Tiffany Ran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.