The Evolution of Fatherhood

image of father and child surfing, for Casa Ojai blog article

This year American’s spent $23.1B on Mothers in May. On Sunday June 17th, American’s will spend $15.3B on Dads. In honor of today’s unsung heros, here is a brief history of famous dads…

6,000 years ago: Adam
When he ate the apple, the man who was destined to be father of all mankind established a behavior exhibited in dads throughout the ages — “do whatever your mother tells me to.”

1,938 years after the creation of the world: Abraham
He may be the father of the Jewish people, but it wasn’t so great to be his sons. His first kid, Ishmael, was thrown out of the house as a teenager, and he came close to killing his second son, Isaac.

5th century BC: Oedipus
The story of a man destined to kill his father and marry his mother suggests there’s no escaping one’s fate as a dad.

768: Charlemagne
Charlemagne became King of the Franks in 768 and went on to unite most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans. This led him to be considered the figurative father of Europe. He had 20 biological children during his lifetime, making him the actual father of a lot of Europe as well.

1608: King Lear
Shakespeare’s cautionary tale, published in 1608, about a king who promises to leave his kingdom to the daughters who love him most is a reminder that asking your offspring to compete for your affections can only lead to one thing — madness.

1775: George Washington
We all know about the cherry tree, but did you know the father of our nation, who was sworn into office in 1775, was unable to have any natural children of his own? Historians think a bout of smallpox may have led to sterility.

1843: Bob Cratchit
Father of the sickly Tiny Tim, employee of the terrible Scrooge, poor Cratchit had it rough there for a while. But thanks to those three Christmas ghosts, at least he got a free Christmas turkey in the end.

1905: Frank Bunker Gilbreth Sr.
Gilbreth was an early advocate of scientific management — studying workers’ movements and trying to figure out how to streamline them, but you may remember him as the real-life father of 12 children — a role recorded in the book “Cheaper By the Dozen.”

1926: A.A. Milne
Playwright and father, A.A. Milne’s Pooh stories were inspired by his son Christopher Robin and his various toys. They seem like a sweet testament to a little boy and his playthings, but Milne apparently was annoyed by the book’s success. He did not like to consider himself a children’s book author.

1949: Jim Anderson of “Father Knows Best”
The quintessential family drama of the 1950s, “Father Knows Best” began as a radio program in 1949 and moved to TV in 1954. “Father” was Jim Anderson, an insurance salesman who occasionally lost his temper, made mistakes and it turned out, only rarely knew best.

1960: Atticus Finch
The main character in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” published in 1960, is dignified, honest, smart and caring. Too bad he was a work of fiction.

1978: Phillip Drummond
Phillip Drummond, played by Conrad Bain, on the show “Diff’rent Strokes,” which went on the air in 1978, was the millionaire father of Kimberly and the adopted father of Willis and Arnold, two brothers from Harlem. We remember lots of heart-to-heart talks on the brothers’ bunk beds and in the living rooms. Mr. D. was awfully understanding for a Park Avenue millionaire.

1987: Bob Saget
Bob Saget became an unlikely role model of fatherhood in the late ’80s through 1995 as the single dad at the center of “Full House.” The show revolved around three single men caring for three little girls. In real life, Saget’s comedy probably wouldn’t make it past network censors.

1989: Homer Simpson
Lazy Homer Simpson still manages to be lovable even as an incompetent nuclear factory worker and clueless father. Maybe it’s because he’s animated.

1991: George Banks
In the 1991 film “Father of the Bride,” Steve Martin played George Banks, an anxious father whose increasing frustration with the elaborate wedding he is throwing for his daughter masks how hard it is for him to deal with her growing up.

2000: Richard Williams
The father of two of the tennis world’s most formidable players, Richard Williams saw his daughters start to dominate the sport in 2000. He famously got his girls involved in the sport at a tennis court in Compton as a way for them to have a better life. Lucky for these two athletes their dad had vision.

2002: Ozzy Osbourne
Heavy metal dad Ozzy Osbourne allowed the world a peek into his surprisingly mundane domestic life with his wife Sharon and kids Kelly and Jack. Osbourne seemed stoned throughout the filming of the show, and later revealed to a media outlet that, in fact, he was.

2006: Billy Ray Cyrus
He starred with daughter Miley in the Disney sensation “Hannah Montana” series, and then famously told GQ in March 2011 that the show had ruined his family’s life. Not long after he backtracked, telling the ladies of “The View” it was fame, and not Disney, that ruined his family’s life.

2008: Jim Bob Duggar
Jim Bob Duggar started off as one of the main characters in the reality TV series “17 Kids and Counting” which morphed into “18 Kids and Counting” and was just recently renamed “19 Kids and Counting.” He’s so busy his kids have to make appointments to talk to him.

2013: Pope Francis
Pope Francis is the 266th pope and began his papacy on March 13, 2013. He has always been outspoken about his convictions: commitment to the poor, opposition to consumerism, and penchant for interfaith dialogue. “This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”

Originally published on June 19, 2011 and written by Deborah Netburn of The Los Angeles Times
Blogger’s Note: I added the bit about Pope Francis.