When he heads out the door every morning, he's supposed to be ready to focus on all the demands his corporate employer can throw at him--and answer, on the first ring, a call from his wife asking for the phone number of that plumber they used last time, because one of the kids is using potty-training sessions to conduct his own version of the "Will It Float" segment of the Letterman show, titled, "Will It Flush?" (My guess: board books--yes, eventually; plastic bath-time book and rubber duckie flotilla--no.)
He's supposed to balance work and family, which sometimes means taking a day off for a birthday-party stroll through the zoo--while answering pages and phone calls on a bench outside the exhibit they've come to see.
He's supposed to pitch in and contribute to the home-maintenance, according to his skills and abilities--lawn care, car care, designated trash hauler, Mr. Fix-It, Sir Honeydo--there are as many hats as there are jobs, and chances are that at least one of the hats has one of those flashlight bands around it (or a light built into the brim) because it's too hard to have someone else hold the flashlight exactly in the right place to see what's wrong with the garbage disposal without that person inadvertently blocking the light as she leans forward to see the problem. Whatever his jobs are, he's supposed to do them cheerfully, routinely, before anybody asks--because he's supposed to notice when he comes home after sitting in a gray depressing cubicle all day that something he usually attends to hasn't yet been done.
If he has sons, he is supposed to teach them to become men--to step up to the plate and shoulder big responsibilities, to learn teamwork and leadership and determination, to help them find their way in the world someday; but also to learn exquisite manners, real compassion for his mother and sisters, and the willingness to pitch in with chores he instinctively sees as feminine, so their future wives, if they marry, will appreciate them fully. He's supposed to teach his sons to succeed and excel--and to change diapers and help out with cooking and cleaning. Above all, he's supposed to teach them respect--respect for themselves, for others, for women, for the elderly or ill, for the physically handicapped or different--and he's supposed to teach these things not only by leading, but by setting an example of a person his sons can respect.
If he has daughters, he's supposed to bond with them, support and encourage them, foster their self-esteem in thousands of different ways; he's supposed to set the example of what their future husbands should be like (should they marry) by the unfailing respect and love with which he treats their mother. He's supposed to tell them that they can achieve whatever they set out to do, but also help them to move beyond the age when they are likely to be dreamers, and help them set practical and realistic goals geared toward adulthood. As he does with his sons, he should teach his daughters respect, and above all that they should respect themselves far too much to welcome the sort of boyfriend who doesn't respect them as he ought.
He's supposed to see kneeling in prayer as a posture of manly strength, not a habit of female weakness; he's supposed to set an example of the loving father, so that his children will not have any difficulty seeing God as the Loving Father of all. He's supposed to cultivate virtue and avoid vice, to shun the many temptations to lust our culture presents, to drink in moderation (if he drinks) and never to use the enjoyment of alcohol to the point of abuse. He's supposed to be faithful to his wife not only out of love for her, but out of justice, what he owes to her and to his family. He's supposed to be willing to communicate honestly and fearlessly about problems and even seek marital counseling if this becomes necessary.
He's supposed to enjoy a reasonable amount of time to himself, but not supposed to plop in front of the computer or ball game or other means of entertainment all day long or all weekend long when his wife and family need his help--or just need to interact with him. He is, just like his wife, supposed to put aside his natural desire for some free time during the years when the children are small and there is much to be done.
And then, every weekday morning, he's supposed to head out the door, to go back to work for employers for whom the phrase "24/7" is increasingly not an exaggeration, but a pretty close estimate as to how much time they expect him to spend working for them. And he's supposed to grab the phone if it rings and displays his home number, just in case there's something more serious going on than a minor bathroom flooding issue.
We call these men, "Fathers." I think we should call them heroes.
Happy Father's Day to all the great dads out there!