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Sawyer Frank stands in his great-grandfather’s living room as his father, Eric Frank, his grandfather, William Frank, and great-grandfather, Robert Frank, sit on the couch, left to right.

 

Family traditions and core values run strong and deep in the multiple generations of dads in three Valley families celebrating Father’s Day today.

“While I wanted to teach the same lessons to my kids that I learned from my father, and that my dad learned from his dad,” said John Shosh Jr., 50, of Northumberland, on Wednesday, “each generation in our family has had to find their own way of teaching their kids and doing what is right for them as parents.

“I parented in a different way from my dad. He was very strict as was his dad. I wasn’t like that as a parent,” he explained.

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Lucas, 17 months, stands in front of, from left to right, his great-grandfather, John Shosh Sr., 76; grandfather, John Jr., 50; and father, Nathan, 23.

John Jr. is the son of John Sr., 76, father of Nathan, 23, and grandad of Lucas, 17 months. All three fathers have raised their sons differently from how they were raised by their dads.

“There are very few generalizations you can make about things that affect all fathers the same way,” said best-selling author (“The Nurturing Father,” “Fatherneed”) Kyle D. Pruett, a clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, and international lecturer on fatherhood, who appears frequently in the New York Times and on TV’s Good Morning America, CBS News and the Today Show. “The dynamics within a family lead to different parenting styles,” he said.

Cases in point, three generations of Valley dads who invited The Daily Item into their homes this past week: The Shosh dads, each parenting in ways distinctly different from their own fathers; the Yetter family, of Middleburg, three dads who have passed on life lessons learned from one generation to the next; and the Franks, of New Berlin, three dads passing on the wisdom taught to them by their respective fathers, altered only by the changing times.

 

Profound change

Pruett, as an observer of fatherhood, not only from his personal experience, but also from a role as a clinician and teacher on the relationships that fathers have with their children, said that he has seen really profound changes in parenting by fathers in different generations.

“Good fathering,” Pruett said, “was defined in the 1960s, as support your wife, bring home the bacon, be the protector.” An average father in those days, he said, assumed his wife would “do the thing that she is so well prepared by culture and society’s expectations to do, raise those children.”

A good dad was someone who had a job that was secure, supported his wife and did a lot of interacting with his children, generally when they were older, Pruett said.

“These were the kind of fathers celebrated on TV in the 1950s,” he said. “That was not a problem for people. We look down our nose at it now, and say ‘What the hell was wrong with these people?’ But judging that behavior at that time by its own values, nothing was wrong with those people.”

It was often the mother who was exhausted, and tired of having their authority questioned. Dads often got tainted as this big authoritarian bully. Very few of them were, Pruett said, but it was the fact that he had been at work all day, he came home and was a fairly novel presence. Kids didn’t know him as well as the mother and so he traded on that novelty to get the kids to behave.

Change in the ’70s

That began to change in the '70s, Pruett explained, “when women started going back to work and fathers often found themselves doing child care, because child care was too expensive and there wasn’t a lot of it around that was any good.

“Men, whether they liked it or not, often wound up in positions of being nurturing with their own children.

“The ones who had supportive wives found that it was really rewarding,” Pruett said.

By the next generation, the 1980s and 1990s, women were more concerned about work-family issues. Some were not feeling supported at all, Pruett said.

The next change came when technology allowed people to start working from home, and pretty soon moms were just as busy and distracted as men.

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Four generations of the Yetters, from left to right, Luther, Luther Jr., Anthony and Evann.

“Dads, ‘he said, are thinking they’d like to be closer to their children than they were to their own dad — ‘I loved the guy, but I didn’t know him very well. He wasn’t around a lot. I don’t want my kids feeling that way about me.’”

Susan McHale, Penn State University, professor of Human Development and Family Services, director, Social Science Research Institute, has researched the relationships of fathers to their children over the past 20-30 years and said "our data does indicate that there have been changes in parental sharing."

More and more, mothers of young children are in the workplace, which means fathers have more opportunities to be in charge of children, she said. "Being the sole breadwinner is stressful and tiring, and that used to be the job of the father, in older generations. Now, perhaps because of the economy, both parents have to be creative in when they work, sharing time with their kids. Observationally, there is more engagement between father and child."

"I can say that fathers rate their time with their children very positively as do children spending time with their father," McHale said. "Fathers and children are reporting their relationships are close and warm and that those relationships are important to them."

Fathers are also now sharing in things like preparing meals and child care, where they might not have had those opportunities in the past, when mothers were always around, McHale explained.

  

Equal representation

As a teacher of child development, when Pruett asks his students how many want to be parents most hands go up in the air, he said.

“When I ask how many expect to be very involved parents, male and female hands are represented in the air about equally,” he said. “Women find that very attractive; men notice that the women are noticing, and they start to try to put together lives that will allow them to be more involved and I think we’ve got rates of engagement and involvement emotionally that are as high now as they probably were before the industrial revolution when men left their farms and went to factories.”

That’s what young fathers like Anthony Yetter, 35, father of Evann, 13 (and two daughters), Eric Frank, 37, father of Sawyer Frank, 3, and Nathan Shosh, 23, father of Lucas, 17 months, all say to one degree or another.

“Yeah, my wife and I share time with our son,” Shosh said. “My wife is going to school, I work, but we still find time.”

Same with Frank, and his wife who both work. “On weekends we try to do things together. We find the time.”

And Anthony Yetter, who said that although he has a good job that enables his wife to stay home with the kids, he does all he can when he has free time to be with them.”It is 50-50 with us, when it comes to parenting.”