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JENKINS: Father's Day reminds us of dad's many roles

Since I didn't write a Mother's Day column this year, I feel a little guilty writing one for Father's Day. OK, so this actually makes two Father's Day columns in a row, but who's counting?

And honestly, how often do I get to write about myself in this space? OK, every week. But how often do I have such a good excuse? That's right -- just once a year: On Father's Day. And I plan to make the most of it.

Because the truth is, mothers get all the love anyway. Other than this one week, when retailers hope to sell enough bad ties and golf shirts to tide them over until the August back-to-school rush, fathers are basically ignored by the media, unless they're being maligned.

If you don't believe me, just watch any movie, TV show, or commercial supposedly featuring a typical American family. Who's more attractive, Mom or Dad? Who's more intelligent?

Generally, Mom is a portrayed as smart, funny and capable with fashion-model looks and brilliant, photogenic children. Dad, meanwhile, is an inept, overweight doofus. Who knew my family was so typical?

Nor do the personal lives of famous actresses and pop divas do much to alter society's negative perception of fathers. From the front pages of supermarket tabloids, the message has long been that Dad really isn't needed. A simple donor will do just fine, thank you. No tawdry affairs with other bimbos. No messy break-ups. No dirty socks on the den floor.

Well, I've had enough. Fathers (usually) deserve better than that. Not to take anything away from the vital role that mothers play, but fathers perform many important functions, too -- and I'm not even counting cold pizza disposal and keeper of the remote.

For instance, while his children are young, a father is primarily a piece of all-purpose recreation equipment: a combination pitching machine/rebounder/portable goalpost/jungle gym. When occasion requires, he can become an entire playground, complete with swing set, riding toys, monkey bars, even a trampoline, if he's got a gut like those TV dads.

A father is also a beast of burden. Leaving the ballpark the other day, I watched a young father lug three camp chairs, an equipment bag, two umbrellas, his wife's purse (one hopes) and an Igloo cooler 400 yards, with a baseball cap clenched between his teeth. No doubt his son would have helped, but he was already carrying a juice box and a bag of chips.

But most of all, a father -- especially a father of teenagers -- is one enormous, organic ATM. Sixty bucks for a yearbook. Two-fifty for basketball camp. Eighty for new cheerleading shoes. Thank you. Would you like another transaction?

It's not that my children don't appreciate me -- they do. And you know what they appreciate most? That, 29 years ago last week, I married someone smart, funny and capable with fashion-model looks.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.