Last Christmas I criticized the anti-Christian slant of the Courant’s holiday editions. So when our local paper of record makes it a point to honor–rather than undermine–a traditional celebration it seems only fair to give it equal notice. And the Courant’s Father’s Day edition is definitely worthy of notice.

Yesterday’s paper starts off right by seeking out the voice of those at the center of the celebration:

We were inspired to ask dads about their sons because of the surprising success of the best-selling, intentionally retro volume “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” Authors Conn and Hal Iggulden, who are brothers, were frustrated with the risk-averse culture that favors organized sports and electronic entertainment, with little time leftover for the unstructured play that used to fill boyhood. The book is full of information, from how to use a Swiss Army knife to playing marbles to building “the greatest paper airplane in the world.”

Our question to fathers was: What is it like raising boys these days? What activities do you and your son share? What’s important to teach your sons?

The paper printed several heartwarming stories–and photos–in response to their questions.

Father-daughter relationships also received some positive attention. Liberal commentator Susan Estrich wasn’t shy about listing her father’s imperfections. However:

But I loved him so. When I was a little girl, and my mother and sister would make fun of me for being chubby and bookish, my father would tell me I could be anything I wanted. When I was a teenager and never had a boyfriend, he would sit with me and discuss the world and the law and the things that mattered. He believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. He even thought I was pretty. I look like him.

I would not be who I am today if he hadn’t given me permission to dream. No one was ever prouder of me than he was. The day he died was the saddest day of my life.

A few days after he died, they ran a column in the local paper. “A Good Guy Died Last Week” is the headline from 1977. I have spent 30 Father’s Days without him, and I miss him still.

You don’t have to be perfect, is what I’m trying to say. You just have to be a dad. That’s all. That’s enough.

To be sure, the connection between marriage and healthy fatherhood didn’t receive the attention it deserves. Nevertheless, it’s a stubborn fact that has a habit of popping up even when it’s not your focus. Susan Campbell’s paean to the substitute fathers in her life includes this:

At home, my stepfather should not have been allowed to raise chickens, much less children, and my biological father was in Paris, avoiding his hated ex-wife. Eventually his love for his children overcame his hatred of her, but that summer, I sure could have used a father.

Susan Estrich likewise speaks of the pain her parents’ divorce caused her. And so do a few of the dads interviewed by the Courant:

My parents divorced when I was 2. Just yesterday, I called my father. It has been 20-something years since I saw him. I’m on a quest, doing some soul-searching.

I don’t know what my impetus is, but it has a lot to do with the absence of what I felt I should have had growing up. I question myself a lot – am I a good father? – but I just forge ahead.

And while Campbell rightly laments how we “hear so much about pedophiles and idiots” instead of “right-acting men,” the Courant did run one typical “dads are dumb” wire story.

So, no, the Father’s Day issue wasn’t perfect. But no one expects the Hartford Courant to be the National Catholic Register. At Christmas I was simply asking that the paper honor a traditional celebration by offering uplifting commentary more in tune with the lived reality of its own readers. On Father’s Day, the Courant did exactly that. Kudos.   

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