Daddy Let Me Drive
When I was 12 years old my family moved from the Atlanta suburbs to the Philadelphia area. My dad’s career was taking him to a position in Wilmington, Delaware. He went from a sales guy with a company car to a product manager providing his own ride. Several months before our move, my maternal grandfather died. He was 83 and had lived a very exciting and fulfilling life. He left behind a dear wife, 4 daughters, 14 grandchildren and a 1971 Ford pickup truck with stepsides, rust and a ton of duct tape…my dad bought it. Being that I was a middle schooler and afflicted with parents, I truly thought I might expire from the embarrassment of my dad driving an old car (a pickup no less). If I had to ride in it, I would duck down so that no one would see me (it did not have seat belts or air bags. It was the 80s and we lived dangerously) and he would definitely have to let me out a block or two from my destination so that no one would see me exiting this temple of teenage horror. I still remember the proclamation that my mom, who was sporting a two tone ’85 Buick LeSabre (which I drove in HS and the muffler fell off in the school parking lot-another story for another day), had to deliver me to any destination where potential friends might be because dad was driving a hunk of junk. I hope most of you have middle school memories that make you feel as charming as this one does me…
So fast forward to 2005, I am 30 years old, single and about to buy my first home. It is a townhouse in Sandy Springs, GA. It was OTP, but inside of the river (barely). I LOVED this house. Procuring it on my own made me feel like a real estate mogul. In 18 year’s time I go from a brat of a middle school kid who won’t be seen in her dad’s vehicle to an adult that needs dad. I want him to look this house over top to bottom. I want him to read over the contract. I want his opinion on whether or not I am paying too much and most of all I want his handyman expertise to help me fix the place up. It needs a coat of paint and a few cosmetic touches that HGTV convinces me we can do inexpensively and in only a few hours. My dad is a great handyman and that is part of the reason that I ask, but mostly, I see this house as an opportunity to spend time with my dad. The painting was pretty easy, but about a year into home ownership I decide that the powder room needs bead board to make it perfectly cottage style charming and again HGTV said we can do it in an afternoon. Mom and Dad come on up for Easter. I have the supplies, dad has the tools and we are going to get this done and painted before hosting a pre-Easter dinner for family. Dad tells me it is going to take 2 full days and I tell him nonsense….because HGTV is a whole channel dedicated to home improvement and they have to know more than a chemical salesman. So…he was right and I was wrong, but we finished the project. He swore he would never do another one with me (he did a few more) and I loved every minute I spent with him, even though he griped through most of the project.
So why am I telling you all of this when this is a small business marketing blog….because Father’s day is approaching and Madison Avenue is treating our dads like buffoons and I don’t like it. I have seen too many commercials recently where mom has it together and dad is portrayed as another child for her to look after. Admittedly, my parents have a very traditional marriage and my husband and I do too. BUT, the men in my life are not Neanderthals or over grown boys who do nothing other than go to work and drink beer (they do those things, but they do a lot more). They are responsible and hard working. They are capable of taking care of my kids, folding a little laundry and I have seen both of them run a vacuum cleaner on occasion. So why are we treating dads so poorly, even as we approach Father’s Day? Clearly the folks who are developing these campaigns are stuck in the Middle School view of their dads. As I mentioned in my Mother’s Day blog, women are key household decision makers, but is this trend complimentary to the person in control of so much disposable income? No! We are being told that the people we chose to spend our lives with and have children with are incompetent. I have no plans to leave Auburn, AL and go to New York and try to single handedly fix this issue, but as I advise businesses on reaching their target markets, this is something that is on my mind. As I approach thought leadership with clients, it will not be done in an effort to belittle or cut down the intelligence of the men in our lives. When I help businesses attempt to reach the “mom market” that I wrote about earlier, it will not be done at the expense of the dads.
Maybe I should not use this forum as an opportunity to step up on my soap box, but as a marketing professional, this is a trend that I do not get. When I chose a song for the Father-Daughter Dance at mine and John’s wedding, I chose Alan Jackson’s “Drive.” The lyrics at the end go like this….
I'm grown up now
3 daughters of my own
I let them drive my old jeep
Across the pasture at our home
Maybe one day they'll reach back in their file
And pull out that old memory
And think of me and smile
It was just an old worn out jeep
Rusty old floor boards
Hot on my feet
A young girl two hands on the wheel
I can't replace the way it made me feel
And he'd say
Turn it left, and steer it right
Straighten up girl now, you're doing just fine
Just a little valley by the river where we'd ride
But I was high on a mountain
When Daddy let me drive
I chose this because my dad is my hero and I want my kids to see their dad the same way-and they do. Us marketing folks have really screwed up how we treat dads and I hope that as Father’s Day approaches we demand better from the places where we do business! Thanks for listening to my semi rant and go out and find dad a great gift or better yet, spend time with him and tell him he can leave his tool belt in the basement.
And…Happy Father’s Day Dad and John.