Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ken-Bun-Ki "Being Called 'Papa'"

 Note: "Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki" is a series of articles I wrote for my Japanese City Hall newsletter back in 1996-97. They were articles about life in America or life in Japan as experienced by an American. This one is from March 27, 1997. 

Last week my daughter caught a cood with a bad cough and a temperature. My wife took care of her, but after I got home from my evening classes at about 10 pm she was still awake watching a video. She welcomed me home by saying to me, "Papa, watch this with me!" with a big grin on her face. My daughter knows I have to work, but she is happy whenever I get to spend time with her. Her happiness shows in not only her smile but in her whole body. Not ten minutes after I sat down with her, she fell asleep in my lap.

Do you all have similar experiences? Fathers in America work just like in Japan, as hard as they can. However, in American  the family is more important than the job. We work to support our families. When the children are young, we go home every night to have dinner together. We talk about how our days were, without the television on. I sometimes go out with my Japanese family to eat ramen, and when I do I always look at the other families. The children ware reading comic-books and the parents are watching television. There is no conversation at all. I know it is none of my business, but I always think this is a shame.

Recently there is a commercial with the tag line, "Today let's play with Dad!" There is another commercial with children saying the line, "There's a shooting star! Let's wish for Papa to come home early tonight!" When I see these commericals I think that fathers ARE important. For all you fathers out there, doesn't it feel great to be called, "Papa"?

Tonight, why don't you get home in time to read your child a bedtime story?

This is one of the columns that I *think* is a little bit out-dated. Even at the time I wrote this sixteen years ago there already was a movement among younger fathers to spend more time with their children. My buddies at the time, for example, were not spending endless hours at the office, especially if their children had a play or a concert or some other school event he had to get to. Fatherhood and families were two themes I liked to write about because I felt there were real differences between the US and Japan models; they made for thought-provoking columns.
Nowadays, of course, if you go into an American restaurant the children AND the adults are all busy on their devices, texting or playing. It's the same old lack of communication going on. We have all this technology in order to communicate, and then we're alone in a group of people. It's sad.

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