Rosie Johnson Illustrates
Freelance illustrator

Notes from the studio (it’s a shed)

Dad: Don't be a hero


Describe a dad. Or google one. You'll find a hundred 'heroes', barbecuing with one hand, putting up a tree house with the other. And a hundred more being bumbling, ineffectual, man-shed dwellers, incapable of discussing anything beyond their team's position in the league.

I am a feminist. I like to think that I'm not judgmental when it comes to gender roles and expectations. And yet, when I came to design something for Father's Day, I started sketching out a 'Super Dad!' beer bottle label, then some sports equipment and a half arsed attempt at humour with some 'leave me alone' vouchers. Nothing really wrong with any of those things per se, but none of them are original nor actually representative of the dads I know. Beer and sport and alone time are things they like and are interested in, but are not the defining characteristics of them as fathers. Nor do I really expect a dad to be heroic. "Hi, I'm Breadwinner Man! I rescue kittens, provide for my family and still have time to put up that shelf!" Oh stop it. 

The dads in my life are not the two-dimensional caricatures we are used to in lazy media portrayals. They are not fire-fighting demigods, domestically-disadvantaged or emotionally illiterate. Take, for example, the father of my own children who is currently reading to our son and gently persuading him that sleep really is amazing and he should try it. He is far more emotionally articulate than me and can get a loo sparkling so clean you could see Kim and/ or Aggie's face in it. He loves football, cars, the occasional ale, but he is not defined by these. This is not who he is as a dad. He does wonderful things: often, but he is not a hero. We don't need saving and he does not need that kind of pressure. I don't want to create yet another thoughtless, stereotypical bit of frippery which perpetuates the myth that men leave the parenting to women. Or are just there to be the disciplinarian or the fun one. The one to be feared or the one who'll buy you an ice cream behind mum's back. The one to swoop in and save the day so the women and children can carry on being womeny and childlike safe in the knowledge that daddy has sorted it all out.

I know I've been very lucky. On the phone, my dad isn't a 'Hang on, I'll get your mum' kind of guy. He is happy to talk about feelings, relationships, heck, even periods should we all fancy discussing such topics over tea and crumpets. He's kind, thoughtful and perfectly imperfect like the rest of us.

My friends who are fathers are interested in their children, openly show them affection and are not afraid to be emotional. They are brave, funny, clever and helpful. Sometimes they are tired, bored, distracted and irritable. Just like the mums. 

So I ditched my first thought and went, instead, for a silly game. A fortune teller (blast from the past) where the dads can choose from general, human interests followed by some daddy descriptors. Some DADJECTIVES (so proud of that) such as loving, kind, happy and fun which lead them to some jokes, forfeits and sweet little messages. It's not overtly 'dad' and that's why I like it. Hope you do too.