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How the fatherhood torch gets passed

Q: Are you a more or less involved father than your own father? Why? Are the roles/duties of fathers changing?

I’d say that I’m at least equally involved as my dad was. I have a very similar parenting style to my dad’s, too. As a dad, I do a lot for my kids, as did my dad. We just don’t do things for our kids nearly as quickly as moms might, and sometimes we will deny some of those requests.

Let me explain.

I can still remember a time when my mom went back to school, so my dad was watching us kids alone in the evenings. So he would prepare our dinner, as parents are known to do for their children. He would often choose rutabagas as our vegetable because he liked rutabagas and they are (supposedly) very good for people who are still growing. But just because something is good doesn’t mean it also tastes good, and I let my dad know I was displeased with his choices. And he was more likely to tell me, “Duly noted, eat them anyway,” than my mom ever was.

Additionally, I can still vividly remember leaving the table the first day my dad made us supper, and he told us to clear our plates and put them in the sink. I recall being very confused, because I’d never done that before. I wasn’t even aware of what happened to my plate after I left it unattended each night. I just assumed that birds or elves or some kind of ninja had been clearing my place for me.

So I mimic that style of parenting. When our three-year-old asks me to read him a book, I’ll say, “No, read it yourself.” Not because I’m cruel. I’ll eventually start to read. But first he has to prove to me that he can’t yet read, because, what if one day soon he actually starts reading books? He’d be a genius, and I would father of genius, that’s what.

The stereotypical roles of a dad, back when I was a Lil’ Kelly, were to be the disciplinarian, the authority figure, the guy who squished spiders and mowed the lawn and took the belt to their misbehaving children. Wait until your father gets home!

But the most important role of any good dad is to be a role model.

I’m not all that different from my dad in that sense, and I’m proud of that. My dad co-parented the same way that I try to do. He was a provider for his family, he mowed the lawn, he crushed insects with his bare hands, but never had to lay a hand (or belt) on us kids, because he was our hero. His disappointment was punishment enough.

A parent is just a person, after all, a person who is molding a tinier version of themselves into becoming a good person in their own right. And I think a good person is a good person, the same way it is today as it was yesterday. My dad modeled good behavior for me, and now I’m doing that same thing for my kids.

To any aspiring dads out there, that’s my best advice. Just be a good person, and your kids will grow up to be the same way.

And maybe they start reading at three. You never know what’s going to happen.

Kelly Hagen is a writer and communications director for North Dakota United. He lives in Bismarck with his wife, Annette, and their two young children. If you have a question you’d like to Ask A Dad, send an e-mail to or leave a comment at the Prairie Parent Facebook page,

Written by Kelly Hagen

Kelly Hagen

Kelly is the Director of Communications at North Dakota United. He has been with NDU since merger in 2013, and worked previously with the North Dakota Public Employees Association since 2011. Kelly is in charge of coordinating and distributing print and electronic communications between members and with the public, is the editor for United Voices magazine, administrates the website and social media properties, and works directly with local leaders to build their own communications infrastructure. Kelly is originally from Wilton, ND. He received an Associate of Arts degree in journalism from Bismarck State College and a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communication from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Prior to his employment with NDU, he worked for the N.D. Department of Health, the Fargo Forum and the Bismarck Tribune. He lives in Bismarck with his wife, Annette, and their two children.

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