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New-age dads offer students fatherly advice on parenting

(ran NTP edition)

In the past, fathers have played the breadwinners, leaving mothers at home to care for children.

Today, many of those lifestyles have changed, as mothers have returned to work and fathers have taken more active roles in parenting.

A Gaither High School teacher hopes her class will learn from the experiences of this new generation of dads.

Three fathers visited teacher Becky Burgue's child development class Friday, sharing their experiences with students whose prior parenting education was gathered from books and watching their own parents.

Guy Domaracki, Jon Suits and Jerry Skora are each at different stages of parenting and answered the 22 sophomores' questions about fathering.

"Has the birth of your child brought you and your wife closer?" asked Robert Saunders.

Jon Suits, a Gaither math teacher whose daughter was born last November, said his relationship with his wife has changed.

"I see less of her now, but there are other things we share," he said. "We now have things like where we all three hug. The hardest thing to get used to is that we used to pick up and go whenever we wanted. We just can't do that anymore."

"Did you spend a lot of quality time with your own teenagers?" Stephanie Snell, 15, asked Jerry Skora, a Gaither music teacher with four grown children.

"We had more time together than normal," he said. "All three kids were in my classes and we built our summer vacations around them. Even though they are grown, we still go to the Bucs games together and tailgate every weekend."

The students also wanted to hear about the delivery room. While Skora said fathers didn't witness births when his own children were delivered, both Domaracki and Suits have participated.

"It's the greatest. I cut the cord and everything," said Domaracki, who has four children. "When you see deliveries in the movies, you say "There's no way I'd ever do that.' But when it's your kid, it's a different story."

"It's important for fathers to be there," Suits said. "It's a way to show your support."

Burgue, a family and consumer sciences teacher, started the dad panel in her classes 11 years ago.

"It's so wonderful to hear a different perspective," she said. "Some of these students come from families where they don't hear these things. This helps develop realistic expectations of parenthood."

She said recent research has found that the average father only spends about 15 minutes a week with his children.

"Do you think your relationships with your own fathers helped you to be good fathers?" Burgue asked the guests.

"My father is great but I always had to be the one to ask him if he would throw a ball around with me," Domaracki said. "I try to be more involved with my own kids."

Burgue also schedules a mom panel for her students to learn a female perspective, but she said the dads' views sometimes offer the most surprises.

"It's a rich experience for all of them," Burgue said. "Not only do kids learn something, the dads learn respect for the students."