These TV dads taught us a lot about being a great (or really bad) dad

Mandy Moore as Rebecca and Milo Ventimiglia as Jack in “This is Us.” Courtesy of Ron Batzdorff/NBC

We love our TV dads. They reflect all the great things about our own dads as well as give us a fantasy about things we wish our very human dads could be for us. They make us laugh, they make us cry. Some of them even give us a lesson in what not to be as a dad.

For Father’s Day, we give you lessons some very memorable TV dads have taught us. Didn’t include your favorite TV dad? Share your thoughts with this story in the comments section.

Sheriff Andy Taylor (“The Andy Griffith Show”)

Show, don’t just tell. Sheriff Taylor had plenty of folksy wisdom to share, and he backed up those words by treating people fairly, kindly and justly. He knew how to appreciate all Aunt Bee did for him and Opie, too.

— Sharon Chapman

Coach Eric Taylor (“Friday Night Lights”)

Coach Taylor had a demanding job (acting as father to a team of high school football players), but did his best to make quality time for his family. He also set a good example for his daughter by supporting his wife’s career and by showing that in a true partnership, both members need to make sacrifices. He also knew what he didn’t know and wasn’t afraid to admit when he was wrong, scared or confused.

He’s one of the few TV fathers who wasn’t characterized as a complete idiot. We remember him for these fatherly gems:

“Success is not a goal, it’s a byproduct.”

“You can’t beat yourself up because you’re taking chances on things. But don’t start giving up on what you set forth to do in the beginning. ’Cause that’s gonna get you nowhere. I can promise you that.”

— Matthew Odam and Jake Harris

Dre Johnson (“Black-ish”)

Dre Johnson isn’t afraid to tell his children the truth about the world around them. In one episode, Dre’s response to Ferguson and other officer-involved shootings is to prepare his children for the racism they might one day face.

— Nicole Villalpando

Jimmy DiMeo (“Speechless”)

Jimmy DiMeo loves his family. He brings the fun to their lives — lives that already are challenging. One thing he does really well is to not argue with his wife. He knows Maya can be a little — well, a lot — crazy, especially when it comes to standing up for the rights of their son JJ. He just lets her get all worked up, knowing she’ll eventually calm down and find the world of reason again. Smart man.

— Nicole Villalpando

Homer J. Simpson (“The Simpsons”)

Homer is a lovable buffoon who allowes his children to challenge and befuddle him. He heaps praise on his children, and unintentionally forces them to be self-reliant. By playing the absurdist to their straight man, he haphazardly pushes them toward maturity (even though nobody ages on that show).

He also loves his children. In one episode, Marge and Lisa couldn’t find any of Maggie’s baby pictures in the house. It turns out that Homer has brought them all to his desk at work. The photos were taped on a sign from Mr. Burns that originally said, “Don’t forget: You’re here forever.” The photos covered up some letters so that it said, “Do it for her.” This teaches us to never allow the pressures of life to steal your joy away from you and to never be afraid to shamelessly overload your work area with pictures of your daughter.

All of this said, Homer also provides game-changingly excellent advice in child-rearing. To wit, Lisa is complaining about something and says, “You don’t understand!”

Homer: “Lisa, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”

Dads, memorize this one. It really comes in handy.

— Matthew Odam, Edward Guevara and Joe Gross

Phil Dunphy (“Modern Family”)

Unlike many previous fathers on TV, he’s not afraid to express his deepest emotions, especially about how much he loves his kids. He’s not rude to them. His sarcasm isn’t sinister. He’s goofy, not aloof. He’s active in their lives, perhaps to a fault, but there’s never any doubt he loves being their dad.

— Addie Broyles

Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker (“Modern Family”)

Lily’s two dads stretched the TV definition of fatherhood. They also prove that no matter what your sexuality and how your child became yours, it is possible to fall head over heels for her and be slightly frightened by her.

— Nicole Villalpando

Randall Pearson (“This Is Us”)

Randall Pearson teaches us the power of forgiveness. More than one parent lets Randall down, more than once, as decisions surrounding his birth and adoption reverberate through his adult life. He is able to forgive and open his heart and life. It’s messy and real, with both pain and rewards. A lot like life.

— Sharon Chapman

Jack Pearson (“This Is Us”)

Jack teaches us that even in our good intentions, sometimes we fall short. That’s OK. It’s about our love, and it’s also about consistently being there, even when battling our own inner demons.

— Nicole Villalpando

Ignacio Suarez (“Ugly Betty”)

As far as portrayals of Latino dads on TV, it doesn’t get much better than Betty and Hilda’s father Ignacio, who is a former boxer, yet warm, cuddly, and an amazing cook. As befits a show structured like a telenovela, he’s also the subject of semi-torrid love affairs, an ongoing immigration plot and a heart attack. But through it all, he’s always there for his daughters and his grandson Justin with the perfect flan or enchilada dish to make their troubles more manageable.

— Omar L. Gallaga

Bob Belcher ( “Bob’s Burgers”)

Bob might be the best dad on TV. This animated family is full of quirky characters — Mom Linda bursts into song at a moment’s notice; older daughter Tina is obsessed with butts, invisible horses and erotic zombie fan fiction; son Gene expresses himself artistically with fart noises on a keyboard; and younger daughter Louise’s schemes often border on criminal. Bob might sigh heavily at all the shenanigans, but he also accepts his family members’ unique personalities without question and is willing to do whatever he can to make them feel supported and happy. That unconditional love is the heart of the show and a great example for dads everywhere.

— Emily Quigley

Mike Brady (“The Brady Bunch”)

Mike Brady taught us that you must treat everyone in your family equally. The girls were not his biologically, but he devoted his time to them as much as the boys.

— Rick Cantu

Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister (“Game of Thrones”)

Never agree to become hand of the king. AKA put your family first over your job, or it might kill you.

— Dan Zehr

Don Draper (“Mad Men”)

Don Draper is a terrible father. He’s often not present in his children’s lives. He also treats their mother poorly by leaving for a younger woman. Don’t be Don Draper, Dads. Be there for the mother of your kids and for your kids as well.

— Nicole Villalpando

Hank Hill (“King of the Hill”)

There are many Hank Hill gems of fatherly greatness. Remember this one? After a series of groin kicks by Bobby, Hank Hill teaches Bobby how to fight fairly only after Peggy Hill delivers a series of noogies on her son. Sometimes you have to do something absurd to get your kid to realize how wrong he has been.

— Amanda O’Donnell

Steven Keaton (“Family Ties”)

Sometimes your kids have completely different views than you, and that’s OK. Steven Keaton had to endure what he saw as an affront to the Flower Child he had been: His son Alex P. Keaton grew up to become the president of the Young Republicans group. Yet, he listened to his son’s viewpoints, probably while secretly praying that this too shall pass. Let your kids be who they are.

— Nicole Villalpando

Luke Danes (“Gilmore Girls”)

Luke teaches us that sometimes the real father isn’t the one you’re related to by blood. It’s the one who shows up. Luke was always there for Rory even when things were rocky between him and Lorelai. He also opened up his home to his nephew Jess and gave him the structure he needed. Luke wasn’t the most verbal of guys, but his actions spoke louder than words — like the time he set up a whole graduation party for Rory so the town could celebrate her.

— Nicole Villalpando


Want free wings for Father’s Day? Here’s how

You can get free chicken wings for Father’s Day.

Postmates, a delivery app, is offering free chicken wings Friday through Sunday for Father’s Day weekend. How do you get the wings?

Well, you download the app, add into your cart any wings up to $20 worth from a host of local restaurants including the usual suspects like Pluckers  but also Thai Fresh, Shady Grove and Waterloo Ice House, use the code DadRocks, and you get the wings for free. (

When you download the Postmates app, you’ll get this message.

It will give the free wings to up to 10,000 dads in Austin.

Postmates also wants you to know that Texas is the 21st most dad-loving state, according to the survey it did with

It asked 2,000 people how they expected to spend Father’s Day.

Which U.S. states love their dads most?
1: Delaware (92% plan to spend time with dad)
2: Hawaii (90%)
3: Minnesota (83%)
4: Idaho (80%)
5: Vermont (80%)
6: Indiana (79%)
7: West Virginia (78%)
8: Michigan (76%)
9: Ohio (76%)
10: Louisiana (74%)
11: Arizona (73%)
12: North Carolina (72%)
13: Kentucky (72%)
14: Virginia (72%)
15: New Jersey (71%)
16: New York (70%)
17: Illinois (70%)
18: Maine (70%)
19: Utah (69%)
20: California (69%)
21: Texas (68%)
22: Florida (67%)
23: Maryland (67%)
24: Missouri (67%)
25: Georgia (66%)
26: Wisconsin (66%)
27: Iowa (65%)
28: Mississippi (65%)
29: South Carolina (63%)
30: New Mexico (63%)
31: Colorado (62%)
32: Oklahoma (62%)
33: Oregon (61%)
34: Pennsylvania (60%)
35: Washington (60%)
36: Alabama (60%)
37: Rhode Island (60%)
38: Nebraska (59%)
39: Arkansas (56%)
40: Connecticut (56%)
41: Kansas (54%)
42: Tennesse (54%)
43: Nevada (53%)
44: South Dakota (50%)
45: Alaska (43%)
46: Massachusetts (36%)
47: New Hampshire (33%)
48: Montana (30%)
49: Wyoming (30%)
50: North Dakota (25%)

For Father’s Day: 12 lessons dads give children that serve them for a lifetime

Nicole Villalpando’s dad David De Stephen must be telling some funny story to his sons Dan and Darren at the bat mitzvah of Nicole’s daughter Ava earlier this month. Carol Calvery/For American-Statesman

“Being a Dad is Weird.” That’s the the title of Ben Falcone’s new book. You know Falcone as Melissa McCarthy’s husband and the air marshal in “Bridesmaids.”

In the book ($25.99, Dey Street), Falcone looks back at his own childhood and reflects on how it’s made him the father he is today. It’s a hilarious, heartwarming book.

It got me thinking about our own childhood dad stories and about the stories my husband and children are busy creating right now. They are stories that often can be created with Mom, too, but sometimes there’s just something very “Dad” about them.

In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, here are 12 things my father taught me and my husband continues to teach my children.

  1. How to laugh. There is just dad humor and dad-isms. My favorite from my Dad: Busier than a one-armed paper hanger. (Really, Dad? So not P.C.) I shot a moose. (For passing gas.) Either (expletive) or get off the toilet. (Used especially in traffic when someone is going to slow.) Even today, my dad trades jokes (often inappropriate) with my brothers. My husband and children have their own jokes, too.
  2. How to be flustered hilariously with great gusto and a string of curse words. Think about the father in “A Christmas Story” as the neighbors’ dogs steal the turkey or as the furnace smokes again. That’s my dad watching a football game or trying to fix something. That’s also been my husband, from time to time. While my dad sticks to conventional curse words, my husband goes rogue and creates his own. It’s hard to take them seriously sometimes, even though you know how upset they are.
  3. How to never grow up. Even as grown men, my dad and my husband have toy collections, hidden in their closets, not for kids to touch. For my dad, it’s trains, model planes and cars. For my husband, it’s everything “Star Wars” and superheroes. They take them out and play with them, then put them back in their not-so-secret locations. It’s all the things they wanted to have as children but could never afford.
  4. How to work hard every day. I saw it with my father who worked long hours. My kids see it with my husband. The value of work is strong with these men. My children and my brothers also learned that work should be enjoyable, but sometimes you just have to do it even when you’d rather be at home playing video games. It’s called work.
  5. How to unwind, especially with video games. My father played a mean game of “Night Mission Pinball” on the Apple IIe we had — even after we’d moved to Macintoshes and PCs. My children love playing “Mario Cart” with my husband or for a time, “Wii Sports.” They know that Dad’s not allowed to play “Grand Theft Auto” anymore, though, unless we want him to drive us like an outlaw.
  6. How to enjoy sports and outdoors. While I will play basketball with the kids, my mom never did, and my husband is much better at getting out there with the kids and riding bikes or shooting hoops. My dad taught me the rules of every sports game on TV (even the blessedly boring golf). He also taught me that referees are not perfect. Not at all. And he wants you to know that.
  7. How to let loose on the dance floor. The women in our family have fun, but they’re much more controlled. The men might act out the spinning brushes and squirting sprays of a car wash for the Rose Royce “Car Wash” song. They’re also really great at embarrassing their teenage daughters with their moves.
  8. A love of music. Every camping trip was an exercise in learning all the words to every Bee Gees, Doobie Brothers, ABBA and ELO song. It was the ’70s after all. For my kids, their dad has given them an appreciation of all things Beatles and classic rock. My Taylor Swift-loving daughter is resisting, but we’ve caught her singing a classic rock song a time or two. My son can’t get enough Queen, David Bowie or Duran Duran.
  9. How to be safe with a car and how to buy a car. My dad loves to tell the story of the first time he took me driving and I managed to wedge the car between two concrete barriers, completely unscratched. Sometime soon, my husband (and I, too) will be teaching our 16-year-old, who’s trying to delay the process. He’ll be the wise cool-headed adult to my panicked adult. I will have to confess, every time I go to buy a car, I always call my dad first or text him to make sure it’s a good deal. I’m a grown woman. I’ve now bought seven cars, but I still need Dad’s seal of approval.

    Rob Villalpando gets ready to enter the petting zoo at Austin Zoo with young Ben and Ava. Ben’s love of the Hulk, that’s all Rob. Nicole Villapando/American-Statesman 2004
  10. How to share the workload at home with Mom. Even though my Mom didn’t work for the first six years of my life, Dad still helped around the house, more than just take out the trash. He also taught me how to make an apple pie. My husband is the king of the laundry at our house and he’s taught us how to not turn everything into one big giant, towering pile. Apparently, you sometimes have to go through the piles and get rid of stuff. He calls us all hoarders. Without him, we would be.
  11. How to love an animal completely. The time I saw my dad utterly break down and cry in loud, painful sobs was the day he put our dog Catherine to sleep. The worst I’ve ever seen my husband cry or be depressed was when we put down our first dog, Jet. Even now, my dad thinks his dog Molly hangs the moon. He can’t admit that she’s a terrible dog. My husband spends every weekend morning at the dog park with Chewie. There’s just a special bond between man and dog. Sleep in the doghouse? These men would gladly do it.
  12. How to love their children unconditionally. Sure sometimes it’s still a very sexist “wait until your father gets home” mantra. Dad is still “the hammer” when he’s not “the fun dad.” And sometimes Dad loses his cool — a lot — but I grew up knowing my dad loved me no matter what. My kids are growing up knowing the exact same thing. That’s more precious than any material gift a father can give.
Roberto Villalpando holds baby Ava on the beach. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman 2004

What has your dad taught you?

Share your thoughts in the comments of this story.


Father’s Day: Now there’s a shirt to help Dad wear the baby

Lalabu has a shirt with a pocket for baby to fit into.

Moms have long been encouraged to wear their babies, either in slings or in devices like the Baby Bjorn. Now Lalabu, which started with shirts for women to wear their babies, has the Lalabu Dad Shirt. It’s got a pouch in the front to put your baby in. The pouch grows with your baby, and a inside, there’s a mesh panel for breathability. The shirts are $75 at

It’s not quite like being pregnant for nine months, but it might come as close as Dad can get.

Is Texas a great place to be a working dad? Not really


WalletHub, a financial site that loves to crunch numbers, released its 2017’s Best & Worst States for Working Dads report.

How did Texas do? Not great. We’re No. 38.

But what’s worse: In work-life balance we’re No. 51 (the District of Columbia is included).

We also had the highest percentage of uninsured males.

We tied for last place with South Dakota, Louisiana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska for the highest average length of the work day (46 hours).

We were 48th in percentage of kids with dad present living in poverty.

And we’re 40th in having dads who are physically active and 33rd in deaths among males cause by heart disease. OK, dads, you can do something about that.

Things we did OK in: 

Median Family Income adjusted for cost of living: 21st

Unemployment rate for dads with kids younger than 18: 15th

Child care cost: 14th

Things we’re great at: 

Quality of child care: Third

Where are the best places to be a working dad?

  1. Connecticut
  2. Minnesota
  3. Vermont
  4. Massachusetts
  5. New Jersey

Where are the worst?

47: Louisiana

48: New Mexico

49: West Virginia

50: Nevada

51: Mississippi

How does this compare to working moms? WalletHub did the same study last month:

There we came in 33rd. We still got dinged on work-life balance, though not as bad. We did do well in day care quality and costs.