A week ago, my wife went out for a girls' day with her mother and sister. That left dad in charge of all six of the kids aged ten and under - including Gideon, our five month old baby. Believe it or not, mom made it home some seven hours later to discover a clean house, the children unharmed (as well as dressed and fed), and the baby in a good mood after his nap.
So I must be looking for a pat on the back, if not an actual medal for my efforts... right?
Give me a break. I'm a father, not some bumbling sitcom caricature of a dad that does well to figure out which end of the baby that the diaper goes on. I'm a full partner in raising these kids - not some every now and then babysitter.
While I will absolutely bow to my wife's superior organizational skills - seriously, kudos to that woman for managing to not only cook, clean the house, do laundry, and raise these kids... but to also homeschool them and to set aside "us time" every day - and will freely admit that she is superior to me in a lot of the little touches, the fact remains that I am also a qualified parent. I know all of the kids' favorite foods. I am capable of dressing them in more or less matching clothing. I am qualified to organize trips to the store, or to supervise games and activities. I can change diapers, heat bottles, microwave chicken nuggets and Easy Mac, rock babies, fix juice cups, bathe children, administer band aids, and read stories.
All of the following are absolutely real situations I have recently experienced.
- A lady at the grocery store marveled at how I was able to keep up with the three boys (ages ten, eight, and six) as we shopped. Keep up? Where were they going?
- Well meaning souls have multiple times offered about how "I had my hands full" when standing in line with the kids on some errand. Often accompanied by the traditional Southern "bless your heart".
- Sideways glances and muttering were shot my way by a couple of mothers at the park while I was running among the kids. (I've lived this one more times than I care to count.) I'm not here to touch your kid, lady - I'm pretending to be a zombie and chasing mine around the climbing apparatus. And yes, I'll be pushing a couple of them on the swings later.
- Speaking of parks, I have been asked if it was "my weekend" when I was playing with the kids at one. As if the default setting is that dad only plays with the kids once the divorce happens and he has them for two days every other week!
Why is it that in today's day and age, our society acts like it's some sort of aberration to see a father involved in the day to day activities of his children? With dual earning families being the default these days, shouldn't it be normal to see dads taking care of many of the day to day household tasks - including caring for the kids? Even though my wife and I have an "old fashioned" family where mom stays home with the kids while dad goes to work, it's not like mom is sitting on the coach eating Bon Bons all day long... isn't it reasonable for me to help out, to be involved when I am there?
I won't pretend for a moment that Donna and I always see eye to eye on every little aspect of parenting. She's more of a softie than I am, and I'm more of a disciplinarian. This often leads to her being better able to achieve workable compromises - she'll get the girls to making cleaning up their toys into a game, whereas my "pick it up now or else!" approach may be less effective (and accompanied by more tears). In other situations, I tend to be more playful - she's ready for the kids to be out of bed, or dressed, or in the car... and I may be chasing them around, wrestling, tickling, etc... (and getting us all in trouble).
But we are a team, working towards the same goals. We talk, we figure out the approach, and we work together to get there. Sometimes, she'll apologize for asking me to do something with them, and my response is always the same - "Why? They're my kids, too!"
I cannot imagine not being involved in my kids' lives - and that includes the day to day stuff; the meals, the chores, the games, the lessons, the errands. I cannot conceive of anything that I could be doing that is more important than being an integral part of their childhoods. That's not to say that I'm the same parent as my wife - I'm not another Mom. I'm their Dad.
And that is something that they need.
Tags for this post: Parenting
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