Around Mother’s Day, I find myself pushing back, sometimes too hard, on the notion of the “Sainted Mother.” Then when Father’s Day rolls around, I’m equally annoyed at the mockery directed at dads. We are a culture prone to extremes. I am uncomfortable with that.
Dad is a hard thing for a lot of people for a lot of good reasons. I appreciate that. The notion of Dad as a deity that was so prevalent in my childhood needed to be knocked back a little. But I feel like we’ve gone too far. Dad as a buffoon is now the most common refrain. And it’s really starting to annoy me.
Seriously, I don’t go a week without some other mother (usually someone I barely know) making a comment about how the father of her children is somehow incompetent when it comes to kid matters. For some families, there’s a measure of truth in it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If all you’re going to do is make fun of me or yell at me for a particular thing, I’ll go do something else. I’ve seen several fathers do just that.
One of the single hardest moments of will power in my life came the first night we had our son. We were in a hotel in Texas waiting for the paperwork so we could come home with him. Neither of us had any baby skills. Charlie got up to do one of the overnight feedings. I could hear them in the other room. It wasn’t going particularly well.
My instinct was to jump up, run in there, and take over. But I didn’t. I lay there in the bed doing nothing. It.was.awful. But they worked it out on their own. The kid got fed. That night set the tone for me for my noninterference theory of parenting.
Charlie never did diapers the same way I did. He didn’t do bottles the same way I did. He’s never interacted with our son the same way I do, which is not to say he’s a moron and takes unnecessary risks. (Please stop posting photos of dads holding children upside down, over animal exhibits at the zoo. That’s stupid, not funny.) They simply have a relationship that is separate and apart from me. That’s the way it should be.
Being parents is a team sport. I can’t be the mother I need to be if Charlie is checked out. He can’t be the father he needs to be if I’m all up in his grill telling him exactly how to do things.
We’ve probably made just shy of about 3 million mistakes in the nearly 9 years this kid has been alive. But this thing, I really feel like we got right.
I get a lot of credit for how great our kid is. And I’m not even gonna feign modesty, our kid is pretty freaking amazing. But I’m only half that equation.
My Father’s Day gift is to simply let my husband be a father, because he’s really good at it. It turns out Charlie likes that much better than a tie.