It’s Father’s Day, which means my facebook newsfeed is full of people proclaiming their fathers or husbands to be the best dad ever, and other false accolades. Parenting is not a competition, and there is no such thing as ‘World’s Greatest Dad,’ as greatness in fatherhood is dependent on being the right father for your children (that being said, if there were an actual contest, as long as there weren’t any super-dangerous events in it, I would register Will, and he would win).
Will is not the world’s greatest dad. He’s not even a super dad. He’s just Will, being a father to our children. He’s an adult, who loves his family, and who takes care of his children. He’s good at it, of course. But he’s what all dad’s should be – involved in his children’s lives.
A few weeks ago I was speaking with a colleague who has a six month old baby. He told me he was tired because he had spent the whole day babysitting. I said no, not if it’s your kid, then it’s not babysitting, it’s parenting. And he laughed and said no, he calls it babysitting because his wife is a stay-at-home-mom. I chose not to punch him in the face, even though I wanted to, and told him how offensive Will thinks it is to be called a babysitter when he is dealing with his own children. I think the point was lost on my colleague though – I think he honestly believes that because he works outside of the house for 40+ hours per week, he is under no obligation to participate in child-rearing. Yet I guarantee that his wife is on facebook today posting about how he’s a great dad.
Last night there was an article in our local paper about dad’s who ‘go above and beyond’ for their kids. Of the nine men profiled, exactly one would qualify for that description, and that would be the one who (with his wife) had adopted several disabled children and was raising them with love and dignity. Adopting children who were considered un-adoptable really can be considered going above and beyond one’s fatherly responsibilities, because that dad had a choice.
The other fathers in the article? Ha. I read excerpts to Will and he nearly exploded with rage/annoyance. “That’s not going above and beyond!” he shouted “That’s baseline! That’s called being a father! What’s wrong with these people?” He was reacting poorly to the woman who bragged about how her husband even wore their baby in a carrier to the grocery store, and loved playing with the boy. He was referring to the proud mom who explained that she and her husband both worked full time, and sometimes, if he got home before her, he would even make dinner! Can you imagine? A full grown adult male who can cook a meal instead of lying around on the couch waiting for someone to do it for him? All the men in the article were like that, receiving accolades for things like ‘enjoying playing with their kids’ or ‘preparing meals while [the wife] was pregnant and sick’ or ‘takes pictures of the baby all the time and shares them on facebook!’
Is that really all it takes to be a good dad? As Will says, no, that’s the baseline. If you are a father, you should be taking care of your children. That’s the default. When your kid needs you, you are there for them. If you are in a relationship with the other parent, you should be sharing parental duties (single parents, I know it’s different, when you have the child you are doing everything). Everything shouldn’t default to the mother.
We honor our nation’s fathers today, and that’s a good thing. It’s good to take a day and say “Papa, I appreciate all that you do for me. Thank you. I love you.” We don’t say that enough. But we shouldn’t be acting like a man who spends time with his kids is deserving of special honors for doing what he should be doing anyway.
Fathers are important. I couldn’t do this parenting thing without Will. I love him. He is a wonderful father, but, as he says, he’s doing the baseline. He doesn’t need me to gush over how amazing it is that he put Mellow down for her nap today, or he dealt with Wildling while I slept in this morning. He doesn’t feel he deserves to be lauded for caring for his own children. That’s his job. He’s a father.
(but just so you know, I did buy him some Father’s Day beer and Wildling made him a card that says “Hape fothers Dey” and a beaded necklace that he proudly wore all day)