It's Not Easy Being A Dad
Mimi sends loves and kisses to all the dads out there.
My husband owns a coffee mug that has a picture of a “daddy” critter resting wearily in his chair while little critters run around him. The writing says, “Being a father is aard vark.” Indeed.
Part of me says fatherhood is at least somewhat easier than it was before the Internet, if only because said Internet makes it so easy to help kid with projects. It is almost impossible today to assign a project for which there is no help on-line. Build a trebuchet? 557,000 results for trebuchet plans. A belching volcano? 644,000 hits. A scale model of the Washington Monument? Well, there, the number of hits is determined by what you want to build with (paper, Lego, etc.) and what scale, but it’s not unfair to ballpark it at 445,000 hits (conservatively). And for fathers who don’t have tools and wire around or who are all thumbs, there are kits for everything from that monument to clocks powered by potatoes. Piece of cake!
What makes (and has made) fatherhood difficult in the last 60 or so years is the advent of TV, movies, and other media that give so many mixed messages about what fatherhood should be. In the early days of television, it was a little more consistent. Fathers were smart, strong, firm but kind disciplinarians, and Knights in Shining Armor to their daughters. In other words, “father knew best.” Moms did most of the work, but daddies worked and were the court of final appeal, the last word, the Man.
Later, the message shifted—partly because of television shows; partly because of the advent of the Women’s Movement. But the media pandered (to some extent) to the “up with women—down with men” message—to everyone’s disadvantage. Suddenly father not only didn’t know best, he was pretty clueless about everything. A few bright lights crept through where the fathers and mothers both shone: The Bill Cosby Show showed not only a functional Black family, but also one with two professional parents who both did chores around the house and really parented.
Over this same time period, the question of who does what, has become more of a battlefield than a conversation. Despite the many men who do housework, cook, and are even stay-at-home-dads, statistics show that women still do most of the house work and child management. Too many times we hear that Mommy is “keeping the children,” “watching the kids,” or “staying home”; while, at the same time a daddy in the same circumstances is “babysitting.”
I’m sorry, Guys, this won’t wash. If they are your children, you are not—repeat, not—babysitting. You are parenting. If you have some nieces or nephews or neighbor children at the same time, you are officially babysitting them. But Mimi’s Rules say a person (male or female) cannot babysit children who refer to them as Mommy or Daddy. (Corollary to the Rule: Grandparents are babysitting their grandchildren unless the kiddos actually live in the grandparents’ home.)
In this same vein, dads don’t get a pass for letting the kids: run wild on their watch, trash the house, become sick eating chips and chocolate, or skip bedtime. If a 15-year old girl can get your kids to bed (clean), so can you. Yes, she’s being paid, but remember—you are the parent.
If TV has told us that dads are nincompoops, incapable of parenting their own children and unfit to do so, we need to change the channel. The concepts of family and of parenting have, indeed, changed. Just as there are single-mom households, today, we see a rise in single-dad families. Two moms or two dads aren’t unusual, either, and grandparents still become parents all over again to a new generation. That’s how things are. Blended families with dads and step-dads, moms and step-moms happen, too. These are all people doing the best they can to raise the next generation of Americans to be strong, intelligent, contributing individuals. They all deserve our support. Go, you!
Since this blog is brought to you by a daycare-Kindergarten- and pre-school and not an ice cream parlor, I will note that the women and men who work in daycare deserve a hat’s off for what they do so that two-paycheck families can function safely. The fact that more men are entering the daycare field is not just a comment on the economy; it is a comment on the fact that these men see raising the next generation as worthy and fulfilling work.
For anyone wondering, Mimi also has rules for Father’s Day giving.
Q: Who gets Father’s Day gifts?
Mimi’s Answer: Fathers. But everyone should buy his or her own dad a gift. Spouses should not be responsible for fathers-in-law.
Q: What about grandpas? Do grandchildren owe them gifts?
M’sA: Again, I think gifts from the grandchildren are just never inappropriate. But again, I will say that grandchildren should make their own gifts for Grandpa. Pictures are still good.
Q: Do mothers have to give their husbands (otherwise known as the daddies) gifts?
M’s A: Remember from the Mother’s Day Rules, that if your children are older and independent, Mom can give Dad a card and tell him what a good dad he was. Older, dependent children, living at home? If Dad is paying their freight and Mom is washing their clothes and cooking their meals—BOTH parents have a drink!
Q: What gifts are politically correct and safe? Is there a dollar limit?
M’s A: Unlike Mother’s Day giving, this may be a great time for a new tool or a digital something. I still like a “spoiling” gift that tells Dad you love and know him (although this may still be a tool—men are not like women in this regard). While no father wants his child/children to overspend on his behalf, Father’s Day is a great time to repay the $100 you own him (trust me, it will be a surprise) or repay him for the window you broke in 7th grade. A telephone call or a card with a heart-felt note is OK, too. Memory, acknowledgement—they are still what matter. Write Dad about a time you know he did something special for you and how much that still means. Or tell him how his parenting has influenced yours for the good.
Q: Can a dad give his children a nudge or a gift list?
M’s A: NO!
Q: Is it OK if we ask him to decide where to eat out, etc.?
M’sA: NO! And don’t ask Mom, either.
I hope that you have as wonderful a dad as I had, or as wonderful a dad as my children have.* They were and are truly jewels. Dads, like Moms, are trying really hard to seem like they know where they’re steering the ship (even on days when they don’t have a clue) because that’s what kids need to believe. Remember to thank Dad this Father’s Day for having a firm hand on the wheel.
*Mimi’s note: If you don’t think the world has changed, I give you this from my grammar checker. The sentence above, as I wrote it was: I hope that you have as wonderful a dad as I had, or as wonderful a dad as my children have. Grammar check wanted it to read: I hope that you have as wonderful a dad as I had, or as wonderful dads as my children have. My intent was to denote that my own father is no longer living, but my husband (the father of all three of my children) still is—I had—they have. Grammar check expects at least two daddies for my kids—maybe more! Nope! Happy Father’s Day, Mr. John!