Sorry, I should have said Happy Father’s Day! Ahem.
Somehow for me Father’s Day always brings to mind silent, overdressed Victorian children who only see their fathers sporadically, and only to perform well-behaved acts of paternally-approved childhood.
Anyway. Had DeWalt even invented Father’s Day by then?
Let’s Google it. Huh, it actually wasn’t created to sell power tools and lawn equipment. A woman who was raised by her dad after her mom died very young kicked Father’s Day off in 1910 after getting inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon at her church in 1909.
Guess I can’t blame capitalism for everything after all.
(Aside 1: for those readers who have been wondering whether my husband and I cancel out each other’s votes at the ballot box, the answer is a resounding no).
So yeah. Father’s Day may not have been invented to sell noisy home improvement aids, but you couldn’t tell that by looking at pretty much any mailer this month or by watching any TV commercials plastering the airwaves (for anyone who still watches TV commercials, that is).
Am I the only one who finds it a little strange that the way we’re encouraged to acknowledge Father’s Day is by giving things to our husbands that they couldn’t safely use around our kids?
The implicit synonym for Father in this model is handyman/yard guy. Thing is, I’m usually not calling the carpenter if our babysitter cancels at the last-minute.
(Aside 2: Who am I kidding. I’ve no idea who I’d call: we’ve never had a babysitter cancel at the last-minute because we never get babysitters. Because we are boring word nerd parents who sit at home shoving archaic literature into our children’s faces.
Parent 1: Quick, Ryan, what’s the first line of Moby Dick?
Ryan: [Looking at floor] Uh. Call me Ish-mail?
Parent 2: Come on. Waaay too easy. Ryan, recite “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.”)
(Aside 2.1: In case you haven’t noticed yet, my blogging style is as verbose as Dada’s, just a bit more distractible.)
Anyway, before Dada became a dada (and an at-home dada at that), I’d never paid much attention to the historiography of fatherhood: from Father as Judge of Appropriate Family Behavior to Father as Big Provider to Father as Tim Allen in Home Improvement.
Hence it was easy for me not to notice how little the role of dad had to do with the actual care of the children he’d sired.
(Aside 3: It’s very good Dada opted for his role because, let’s be honest, though I love my children more than anything, I’d probably be locked up in a sanitarium right now if I was the one who had been with them 24-7 since birth).
Even after Ryan burst his way onto the scene, I didn’t notice the father-as-handyman cultural trope right away — Dada loves him some power tools, after all, and we have the beautiful furniture and Dwell-esque remodeling jobs in our various homes to prove it.
No, when I started to notice how little regard we seemed, as a culture, to have for fathers actually parenting, was when I saw how Dada was subtly excluded by the at-home moms we’d encounter at play centers and playgrounds.
In Florida, there was a favorite playground near our house, and Dada took the Woog to it regularly.
He also took him to an indoor play center when the Florida heat was too intense to allow anyone outside for more than 30 minutes without collapsing.
It was an awesome play center, with two very cool moms who co-ran it, and who played indie music the parents liked rather than annoying children’s songs, and there was a group of at-home moms who regularly hung out there, talking with each other.
And they regularly disregarded Dada. Not in a “ick, go away” kind of way, just in a “wait, what’s that guy doing here? Where’s his wife? Isn’t it a weekday? Why isn’t he at work? Why is he here ruining our opportunity to rag on our husbands?” kind of way.
The owners finally got him an in of sorts with the moms by pointing out that he knew a ton about baby sleep. Then they would include him for the purposes of complaining about how tired they were because their LOs never slept, and they’d pump him for free advice on what to do about it.
When we’d go to mixed family parties, filled with grownups and kids of various ages, all mingling, Dada would regularly have guys approach him who he didn’t know to ask what he did.
When he told them about the at-home dad part, their eyes would kind of glaze over. Cue a few moments of awkward silence, before Dada would gamely fill it by asking them about what they did, and then discuss that for a while.
I thought maybe it was just a Florida thing, but Dada has reported this happening a couple of times in the Philly area.
(Aside 4: Not, fortunately, on our street, which has several other at-home dads, and where our neighbors are seriously the best thing that’s happened to our family since, well, possibly since we actually became a family.)
The reason I ramble on about all this is because when we first realized we were about to become parents, and we made the decision — at that point primarily for financial reasons — that Dada would stay home with the Woog, it never even dawned on us that anyone would judge.
It’s the 20teens, after all. Gender norms are fluid, right? As a culture, we recognize the work of parenting as hard work, so we can recognize that it is work just as much when a guy does it as when a woman does. Right?
Kinda. But kinda not. Dada busts his ass for our kids on the regular. His weekday routine is an exercise in cat herding.
Today, for instance, due to special circumstances he had to gear up Jack in the Ergo to navigate the preschooler-filled hallways of Ryan’s morning camp in order to shuttle the Woog to a special afternoon art camp that he really loves.
Keeping the mini bio-weapons away from an itty bitty adorable heart baby is harder than it sounds — and it already sounds hard. (It gets more so when the baby is as social as Jack is — he wants to touch all those sweet smiling petri dishes that are fawning all over him).
Is Dada doing this so he can get some more hours to himself in the afternoon? Nope. He spends most of that time schlepping Ryan from morning camp to art camp, getting back to put Jack down for his second nap, before getting ready to go get Ryan from art camp again.
Then, when he gets Ryan home, Jack’s usually awake. So it goes.
Maybe Dada’s secretly a tiger parent who wants to over-enroll our kids in every absurd activity he can find. If you’ve read this blog before, you can already guess the answer to that one.
Dada runs this rat race — even though it would be easier (and cheaper) to stick the Woog in an all-day Y camp — because Ryan has expressed a passion for art, and he loves the art camp.
And because Ryan is a bit behind in his fine motor skills — enough for it to be on an IEP for Kindergarten, actually — and working on them via something he loves is going to be a lot more effective than doing scissor drills at home with Mom and Dad.
And while it means Dada has less time to finish the awesome garden wall roof deck he’s building (sigh), we both realize that if Ryan doesn’t get plenty of physical activity in the morning first, he’s likely to flame out at art camp like a Roman candle.
He puts in the same effort for Jack — working with Jack’s PT, setting the Munch up with intricate supports for floor time in the living room so he can work on his physical development (which he’s behind on, due to all his time in hospital beds).
That’s just a sampling. The man has read a book by an occupational therapist, for the love of god. I’m gettin’ tired just typing that.
He does all this because he’s a damn good parent. Because he’s good at the actual care of his children.
And on top of it he manages all the bills and our finances, and renovates and maintains our home, and he finally agreed to blog about our nutty family (after being continuously pestered to do so).
It’s not all sunshine and unicorns, however. There have been a few skeptics regarding Dada’s role, if not how he performs it. Maybe even a hater or two.
If you add them to those who’ve merely displayed tepid neutrality on the matter, I’m afraid both groups combined probably outnumber those who have exhibited authentic admiration for what fatherhood looks like in our family.
In fairness to the non-fan club, have I always been as appreciative and cognizant of Dada’s contributions to our family as I would like to be? No.
As with most households, there’s more than enough around here for both of us to handle, and it’s usually a lot easier to notice all the ways you’re grinding yourself into gristle and ash than the ways your partner is.
Which is why I’ve come to accept that it’s a good thing there’s at least one day a year where all the obnoxious advertising reminds me to reflect a little bit on just how frigging lucky we are to heart dada.
And we do heart you, Dada. Happy Father’s Day. There, I said it for real this time.