Archive for March 6th, 2008

Thanks Dad — Text for Audio piece

March 6, 2008

Once my father told me he never changed a diaper, I came to realize that any criticisms from either of my parents regarding how my brothers and I and our wives divide our jobs and raise our children do not hold as much water as they once did.  I recognized in that moment that any critiques my parents have, come from what they know – or knew — and their own experiences. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think they did a fine job.  I’m no worse for wear.  But as with other changes over time, expectations change.

For instance, last night, I got home and my oldest was making crowns.  She ran to me and gave me a hug and rushed back to the table and started searching through her box of crafts.  My wife asked, “What are you doing?” 

As she grabbed a new template, my daughter said, “We have to make Daddy one for the parade.”

“The parade?” I asked. 

“There will be a crown parade after dinner,” my wife informed me. 

Sure enough, after dinner, my daughter nearly poked me in the eye with the pipe cleaners that were to hold my wee crown in place on my head, and my wife insisted on putting polka dots on my crown even after my begging her to stop the indignity.  As I found myself being led in circles around the house, I said, “My father never would have done this.”

My father also would not have invited any of us to crawl into bed beside him after discovering one of us up in our bedroom with the lights on playing with what appeared to be every toy in the universe scattered on the floor nearly two hours after we were told in no uncertain terms that it was bedtime and we were to “stay in bed.”  Yes, that too happened in our home last night. 

Dad also would likely have experienced the same frustration of being on the phone with his dad and hearing a newly independent 3 year old crying out from the bathroom, “I’m done” because his arms are too short to wipe himself properly.  Only then to hear his wife exclaim, “What did you do?”  And the standard response from a 3 year old, “I don’t know.”  Apologizing then for ending the call and discovering that somehow the 3 year old got poop on the toilet seat, peed his pants, and had been feeding a stream of toilet paper into the toilet from the roll while he sat without once tearing it was about to attempt to flush nearly half a roll of toilet paper.  

Fifteen minutes later, my dad called back, with a smile in his voice, to make sure everyone was still alive.  Then I remembered everything Dad did do.  

He encouraged us to do our best.  He took us fishing and he took us to movies.  He tried to get us to do new things.  He took us, and more often than not our friends whose fathers were perhaps less active, sledding every winter even after he nearly broke his nose on a particularly nasty jump.

No, he would not have sewn lips back on to the stuffed fish that his child had managed to tear off.

He did, however, drive me to the hospital in the wee small hours of the morning after I’d fallen out of the top bunk and cut open my head.  He filled out the forms and held me in the waiting room even though the sight of blood tends to make him pass out.  After I was sewn up, he even took us to get donuts. 

He carefully weighed the advice his parents gave him and somehow knew when to listen and when to ignore.  So while Dad may not have changed diapers, he taught me what it means for a father to love his children.  And while the advice he and my mom give me now may not always be dead on, I hope my wife and I do as good a job raising our children as they did theirs.