From one dad to another — Second Audio Version

Audio currently unavilable.  Reposting to come.

Browse a bookstore on parenting, and you’ll see that advice books for moms out number books for dads 50 to 1.  If you read a parenting magazine, you’ll find it geared entirely to the female partner in parenting.  All the pronouns are she unless the tale is told in first person by a father, and those anecdotes are frequently included to show women how incompetent dads can be, serving toaster waffles to the kids for dinner when the wife has to go out of town for a business trip.  It’s as if dads don’t exist, or somebody thinks we know what to do.  When it comes to being a dad, most of us learn from our own dads. 

But once my father told me he never changed a diaper, I realized 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.  After all, I’m no worse for wear.  But as times have changed, perspectives of how a dad behaves and responds to his children have too.   

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.   

As she grabbed a thin piece of cardboard and started tracing, 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 said.   

After dinner, my daughter nearly poked me in the eye with the pipe cleaners that were to hold this wee crown in place, and my wife insisted on putting polka dots on despite 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 as I did after discovering my son up in his bedroom,  lights ablaze, with what appeared to be every toy in the house scattered on the floor nearly two hours after he was tucked in and told in no uncertain terms that it was bedtime and he was to “stay in bed.”   

How would Dad have handled the frustration of suddenly 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?”   

Followed by the standard response from a 3 year old, “I don’t know.”   

Discovering then that the 3 year old, who 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 flush nearly half a roll of toilet paper.

Fifteen minutes later, Dad called, heard the story and laughed, and asked with a smile in his voice, if everyone was still alive.  He erased the doubt and reminded me of everything he did do.    

He taught my brothers and I responsibility and integrity.  He encouraged us to do our best, and led by example, graduating at the top of his class from law school despite having a family and a job.  He took us fishing, and while he rolled his eyes when I preferred to throw rocks instead of fish, he didn’t stop taking me.  He took us to movies when Mom needed a few hours to herself.  He tried to get us to do new things and challenged us to participate in life rather than just stand idly and watch from the sidelines.  He took my brothers and I, and often our friends whose fathers were perhaps less active, sledding every winter even after he nearly broke his nose performing a particularly nasty jump. 

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

But, he drove me to the hospital in the 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 emergency room, though the sight of blood makes him pass out.  After I was sewn back together, we went to get donuts.  And I got to pick. 

There were certainly no parenting books or magazines geared for dads as my dad tried to figure it all out.  Instead, 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.

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2 Responses to “From one dad to another — Second Audio Version”

  1. Mel Says:

    Beautiful prose, really enjoyed the thoughts and wonder if nowadays more is expected of dads and so maybe as parents we, as a team, are evolving to better caretakers. This hopefully will give our children the foresight to be better parents and evolve even further than we have. That is my hope for my own sons!

  2. Theresa Says:

    Really nice rewrite. I like that you mention that fathers seem to be the forgotten parent as far as books and magazines are concerned. Maybe it is time for fathers to write to these magazines and remind them that fathers are much more involved with their children than in the past and need to be represented.

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