Avoiding the Dad Stereotype

Mr. Mom (1983) Directed by Stan Dragoti Shown: Michael Keaton
Mr. Mom (1983) Directed by Stan Dragoti Shown: Michael Keaton

It’s been nearly seven years that I became a dad. Seven years and I’ve done the best I could to avoid being the bumbling dad stereotype on tv shows. You know the one. He pours orange juice in his coffee and puts sticks of butter in their lunchboxes. I’m the modern dad. I wore the baby. I carried his diapers in my back pocket and bottles in my backpack. (Blue bottle = formula. Red = White Russian.) I went to Mommy and Me. He's starting first grade and I've made it without knocking back the dad cause or erasing the gains my fellow dads have made. We changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family! I’ve carried the flag well I hope. Except for that one time. I was tired. It was early. He was just beginning to make recognizable sounds. I was just learning to ignore him. We were rushing out the door for daycare and I was knocking things off my before takeoff checklist. Never rush a checklist. I was calling out the items from memory and he was finding his voice. It was white noise to me but still distracting. Up until recently I was able to do my checklist in silence. He used to watch and listen. “How does this man do it all!” Now he wanted to participate and he was bad at it. Out the door and in the car. Checklist complete. I thought. Off we went. He made an excited noise and gesticulated. “Yeah yeah.” I said. Surely he was pointing out something he recognized from the endless rounds of flashcards. “I know. I know. Bus. Car. Dog. Cat. Great job man!” He gesticulated more. Made more fervent noises. “I got ya buddy. Kind of in a hurry here. That diaper situation was an unexpected diversion this morning. I know. I know. Bus or monkey or cloud or rocket ship. Great job!” Again with the pointing. “Yep. So smart. That is an elephant or a tiger or a dinosaur. Nailed it!” And this was how the ride to daycare went. And then we got there and I rushed him out of the carseat and into the school. And his teacher pointed and said to him. “But where are your shoes?” And he pointed and gesticulated and spoke pretty clearly. And I said, “Oh…. shoes!” And he repeated it in a sweet and a so very nonjudgmental voice. “Shoes.” He said. And I said, “Uh, Checklist complete?”

[Shrugs to the camera. Cue the laugh track.]

On Father's Day

Taken from my vantage point
Taken from my vantage point

I used to give lip service on Fathers Day. Cards were sent and thanks was given and the love was spread around as abundantly and efficiently as I could spread it. But I’m not sure I really meant it.

And then I became a Dad and realized that my life was no longer about me anymore and I began to appreciate the sacrifices my Father and Step Father accepted to raise me. They shaped the man and father that I am today.

My buddy offered a simple line of advice before I became a dad. He, having already tread into this new world said, “It’s no longer about us anymore.”

And it’s not.

The time I give to myself or my wife is the time between all the times when my son is my first priority. I remember that line on those rushed days when I look down to the smiling boy holding my hand and see that he’s well fed and bathed and smells good and is comfortable and relaxed and I’ve not eaten, rested or had my own visit to the ‘potty’ since he woke up.

Taken from my vantage point again. Luckily they sat down.
Taken from my vantage point again. Luckily they sat down.

I never realized what these men (along with the corresponding moms in the equation) gave up for me until I started counting the things I have given up for him. And my child is only 4!

I never realized what they gave me until I started seeing myself in my son. More importantly, I never realized what they gave me until I started seeing them in me.

And as parent, this happens more often now than ever before. The way I discipline, counsel and praise all have roots in my own childhood. When I’m complimented on how I interact with my son I think to my own childhood and give a silent thanks to my fathers. When I look at myself in the mirror after a long day of child raising I wonder how they handled it. Good music and a pop top beer?

I also look at myself though and wonder how old my son will be when he sees pictures of me from this era and questions my hairstyle or choice of glasses. Hopefully he'll say fondly, "Yep, that's my dad."

Yep, those are my dads. Happy Fathers Day.

Eight Years Ago We Wed - Since Then, I Became an Adult

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For years now (more than a decade of them) a friend and I have been playing the “who’s the first to become an adult game”. It started in college and was simply a game that would define the moment when you became a man. You entered adulthood when you bought frames for your posters or purchased a box spring for your mattress were common life changing events of the time. As we aged, those moments became more mature scenarios like drafting a will, buying life insurance or having your first hernia operation.

This summer when my wife and I took a trip abroad without our toddler I realized I had officially become a man. The moment I recognized I was helpless to the person whose life depended on me. Across the ocean and in capable hands he was safe and secure but still I appreciated at that moment what it means to have grown up.

Having someone depend on you and allowing yourself to feel absolutely responsible for their safety and security.

Eight years ago, I became a husband and was on the path to adulthood. Four years ago on a houseboat in Amsterdam eating some outstanding pastries during our “State of the Union” discussion we deliberated starting a family and my journey towards becoming a man grew a little more solid.

Now that I am fully committed to fatherhood I am complete and this self-realization would never have happened had it not been for my wife. Her giving me a family is the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. Even if the sacrifice is being convinced to grow up a little.

Thank you for helping me become the best person I can be.

Wedding CD
Wedding CD

[mp3-jplayer tracks="FEED:/music"]

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