Give the Dads a Break
The title here is less a precursor to Fathers Day (which it is) and more a criticism of sorts.
I’ve gone on, being a Dad now for almost twenty years, and I’ve heard and seen all the criticisms. Yes, I’ll admit, we had our oldest child, Abbi, young. We’d been married a year, we probably weren’t ready, we even were more than a little freaked out. But still . . . we had her and there wasn’t anything going to change that. Fight parenthood or embrace it. Those really are your choices.
So I’ve quietly grumbled and raised my hackles privately for twenty years. Now, being my third year as a single father . . . I just felt I had to write something about this.
It’s time to give Dads a break!
I say this with the utmost and unequivocal respect and love for mothers of the world. No . . . I did not try to squeeze a small human being out of any orifice in my body. No . . . I did not become a human incubator, carry pounds and pounds in my stomach for nine months and did not have that joined heartbeat inside my body. When my wife carried my twin boys for 37 weeks (37 WEEKS!) and they were 7 pounds 6 ounces and 7 pounds 2 ounces, respectively, I told everyone I met that my wife was a saint. She was the bravest, most amazing woman to have accomplished that with very few problems. I loved her and she was amazing.
But this is about Dads . . . so here goes.
From almost the moment I became a Dad I noticed it. First it was acquaintances (not close friends) who would see me with a stroller, alone, on my day off and think there must be something wrong.
“Oh…is your wife sick?” Ummm…no. She was at school, for eight hours, learning to be a pharmacist.
“So…you have the baby all by yourself?!” Ummm…yes. I think I can manage without killing her.
The average Dad on a television sitcom is stupefied by dirty diapers. He’s got the stereotypical Bill Cosby confused stare of a Dad who had no clue what was going on. (If you’ve seen Bill Cosby: Himself, you know what I’m talking about) Television commercials show Dad making a complete disaster of the house: the kitchen covered in crap and pancake batter on the walls if they try to make breakfast. The plumbing messed up. The garbage bag falling apart or the wash all pink. All of it because, let’s face it, Dads just don’t know what they’re doing, right?
From the moment my first child was born I was a Dad. That’s fact and emotional connection. Abbi had horrible gastrointestinal problems as an infant. She was allergic to everything: formula; soy formula; Alimentum even made her throw up like a character from The Exorcist. When, as a 2-month-old baby, she had to have a GI scope, her mother couldn’t handle seeing the distress and hearing Abbi cry. So guess who had to be there for her? Her Mom suffered for her . . . I had to go up to her, so tiny she couldn’t go on the table, they laid her over a chair, and hold back tears as my newborn daughter screamed because they had to put a scope inside her. It tore me apart, but I had my hand on her back and knelt in front of her telling her I knew it was awful…but I loved her and it would be over soon.
I had to make her formula – a pre-digested dirty lemonade with iron drops, vegetable oil, powder and distilled water that smelled, looked and tasted god-awful. I made it, not my wife, because I wanted to do it.
I changed diapers. I woke up every two to three hours for feedings. When Hannah, my middle, was born she had RSV. My wife still could barely stand from the C-section healing and a post-op infection. Every hour I had to get up and give Hannah an albuterol treatment, change her, feed her, then try to catch an hour’s sleep. I did it, complained a lot, and did it some more. That’s what you do, you’re a Dad, you buck up and face the fact that you’re the only thing helping this tiny helpless person stay here on earth.
I made…nearly…every…meal for us. Even when my wife wasn’t working, I came home from work and made dinners.
When my wife passed away, when I was in trouble, guess who was there for me? My Dad. (My Mom, too, let’s face it, but it’s a fathers day post) He’s always been there when I needed him, and I never asked. He just was.
For the last three years I’ve done laundry and ruined only a couple items of clothing here and there. Let’s face it, your Mom ruined your favorite jeans or concert shirt once in awhile, too. NOBODY is perfect. I have cooked nearly every meal. I have made homemade treats nearly every day for the kids’ lunches. When they suffer I feel it. I – am – connected. I am involved.
Look, I understand. For so long we had such a dichotomy and an expectation that set a glass ceiling that still crushes women and Moms too far down. But in the process we set the expectation that Dad comes home, plops on the couch and watches Sport Center all night and barely registers the chaos around him.
Sure . . . that happens. But Dads, for the most part, love their kids. I guarantee it. Sure, there are those that are just stupid bastards and you know what? There will always be those. But it’s time we stopped thinking that the Dad walking with a stroller and a baby has no clue what he’s doing. Don’t think the kid’s tied in there correctly because Mom put her in before they left.
Dads can be loving, involved, and caring. They always have been. You just had to know where and how to look.