I feel bad for dads sometimes. I mean, mostly I’m like, “I WISH I could go to a nice, quiet, air-conditioned office all day and talk to other adults and enjoy free deli platters in the conference room and then come home and play with the kids for 20 min. before bed and grab all the glory for being the ‘fun parent’!” (I know, I have issues.) But other times, I feel bad for the guys. There’s a whole other range of stresses that dads face.
And most of them don’t have the outlets to talk about it with their peers, like I do on the playground or online. (Although I tell my husband ALL the time he should start a blog. Or even guest-post more on mine. He’s a funny guy, and a darn good writer. Remember this post?)
Most moms I know feel intense pressure to do what’s best for their kids from Day One – natural birth, breastfeeding, homemade organic baby food, educational wooden toys, and don’t even get me started on working vs. stay-at-home moms. But dads, I’ve observed, deal in a different way. Overnight, it’s all about “providing for the family.” They start working longer hours, vying for promotions, looking at bigger houses in better school districts. (Related reading: “Happy Doesn’t Pay the Bills”)
My dad was visiting this past week, and it was both eye-opening and a little disheartening to hear him talk about his dad, and the kind of dad he thought he was to my brother and me growing up. People see themselves so differently than others do, don’t they? In general, I’d say we parents are all too hard on ourselves. We think we’re disappointing our families, making a mess of everything, ruining our kids for life.
But what we forget is that kids are resilient and also, self-centered. I certainly wasn’t thinking about my dad’s career when I was a kid. I wasn’t concerned about a bigger house and better schools. Living in faculty housing across from the college where he taught was awesome, as far as I was concerned. I have fond memories of the smell of the sun-warmed wooden siding in the summer, a best friend a few doors down, and exploring the gorgeous college grounds. Who needs a yard when you have an entire arboretum in which to run free?
While my dad may have been consumed with campus politics and tenure, I was discovering snapping turtles at the nature center, doing gymnastics, and taking topless swim lessons at the campus athletic center. I remember going out for donuts after church with my dad, cheering him on from the sidelines when he ran marathons, and having him read us Richard Scarry books at bedtime. I mostly remember that he was there.
That’s the most important part of being a dad, if you ask me. My husband works long hours trying to provide the best life possible for our family, but we do our best to ensure it’s not at the expense of time with our kids. He coaches their baseball team, takes them swimming, and tucks them in most nights. I love that my kids adore their dad. (It would be nice if I got SOME of his reflected glory, but it’s OK. Just call me Chopped Liver. No, really — I know my kids love us both.)
One thing I learned from my dad is that it’s not only OK for parents to be passionate about things besides their kids, but it’s a great example for your children. My dad is now retired from his college teaching job and has found a new calling in prison ministry, of all things. I think it’s great. He’s serving as a positive male role model for people who, mostly, didn’t have dads at all. That puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
On this Father’s Day weekend, I’d like to say thanks to all the hardworking dads out there. I’m being sincere, so I won’t even make a crack about laundry or opening a new ketchup before the old bottle’s used up. Happy Father’s Day, dads! We love you!
LAUGH O’ THE DAY: My friend’s son made a Father’s Day card at school. The kids were asked to fill in the blank: “What I will do because I love you…” I guess they were going for, “Let you sleep in, make your favorite breakfast, let you watch golf instead of whining to play the Wii…” Her son wrote: “Drink beer and drive fast.” LOL! Kids are awesome.