Remember those public service announcements a few years back that showed a dad playing with his kid and then encouraged other dads to “take time to be a dad today”?
Cute as they were, I always hated those commercials. Even though I understood the reasoning behind it (addressing the high numbers of absent and deadbeat dads in the U.S.), I still hated the message, for two reasons:
- There were no equivalent “take time to be a mom today” ad campaigns because it’s just assumed that mom will take care of the kid the rest of the time once dad is done “being a dad today.” And…
- The message set the bar pretty low, in my opinion, and did a great disservice to all the fathers out there who are dads every hour of every day of every year.
Perhaps it’s because I grew up without a father myself but nothing irritates me more than watching society pat crappy fathers on the back because they did the bare minimum in terms of fatherhood. This is especially true now that I have a child myself and have watched my husband not only step up to the plate in terms of fatherhood, but knock it out of the park.
Ryan was the first one to change Riker’s diaper. He was the first one to give him a bath and file down his Freddy Krueger-like talons. When I needed a break from breastfeeding because of the pain, he fed him with his finger and a tiny tube attached to a syringe to encourage correct suckling.
He’s the one that puts Riker to bed every night. He’s the undisputed king of sucking that kid’s gigantic boogers out with the booger sucker thingy. He faces diaper blow outs with the bravery of a knight in King Arthur’s court. He’s walked miles around our house trying to calm an unappreciative and very loud Riker during the witching hour.
And perhaps most importantly of all, when he gets home from a long day of work, he immediately takes our son from my arms to give me a break so I can write or clean or finally shower or, if need be, just stare vacantly at the wall for awhile because my brain is oatmeal after getting up at 4 a.m. and taking care of a 3-month-old (who views napping in the crib as a special kind of torture) all day.
In fact, he’s so good about this last part that I actually feel slightly guilty that the poor guy gets no down time during the week. His response when I told him?
“Taking care of him is my job too. I helped make him.”
Yeah. Feel free to hate my guts, ladies.
Now you could easily dismiss this as simply Ryan being an anomaly. But over the years, I’ve watched several of my male friends and relatives turn into amazing dads. Dads that don’t just show up for the fun parts of parenthood but are there for the dirty, haz-mat suit should be required, parts too. Not to mention, all the men I’ve met over the years with older kids who were already amazing dads. Married, divorced, single, stay-at-home dads. It didn’t matter. Because what all these men had in common was that they didn’t need to take time to be a dad. Because they never took time off from being a dad.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a big problem in this country with men not being good fathers. Or even bothering to be fathers. There is.
But perhaps because of this problem, we tend to overlook the dads that need recognition the most. The guys who don’t just show up to the birthday party, but helped plan it. The guy who doesn’t just spend an hour on Saturday playing with Legos with his son, but spends all weekend building a giant Lego replica of the Death Star. The guy who volunteers to be chaperon for their daughter’s weeklong field trip to some awful campsite in the middle of nowhere.
Regardless of custody agreements, geographic location, work schedules, relationship with the mother or any other obstacle, these dads find a way to always be there for their children. And more importantly, let their children know, not just with words, but with deeds, that they will always be there for them.
So, fellas (especially you, Ryan), just know that someone, lowly and non-famous writer that she is, sees what you do and thinks you’re amazing for making the ordinary dad things you do extraordinary by simply thinking they are just ordinary.