We live in a world where being average just isn’t something you shoot for. That’s not to say that average people don’t exist, because let’s face it, most of us ARE average; and that’s ok. But, the topic of being average takes on a whole different meaning when you’re a parent.
I am the proud parent of a growing and learning toddler. Every day I look at this little carbon copy of me and my Wife and I can’t help but wonder what he’s “going to be” someday. I know I will eventually become like many parents, that will tell my son he can be whatever he wants when he grows up, and that he can be the best ever at it…however; that message will become more refined as he ages to instead sound something more like, “You have to work hard to be good at what you want to do, or you won’t achieve your goals.” And while I will never promote a life of mediocrity to my son, there will be one aspect of life, if he so chooses to experience, that I will teach him that being average is actually the best way to be the best…..and that’s fatherhood.
My Wife doesn’t like it when I downplay how good of a father I am to our son. But, when I say I’m average I’m not actually saying anything bad. Being well-versed in the art of self-deprecation, you would be hard-pressed to find a time where I give myself credit for anything, and much of that has to do with my upbringing, or lack thereof. But, fatherhood is not an area I would ever treat so lightly as to put myself down, because that would show my son that I don’t take my role seriously, and in turn don’t take our relationship seriously.
Over the last couple of decades there has been a great deal of criticism on how society has gone soft on kids; making them all feel like winners, and giving trophies or praise where it doesn’t belong. Well, what about parents? It feels like every time I get on social media I find a post of some parent doing what parents should be doing, like being awesome for their kids, only to see the comments section rife with comments from posters saying something to the effect of, This is what a Super Mom/Dad looks like or Greatest Mom/Dad ever!! When in reality, that’s what simply being a parent looks like.
Society as a whole shares just as much, if not more, of the blame for the continually skewed view of parental roles. Far too often we still see advertising perpetuate stereotypes of dads being the lesser option to moms. And while there has been a good deal of progress on this front, it still leaks over into every day encounters.
When my son was ready for his 18 month checkup, it fell to me to take him to his appointment. My Wife and I had gone to every milestone appointment together, as we both wanted to be there to ask questions and hear how our little guy was doing. Unfortunately, my Wife had work engagement that could not be missed, and this one time it was up to me to get all the info.
It crushed the Wife not being able to be there. She loaded me up with questions to ask (on top of my questions), but she knew I had it covered and would fill her in on all the details when she got home. There was never a doubt in her mind I could handle it, because as parents and partners we believe in each other. In fact, the idea that one parent would be seen as more the parent than the other never really crossed my mind until I checked us in for the appointment; that’s when a simple comment by the nurse took my role in my son’s life and took a metaphorical Ginsu Knife and diced it all up.
As we were walking down the hall to the examination room my son was doing his typical flirting with the ladies (He takes after his old man), that’s when the nurse asked me if my Wife would be joining us soon. I said, “No, mommy is busy today….” to where she cut me off and said, “Ooooohhh, someone’s playing daddy for the day I see.” The comment hit me like a sledge hammer. I responded, “No, I’m dad every day.” At this point the awkward silence set in as the nurse clearly realized the comment she just made hurt. To her credit she attempted to correct it by starting, “Oh, no, what I meant was, most dads don’t…..” and I in return cut her off with the reply, “Well, I’m not most dads. Ok?” We just left it there and went about our appointment.
I know she meant no malice in what she said, or with her follow-up, but it still hurt; even my Wife was offended when I told her the story later that night.
I really hope the nurse and I are both wrong in what we said. Her in attempting to say; that most dads don’t care to come to appointments for their children, let alone bring the kids by themselves, and me in my response that I am not like most dads. I hope that while there are those out there that fit that stereotype, that in actuality most dads do care, and that in turn, I am like most dads.
I’ll be honest, my Wife and I are awesome parents, but we would never look for superhero labels when it comes to taking care of our son; we’re doing what we’re supposed to do; what we want to do, and being the kind of parents we hoped we would be.
Many times, much like the nurse incident, when my Wife is away on business, people will make comments like, “You’re Super-Dad taking care of you son all on your own.” This kind of comment, while not intended that way, is both ridiculous and kind insulting. I’m no super hero people; I’m a dad.
Look, dads, I just want to talk to you for a second here…taking care of your kids; being a steady entity in their life; being involved in their upbringing and later in their activities is 100% awesome, but in no way are you “awesome” for doing so. Changing diapers and feeding kids their bottles doesn’t make you Super-Dad, just as taking on 100% of the load from time to time in no way makes you a superhero. It makes you Dad, and that is way better than being a superhero. If you read any comic or watch any movies, superheroes only show up when there is a crisis; but dad is there all the time.
I still believe that the numbers are on our side men. I still hold out hope that there are more dads that do all of the above things, which means the average is on our side, and in turn that makes us average. I do everything I listed above for my son, and my wife, and so much more. I don’t want any credit; I don’t desire a parade or anyone to boost my ego by telling me I’m Super Dad or the Best Dad in the World, because I know I’m an average dad…and damn proud of it.