Let Dads Be Dads

There are certain things we don’t do; things we can’t do; things we are no good at doing. We, moms, that is. Let’s be honest, we can’t be all things to our children. That’s where dads come in.

Luckily, many of my weaknesses in parenting are my husband’s strengths. Take the jungle gym or anything at the playground taller than me. In theory, I want my daughters to swing, leap and climb. I want them to learn that falling is part of life, as is getting back up.

Despite my wishes, I make excuses for why the kids can’t go on certain things at the playground or hurry us out as we conveniently run out of time. I blame my fear; my concern for their safety overtakes everything else. Thankfully, my husband has no such fear. When the girls are at the playground with him, they swing like monkeys, slide down poles, and race across rope bridges. And they are safe with him, no doubt. When they do fall, he is there to catch them or hold them while they cry. But they are also experiencing the adventure and courageousness I want for them.

Besides being a playground maverick, as a husband and father, the man has mad skills. He can distract my toddler in the middle of a morning meltdown so she forgets it entirely as she gets out the door to drop off. He can make my baby smile just by walking in the room. He can unpack a suitcase or pack up a house in record time. He shakes a mean cocktail and brews the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. Larry can fill out our tax returns. He can neaten up the house for company in no time. And that is just the short list.

Then there are the shortcomings of Dads. The main one: they are not Moms. They do things in their own time, their own way. The charming Lee Woodruff in her excellent book, Perfectly Imperfect, calls it “husband time.” When she was an overwhelmed new Mom, Woodruff’s husband calmed her down by asking her to make a list for him of items that needed doing. The only setback: she had to prepare herself for the fact that men have their own clocks and that such tasks will get done according to their timetables, not hers.

I remember coming through the door one Saturday after yoga class to find my girls in mismatched clothing, having consumed large amounts of sugary snacks and covered in sudsy bubbles they had been blowing in the house. I got in the shower annoyed, but after a moment remembered that they were giggling and having fun. Dads just have a different way of doing things. And I realized I needed to accept that as I focused on the bottom line: however he took care of them, he did, in fact, take care of them so I could go to yoga.

Kristin van Ogtrop, working mother of three, in her hilarious book, Just Let Me Lie Down, writes about vacillating between wanting to do everything herself and being furious that no one is helping her out. Kristin hits the nail on the head, as I think all Moms feel this at some point. The problem is if we want to do everything ourselves, guess what? We end up doing everything ourselves and there is no time for us. No yoga, no girls’ nights, no manicures, no magazine reading. Nothing. Result: we must ask our husbands to do things and share the burden. But there’s the trap: they don’t do them like we do, so we get annoyed. But what we really need is to be thankful for the help. And if we take a step back, we will even be thankful that they are different from us.

I once read that moms show a child how to make chocolate chip cookies and Dads show her how to dunk them in milk. Let’s be thankful for this division of labor and for the different sensibilities each offers. So as we celebrate the dads in our life this Father’s Day, take a minute to rejoice that they are what we are not. That they are not us; that they do things in their own way. Let dads be dads. Our kids are richer for it. And still swinging from the jungle gym.


Image via Flickr User Sarah Ross Photography