Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why Are Our Expectations of Dads So Low?

Last weekend my wife was out of town. She had taken a much needed vacation with some friends to spend a weekend in San Francisco. While she was gone, I was on Dad Duty. On Friday, while the older kids were in school, I took my youngest out for waffles. Mostly because it was a good excuse to try the new Belgian waffle and french fry place that opened by our house (mini review: my two waffles were topped with cookie butter, sliced strawberries and vanilla bean ice cream. Hold me. Hold me and never let me go.)

While we were there I Instagramed the above photo, as a modern, hip, iOS loving Dad is want to do. When I posted the photo several of the comments were to the effect of "You are a great dad!" And to be clear, it was super nice of people to say that. And, for the record, I do think I am a great Dad. But why was going to breakfast with my daughter (something that my wife does frequently on any give day of the week I am sure) suddenly shoot me into the stratosphere of awesome dad-ness?

Another example: One summer when my boys were little we lived a couple of blocks away from a 7-11. I have a Diet Coke obsession and one day, I wanted a frosty beverage, as a modern, hip, thirsty Dad is want to do. So I loaded the boys into the double stroller and took the short walk to the 7-11 to get them Slurpees and to get me a drink. As we walked home from the store, beverages in hand, not one, not two but three people driving past leaned out of their car windows and yelled to me things to the effect of "You are a great Dad!!"

Basically, if you are a Dad and you don't beat your kids in public or feed them to lions, you are winning in the world's eyes. If a dad is on an outing with his kids, and all the kids seem to be living and not bleeding, we cheer them like they have exceeded our wildest dreams. Why do we have such low expectations of Dads? I have had Dad friends get free drinks at a restaurant, or free balloons, or compliments just because they were out with the kids without a wife present.

I guess maybe the question isn't why we are so easy on Dads, but why we are so hard on Moms. If a Dad is struggling to keep his kids under control at the grocery store, he's likely to get sympathetic comments, or offers to help. Because clearly he is totally helpless. But if a Mom is with her kids and they are acting up, she is much more likely to get the stink-eye from her fellow shoppers. What's wrong with that Mom? Why can't she keep her kids under control?

So maybe when we see a dad out eating waffles with melted chocolate on top of them we should think "That's a great Dad! Is that a melted chocolate bar on top of that waffle?! Where can I get one of those?" And when we see a Mom at the grocery store with her kids, unruly or not, we should think "What a great Mom. Grocery shopping sucks and she is trying to get it done with her kids in tow. And kids can be jerks sometimes." We're all in this together. Let's just cheer each other on, OK? Moms included.
But seriously, I took the kids to get haircuts and to go swimming while my wife was gone. I mean, I AM AWESOME!

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