Last week, I’m sure all of you read my post celebrating 25 amazing daddies. I’m also sure the post warmed your heart and gave you hope for all MANkind, right?
Well, not so fast.
Before I get started on my rant, let me give you some background.
A few months ago, my wife and my two sisters in-law went to Vegas for a girls only trip and the boys were left behind to watch the kids. After giving it some thought, we decided to take our munchkins (all under the age of 4) to the Long Beach Aquarium to introduce them to the wonders of marine life.
Then something crazy happened.
People kept stopping us to say the following:
- “You guys are some of the most amazing dads I’ve ever seen!”
- “If only all dads could be like you guys.”
- “You guys make all men look bad.”
At the time, we all took the ego-boosting compliments and moved on.
However, after I published last week’s blog post, I went back and reflected on that day and had the following deep thought:
“What the hell is going on with our society?”
A bunch of dudes took their children to the Aquarium for some fun and exploration. So what? Do we really deserve credit for this? You would’ve thought we saved a pack of puppies from a burning building due to the level of props we received that day.
Using another example, my twin brother Shola went to Toys R Us last weekend to return a defective bicycle that he bought for his daughter’s birthday in late December. When he was walking in the parking lot with a bright purple bike, he was stopped by three different women who gushed over how he’s such an “amazing dad.”
It’s important that I’m clear on what I thought was a pretty obvious fact:
Taking your kids to the Aquarium doesn’t make any dude a great dad.
Returning a defective bike to a toy store doesn’t make any dude a great dad.
A cute dad? Maybe.
A great dad? No.
This madness has to stop.
The Incredibly Low Bar
Is this where we are as a society? Is the bar for being a “Great Dad” set a notch above “Deadbeat”? If so, that’s damn good news for deadbeats and lazy dads everywhere, because it takes minimal effort to achieve this status. Hell, just take 15 minutes out of your life to walk your kid around the block and have people tell you how great you are. When you get home, turn on your XBox for hours on end while you ignore your family in the process. If your wife is silly enough to give you any lip, just tell her that “Two strangers just told me how great of a dad I am! What’s your problem? Quit nagging me!”
See what I mean?
Chris Rock said something in one of his comedy routines that makes a lot of sense (paraphrasing):
“I can’t stand it when people expect praise for stuff they’re supposed to do. For example, when people say, ‘I ain’t never been to jail!’ What do you want, a cookie?! You’re not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherfucker!”
Walking with our kids, playing with our kids, learning with our kids, and embracing the responsibility as the primary male role-model in the lives of our kids is something that dads are supposed to do. In my mind, giving props to a man for taking his kids to the Aquarium or returning a broken bike to a store is no different than giving him props for staying out of jail.
The bar must be raised.
Bad Dads Know the Secret
Bad Dads are a lot of things, but they’re not stupid. They’re smart enough to recognize how to use this dynamic in their favor. Here are a couple of examples:
1) Showtime Dads: More often than not, these guys won’t lift a finger around the house unless it’s to eat a sandwich or use the remote control. However, whenever one of his wife’s friends stops by the house, or there’s a family gathering of some kind, the dude transforms into Superman. He’ll change every diaper, he’ll sing songs to his baby, he’ll play dress up with his daughter, he’ll wash dishes, and overall he’ll be the best guy ever. Once the guests leave the building, so does his Academy Award winning performance. He’s back to playing video games, surfing the net, and ignoring everyone in his family. When his wife complains to her friends about her husband’s lack of family involvement, they’ll respond by saying, “Are you kidding? He’s amazing! I see how involved he is with your kids and how he helps you around the house. You are SO lucky to have him. Stop complaining…you look really selfish and ungrateful right now.”
Don’t be fooled. Showtime Dads know exactly what they’re doing.
2) “It Could Be Worse” Dads: These guys are similar to the Showtime Dads in the sense that they don’t lift a finger around the house, but they don’t make any effort to put on an act when friends and family stop by. Instead, once you complain about him, he’ll say,
“You really need to stop whining. At least I…(insert one of the following)”
- Pay the bills
- Don’t beat you up
- Don’t sleep around with other women
- Don’t beat the kids up
- Change a diaper every now and then
- Don’t verbally abuse you or the kids
Again, as Chris Rock would say, nobody deserves props for shit we should (or shouldn’t) be doing innately. Like I said earlier, being a notch above a deadbeat shouldn’t win anyone any “Father of the Year” awards.
The bar must be raised.
It Doesn’t Work Both Ways
I would bet a paycheck that if our wives took our kids to the Aquarium that day without us, nobody would’ve stopped them to say that they’re the greatest moms ever. As a matter of fact, I doubt anyone would’ve said a word to them.
When I was driving home the other day and noticed a young mom with a double stroller struggling across the street with multiple bags of groceries, I didn’t see one person help her or say that she’s the best mom ever.
Mothers rarely receive ego-boosting words.
No strangers are taking pictures of them as if the sighting was as rare as seeing the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot in the same room (this happened to us).
No men are stopping them to say, “I wish all moms were like you ladies.”
Because moms are supposed to do these things.
Enough already. Just because a woman gives birth to a baby doesn’t mean that she should bear the weight of every parenting expectation while men skate by with the occasional diaper change.
The bar must be raised.
Last, But Not Least
So what about the DDW Nation I started last week? Do those guys deserve props?
Yes and no.
In the short term, they absolutely deserve props for showing the rest of the world (including me) how to be an epic dad.
In the long term, we need to get to the point where society views these behaviors as something dads are supposed to do. In other words, these men need to be viewed as the rule and not the exception. Currently, it’s the other way around, and that’s a problem as far as I’m concerned.
PLEASE understand something: I’m not saying that you shouldn’t thank your spouse for being thoughtful when it comes to you and your family.
- Thank your husband for cooking dinner if you’re exhausted.
- Thank your wife for taking over the nighttime routine with the kids if you have to work late at the office.
- Thank your husband for taking the kids to the park for the afternoon so you can have a few hours to regain your sanity.
- Thank your wife for knowing the exact words to say to calm your rambunctious children when you’re about to lose your patience.
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