The Zoey Blog: Something to chew on...What's a Dad? FINAL - COVER UNIVERSE EXPLORERS ORDER

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Something to chew on...What's a Dad?

Zo gets her eat on via Dad's well worn Rainbow flips.

This is where I get all controversial and kind of disrespectful...well, not really disrespectful but I thought that it sounded edgy and cool so I said it regardless of the obvious exaggeration. Sorry. I will however offend some people here and that's too damn bad. It's not really too damn bad, but whatever...

I'm a father. It's a statement that I can make with a fair amount of certainty since that's exactly what I am. It's also a statement that a simple addendum can make really super offensive. Like if I said, "I'm a father, and you can just suck it." See, that'd be fairly offensive, right? That's hardly the half of it...which is an absolutely stupid saying...What I'd like to say is that all of you people who discredit the role of a father in the nurturing of their child are, to be blunt, idiots. I'm tired of it, even if it is accidental or some not-so-silly subconscious thing...stop it. As a society we need to stop it. It's about the definitions, and ours are mostly all wrong, and they probably have been for a long, long time. It's handicapped us, as a society, for so long we don't ever stop to ponder their impact or stupidity. It's not just our definitions of father either, it's how we frame motherhood, citizenry, friendship, education, civil liberties, manhood, femininity, etc...endless etc...

Our definitions of these things are handed down from one generation to the next, like your big brothers faded old cords. They were worn out when we got them and we'll earn some of the new holes and patches, maybe even wear the wales right off of them so that they no longer even look like cords, but they are, or were. Our definitions have been similarly worn out. They were once brand new and somewhat proper looking, that's if cords are what you might call proper looking...I do. (I'm a proud member of the The Corduroy Appreciation Club so I take my corduroy seriously. That's right, this is a weighty analogy.) Our definitions are very much like those hand-me-down grey cords your brother spilled beer all over and made out with his first girlfriend in...and, I guess, out of.

Anyway, it's much more than time enough to re-evaluate how we define almost everything in the world, but in this particular, unsolicited, blog post, fatherhood. I'd like to say that there's been eleven or twelve different versions of the iPod and yet we can't redefine masculinity, but that skirts my point. The iPod got it right in the first place and Apple is just making it increasingly better and better to meet ever changing desires and demands, but even that first iPod was damn incredible. Our version of masculinity, of fatherhood, version 1.0 if you will, was in my occasionally humble opinion, skewed from the start. Not that much of a worry 'cause it was like a loooong, looong time ago but do we have to perpetuate it here and now? Argue if you like but oh-so many people are willing to do so, even if it is subconsciously. More often than not, it isn't.

Fatherhood has become the most difficult thing that I do. Without a blueprint it's not as Ikea-esque as some people might lead you to believe. It's more like building fine hand-crafted oaken Amish furniture with just some sandpaper, a Swiss Army knife and a wooden mallet. It's tough. Not physically so much, but emotionally, philosophically, and probably some other things that end in "ally." It's hard, and it should be, but what makes it harder still are the poor, if not entirely wrong, definitions of it.

I'm not a bumbling fool when it comes to my child. I'm not handicapped by my emotional distance and/or trepidation. I can change a diaper. I do bath my child. I can feed her and dress her and it's nowhere near a surprising feat for me to dress her well, thank you very much. I don't need your approval, input, or help. In fact, you make my life difficult when you do those things. I can parent just fine...and here's the kicker, the offensive ingredient...if you let me.

See, I think that sometimes women don't let us. I'll be the first to admit that as a woman, your job is ridiculously hard. You're kind of expected to be everything and all at once -- Mom, wife, earner, homemaker, daughter, friend -- and it's unfathomably hard. I also think that the generations previous have left quite a subconscious expectation of just what a mother and woman is and you've been trying to re-calibrate for most of your modern lives but one that persists. Given all of your titles, Mom, is the one that is the most important and the absolute last one anyone might want to criticize. Dads have almost the complete opposite. Wrestle the motherly responsibilities from a woman, even a successful, independent, and liberal thinking woman, and you're in trouble. I get that. As far as physical, and let's face it, emotional commitments are concerned you've got us beat...hands down, but let's be honest, you gotta chuck that into the mix of whatever recipe it is that is defining fatherhood. It's an ugly list of ingredients -- historical misrepresentation, poor examples, a confusing yet still demanding society, and lastly, the very nature of mothering. Find the assertion offensive or not, there are at the very least some pretty obvious flavors in that pot that smack of truth. Women have to be willing to let Dads be Dads and their own version, provided it's a good one, not Mom's version.

I'm a lucky guy. I've got a stellar partner in crime for this whole venture, June is unique in her approach to just letting this whole thing flow along. She does her best to be like the rocks in the stream, helping to shape the flow of the water rather than be the very propulsion of it. Our daughter is going to get somewhere regardless of any input from us, that's the nature of life. She's going somewhere, it's up to us to shape that journey as best as we can until she's ready to take the bulk of that responsibility for herself. June allows me to be the Dad that I want to be, that I'm incrementally ready to be, and that I want everyone to leave me alone while I slowly become. There are a lot of women out there, and I see you so don't admonish me for
recognizing the obvious, who don't allow their partners to be the Dads that they can be. It's more than changing diapers and dressing your child, there are emotional gates that need opening and welcome mats that need laying out. It's just as important that you do it for your partner as it is that you do it for yourself.

Maybe this wasn't controversial at all, and I don't know why I typed it all out here, putting myself way out on the limb where either it holds or snaps. Whatever reason why I know that in this household the definitions are rapidly changing and I couldn't be happier. I get to be the kind of Dad I see when I close my eyes and June gets that guy too. You know why? Because she invited him in.

My version of fatherhood is all wrapped up in a new definition of what a man really is (which is too long to get into here and now) and time invested, words and smiles and respect shared, independence fostered, and sincerity. Mix in some simple things like honesty and integrity and perhaps above all else accessibility and the uber-responsibility to act as an's all twisted up in that mess of awesomeness. Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to grab a coffee and watch the geese out on the lake with my wife and daughter. We'll catch up later and discuss this further. Enjoy your Sunday...Go Jets!


Blogger John Teeter said...

My version of fatherhood, is essentially the same as my prior (and ongoing) role: Humanhood.

Basically live by this rule: Live. Love. Laugh. (repeat as necessary)

January 24, 2010 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Awesome..except for the 'Go Jets' part. I think dads can do it all too, mine sure did. I think you are SUPER right about some moms not letting their partners be as involved, sad really. From what I can see/read you are a model for most. Great.

January 24, 2010 at 10:57 AM  

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