Every once in a while it happens. I’ll be alone grocery shopping with my kids or with them at a park and a well-meaning person will see me and comment on how I’m taking care of my children. “Of course, I am,” I want to shout. “I helped make them and now I help raise them.” But that kind of animated response is frowned upon in our enlightened society, so I simply smile and say, “Yes. I’m their dad and we’re out running errands/having fun/skydiving.” (Not really on that last one.)
After those moments, I think to myself, “Self, you have a blog. Use it to educate and illuminate those people in our world who think that a man has the parental skills of a single-celled organism.”
So, here goes. Here are the Top 5 Things Never to Say to an Involved Dad:
1). “It’s so nice to see you babysitting your kids.” Wow. Babysitting my kids? Is that even possible? Have I ceded all rights of parenting to my lovely wife? Does that imply that my wife is paying me to run around after these two rambunctious, food-dropping, crumb-creating, toy-breaking, furniture-destroying, clothes-ruining, back-breaking children? That’s a biggie on the insult list. I do not babysit my kids, for the record. I watch them. I spend time with them. I teach them and I parent them.
2). “Your wife must be so happy that you’re spending time with your kids.” I imagine that she is. She’s also happy that she married a man who is committed to being a full-time, hands-on partner in raising our children.
3). “Where’s your wife?” Having a much-needed and well-earned day off from raising our kids, I think. She knows that our children are safe with me.
4). “It’s so nice to see a dad take the kids out all by himself.” Yes, and I also fed them, dressed them and remembered each of their toys, snacks and cups. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.
5). “Don’t you work?” In fact, I do. I work at night after I get done the morning shift with my children. This question always throws me for a loop and makes my blood instantly boil. It’s as if a father’s sole role is to out working, earning money to pay for household expenses. I ponder telling them that there are some fathers who stay at home full-time raising their children while the mother works. But I think better of it because I don’t like to see people’s heads explode.
Conversely, there is one thing that you can always say when you see a father out alone with his kids. It’s this: “It’s great to see such an involved parent.” That statement does not break down along gender lines or diminish the work of one parent over another. It also is free of stereotypes. Forget mother and father. We are parents and we car about and are involved in the lives of our kids.