If you are a dad, and you are reading this, then raise your virtual hand if you have ever heard the following statement, or one similar to it.
“Oh wow! A dad that actually helps take care of the kids and can do it on his own? You must be a superhero!”
Sadly, I have actually heard very similar statements online and in my normal life. That somehow, if you are a dad that is involved, shares in the care-giving responsibilities, can do it on your own, and especially, gasp, are the at-home parent, then you must be some kind of superhero. I’ve seen these same types of comments made on blogs, media articles, and so on. I’ve also seen other dads who try to carry themselves as a superhero for what they do. In my mind, the only superhero label for parents should go to single, military parents. But that’s probably just me.
Here is my issue with all of this: Dads are dads. Plain and simple. Even with everything that being a dad involves, we are no more no less. So it really grinds my gears to be said that I, being an involved at-home dad, am a superhero. By definition, I am anything but.
Maybe the only part of that definition that is close to being true is the “benevolent” part. As a dad, of course, we are well-meaning and kindly. That last part may very well depend on how the kids are acting on a given day. Aside from that, by definition, a dad cannot be a super hero. Sure, that is taking it by the strictest definition of the word, but allow me to continue.
There is nothing about my role as a dad that is superhuman. At its core, it is strictly human. Why? Because it is in my heart, in my soul, to do whatever is necessary to be sure that my kids are provided for, cared for, know that they are loved, being brought up the way I would like to see. That’s all in me, and there is nothing super about that. It doesn’t take super strength. It doesn’t take super vision or hearing. It takes you, being there, and being willing, come what may.
I think what may bother me the most about this is how it also seems to create a stigma that we have something greater to live up to. That we are never weak of will or heart. That we never feel defeated or at a loss for solutions. That we always have the right answers at the right time. Any dad can tell you this is never the case. If you are a dad and you are reading this, raise your virtual hand if you have ever cried out of frustration or anger, or ever been left completely bewildered because you didn’t have the answer.
We are not gods. We can’t heal and protect like we would like to. We can try, but there is always going to come a time where we aren’t going to be able to prevent bad things, or protect from harm, be it physical or mental. We can’t change the world on our own with the snap of our fingers. We can’t guarantee love other than our own, peace other than what we can keep in the home. We can’t heal sickness. As much as we wish we could, as much as our kids wish we could, we simply can’t. We are only human.
Sure, there are times we may feel like a superhero. Making unbelievable catches of falling objects, getting the barf bag in the right place at the right time, carrying child in one arm and 7 grocery bags in the other. Our kids may also look at us like we are superheroes. Thinking we are larger than life by doing all these awesome things that, when they become adults, they find out, really aren’t all that awesome.
It’s great that positive portrayal of the modern father is starting to be portrayed, and that we’re moving past stereotypes. But in many ways, there is another stereotype hurdle being built in the process. By the media, by mom bloggers and dad bloggers alike, this hurdle is rising higher and higher. As I said before, we are only dads. We are only human beings. There is only so high we can jump before we catch that hurdle and come crashing down.
My suggestion: Portray fathers for the people and human beings that they are. We are fallible. We feel emotion that is not always possible. We can feel pain, sadness, and anger. Realize that a dad being involved, being a caregiver, or even being the at-home parent, does not make us something superhuman. It just means that we are doing what we think, know, and feel is best for our families and children. At the root of it all, isn’t that what all good parents want? And dads? Don’t make yourself seem as though what you do is such a feat of superhuman proportions. It’s only a feat of good parenting, having the right heart and soul to step up and be what a dad should be.
We’re not superheroes and we’re not gods. Dads are dads. Because that’s the job.