One of my earliest childhood memories is of a burly, 6’4″ man sewing a red silk cherry tomato onto my ballet recital costume — a lime green “head of lettuce” tutu ensemble. I remember how ridiculous the tiny needle looked in his gigantic hand as he put careful, tiny stitches into the delicate fabric.
“Where’d you learn how to sew?” I asked my dad.
“The army,” he answered as my gaze fell on the rose-laced white sewing kit perched daintily by his side.
Back then, there was normally a much clearer delineation between the work that men and women, dads and moms, do. And a whole army of large, khaki-clothed men threading needles and mending tears (or sewing on silky appliqués, depending on the need) felt like a very revolutionary concept.
Nowadays, gender stereotypes are fading fast, although a video of a multitasking dad still goes viral, and Dove (the people who brought you the “Campaign for Real Beauty,” and “The Movement for Self-Esteem“) has now glommed onto men, talking about all the ways Dads care with their #RealDadMoments digital campaign.
I don’t mean to sound cynical, because I do think that finding ways to celebrate humanity is always a good thing, but I also don’t know that statistics thrown around by marketers (i.e., Dove states, “Three quarters of dads say they are responsible for their child’s emotional well-being, while only 20% of dads see this role reflected in media”) totally tell the true story.
My opinion is that we all bring our strengths and weaknesses to the table, and in the face of “being the parent,” we naturally gravitate to what we do best. And in many cases, dads are the best moms.
Take for example, bedtime rituals. My husband always has me by a solid nose in getting the children to go to bed. From the early Baby Bjorn days when he bragged about putting the kids in the “sleeper” hold (less wrestling then when I attempted, lemme tell ya), through to today, the man has a way of getting them to comply. No evil wizard tricks or hypnotherapy necessary; I just think the kids feel safe and protected… even when their paternal sentry dozes off right next to them.
He’s also way more forgiving when it comes to making swift decisions in the kids’ best interests. For example, the man is baseball/softball crazy, but there have been plenty of times when he’s quickly pulled the plug on a no-win situation. Put me in the same boat, and I’ll be debating the consequences, calling my friends for advice, and trying desperately to compromise for way too long.
Then in the “things kids really need most” department, both my dad and my husband have me beat by a mile in one really key category (and no, it’s not love, cuz we all got plenty to go around, and no it’s not cute shoes, because we like to corner the market on that note)…
It’s (drumroll please)…
(Were you annoyed at me dragging that one out so long? Not to gender stereotype but if you’re a lady, I’m not surprised.)
While I run around from dawn ’til dusk powered by a short fuse, my husband can come in after a long day and still sit for an hour with my kids and quiz them on whatever material they are learning, even if he doesn’t know the subject matter or only has a vague recollection.
And my dad can review the same freakin’ math problem over and over again, for hours and sometimes days. He quietly and calmly corrects the work, even as the kid makes the same careless mistake repeatedly. I know because he was my middle school savior, and it gives me endless satisfaction (not to mention relief) to see that he’s still got it when it comes to helping his grandchildren.
Put me in the same spot, and after the second or third repetitive mistake, I’m throwing books on the ground and pulling a Goodfellas/Joe Pesci-style outburst, including popping eyes and unfortunate language, until someone starts crying… and it’s usually me.
The ability to have an even-keeled response to something as dumbfounding and maddening as an algebraic equation is indeed admirable; but then there is the totally astonishingly sage approach to life that my father in particular espouses, and my spouse also lives by:
“There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m not gonna worry about it.”
Now that’s some kind of secret male sauce that I like to chug from the source whenever I’m in a bad way. As a female and a mom, I feel like I’m wired for worry, even though I recognize that it doesn’t get my anywhere besides on the fast bus to crazy town. The worst part is knowing that I’m never the only passenger; if everyone isn’t wailing in the seat next to me, then I know my work hasn’t been done.
The short and simple response of easily letting things go and moving right along, at least in my experience, is one thing dads do magnificently. And that’s not just a Band-Aid on a bad scrape; it’s actually the most emotionally healing way to treat any painful issue.
And those words, “there’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m not gonna worry,” has gotten me through a lot of tough moments in recent months — ironically enough, especially in situations I’ve been in with my dad. As we both age, things are shifting and life is trying hard to take its toll, but somehow I have this inner strength and confidence that as long as I put my head down and plow ahead, I know I will be able to handle whatever ass kicking deal comes my way… just as my dad raised me to.
So if you see me tagging some #realdad-mom-ents this Father’s Day, just know that my digital campaign is all about honoring dads for the awesome moms they often are.
Especially my own.
Now, for one of those ads that make you cry, I bring you Dove’s latest play for our heartstrings (and manly fragranced-purse strings, too) —
And as my dad always says to my husband this time ‘o year: From one mother to another — Happy Father’s Day!