Family / Parenting

Dads – They’re Not Just for Babysitting Anymore

Photo: Robert Shaffron

Photo: Robert Shaffron

Lately, there’s been a lot of rhetoric flying around about “second class citizens.” (As opposed to “second grade citizens,” in which case I totally qualify.) Thing is, I’m never quite sure who the second-class-citizens-of-the-month are. African Americans? Gay People? Trans people? The Lactose-intolerant?

Okay, you wanna know who the real second-class citizens are? Dads, that’s who. We’re Pepsi, not Coke. We’re Burger King, not McDonald’s. If there were an award for Dads (which there most certainly is not) we would be in the “Supporting Actor” category. And in my house, we got two of ‘em. Which makes us, like, fourth-class citizens. ‘Cuz, you know, it’s all about moms.

Years ago, when my son was a baby, I was in Sears (you don’t have to go telling everybody where I shop, okay?) with my kid, and as I was making my purchase, the cashier looked at the baby, cootchie-cooed a little, and then turned to me and said, “Babysitting?” And I sort of looked at her like she had just asked me if I wanted my receipt in Sanskrit. No idea whatsoever what she was talking about. Baffled, I simply responded, “No. I’m his father.” At which point she gave me the Sanskrit Receipt look right back. And it wasn’t until I was leaving the store, after double-checking that I still had the baby, that it hit me like a great big kick in the (your favorite anatomical part here.) It was a little joke that a dad was so inessential to his child’s day-to-day life that when the kid was in his care, it was as though he was “babysitting.”

Want another one? Tough, you’re getting it anyway. Now, I don’t mean to seem ungrateful to any of our friends, neighbors, relatives or those people whom I’ve never met in my entire life but who have somehow mysteriously ended up as Facebook friends, but every now and again, someone will commend us on “what a good job you guys are doing” with our kids. As though the general consensus was that as two men, we would naturally be the Laurel and Hardy of the parenting class, and they’re simply amazed that our children’s airways remain unblocked, and we haven’t lost them at Costco (please see retail disclaimer above). Come on. You’d never reassure a mother that she was doing a good job with her children. Unless she and her children happened to be putting up drywall at the time.

And then there was that Christmas when the whole extended family was gathered at our house (where we actually managed to get our boys dressed and fed and everything, all by ourselves!) and the kids were running barefoot up and down the stairs, and my sister-in-law, the one with the two frighteningly obedient children – she scares the hell out of me, too – bellowed, “Put some socks on those children!” You could hear the bones crackle as our necks snapped around to face her, and she sort of walked it back with a not-really-apologetic, “It’s a mom thing.” And suddenly, in a blinding flash of light, the truth revealed itself to me. All these years, we had been DOING IT WRONG!

But then, my mind wandered back to my own childhood, featuring my heterosexual married republican opposite-sex parents, and I realized in that moment…SO DID THEY!

And some kinda way, our boys, the ones on the honor roll at school, and on the winning soccer team, the ones with more friends than I can count, and the stacks of awards and certificates…the ones who kiss us and hug us and tell us they love us every time they leave the house, are managing to muddle through with just a pair of dads.

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9 Comments

  1. John Malinowski says:

    Like radio I low you can’t see my smile ear-to-ear, just know it is there.

  2. Deborah Goldstein says:

    But if you ever need some extra cash, I’d be happy to hire you for some babysitting hours. Just let me know!

  3. Robbie- you are still as funny as ever. Your family is beautiful and you sound like a great dad. Loved reading this.

  4. Okay, I was reading this, laughing and enjoying (as I always do with your writing), and also thinking: 1) “But people tell me T and I are doing a good job, and we’re two moms,” and 2) “Remember that one time T said she would be ‘babysitting’ while I went out with our two friends, and the friends assumed that ‘babysitting’ meant she would be taking care of their kid, when really what she meant was ‘I will be AT HOME, PARENTING MY TWO KIDS?'” It’s not just “the public” but even some parents who make the “babysitting joke” (and then end up with an extra kid for the night–T never made THAT mistake again).

    And then I read the “It’s a MOM thing” line, and I pretty much wanted to tackle and pummel the person who said it, on your behalf.

    It truly IS a “mom’s” world. (Now I have James Brown’s voice in my head.) And I hope articles like this will begin to change people’s assumptions about dads and parenting.

    • Actually, Cheryl, I’ve heard from a number of women that they get lots of unsolicited helpful parenting tips from all corners.
      As James Brown would say “please, please, please.” Thanks for the comments.
      Robert

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