Posted June 10, 2014
Shauna Niequist - Author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine
In the spirit of Father’s Day, this is what I want to say about dads: they’re not dumb. And I get a little protective and mad when we joke about that. When we perpetuate the stereotype that moms are the real parents, that dads don’t know the first thing about how to parent their kids, when we call it babysitting or Daddy Day Care, when we poke fun at how everything falls apart when Mom leaves, we’re dipping into a stereotype that very few dads are living.
The dads I know are involved, connected, up to their eyeballs in parenting. They do bathtime and doctor’s appointments, ponytails and dance recitals. They tailor their work schedules to go on field trips and take redeyes to be home for baseball games. They work from home, do preschool pick up, pack lunches, rock newborns in the middle of the night. They partner with their wives in the active, hard, magical, beautiful, messy work that is parenting.
So this Father’s Day, let’s stop pretending dads are lovable screw-ups who don’t know how to change diapers, and let’s celebrate how smart and hands-on and present so many great dads are.
Of all the things that I love about Aaron—and there are so many—right near the very top of that list is the fact that he’s a truly, truly extraordinary dad. I learn how to be a better parent by watching Aaron. We both work full time, and we build our schedules in such a way that we both get lots of time with them, alternating meetings and trips. When I’m away, there’s no seven page list of information that I have to leave, and there’s no fear that they won’t be cared for well. When they’re with Aaron, it’s not babysitting. It’s parenting of the very best kind.
Aaron makes memories, plays games, builds forts, takes bike rides. He tells stories, puts bandaids on scrapes, prays at bedtime. He does parent differently than I do. Of course he does. And frankly, I’m trying to be more like him as a parent, instead of trying to get him to be more like me. He’s messier, less structured, more adventurous, more risk-taking. I confess that I slip sometimes into parenting as administration–laundry-folding, grocery-buying, list-making. These days, I’m trying to be more like Aaron—more memory making and less multitasking.
I see our friend Matt when I’m dropping off Mac and he’s dropping off Elsa & Julius at our church’s little childcare program for kids of staff members. He’s got a diaper bag and a stroller, extra underwear for potty training, milk and bottles, a toddler and a baby. And he doesn’t miss a beat. He’s very much a partner in parenting those two darling kids.
Brian goes to dozens of gymnastics meets and dance recitals and breakfast dates, showing his three girls that what they love matters to him, that what they do matters to him. The way Andrew speaks to his son and daughter instills in them the same kindness his father instilled in him. I’m always taking notes when I’m around Andrew & his kids, just as I am when I’m around so many of the great dads in our community.
The dads I know don’t deserve the labels about being forgetful and incompetent. They deserve to be thanked and celebrated, and that’s what I want to do this Father’s Day.
Thank you, Aaron, for being an example to me for the kind of parent I want to be. Thanks for changing a million diapers, pouring milk into a million bowls of cereal, taking a million bike rides, telling a million bedtime stories. Thanks for being a truth-telling, memory-making, kitchen-dancing, baseball-tossing partner in parenting.
Aaron, I learn from you every day. Our boys are so incredibly blessed to have a dad like you.
And for my friends who are amazing dads—Chris and Blaine and Cameron and Bryson, Joe and Steve and Ryan and Colin and Billy and Mike and Jon and Matt and Brad and Austin and so many more—thanks for being great dads, for being so much more than the stereotypes, for being examples to both dads and moms of how to do this wild thing called parenting. I’m learning from you, and I’m thankful.
Happy Father’s Day.
To read more blog posts from Shauna visit: http://shaunaniequist.com/