I think most women can attest to the fact that their babies’ daddy will always have a small part of them that is still a little boy. Am I right mommas? We see glimpses of it now and again with child’s play and practical jokes, like how they think it’s really funny to sneak in and scare the bejeebers out of us when we are in the shower. Or how they think they still have the same physical agility that they had when they were 15 years old out on the courts attempting a Michael Jordan style slam-dunk. I remember one year when my husband played in an adult flag football league. His team was comprised of forty some year old men playing against teams with guys in their 20s. I don’t even think they made it through the whole season because the majority of players had to pull out due to injury. They were big little boys out there just playing a game. It didn’t matter how old they were or how many kids of their own they had, that part of them was there, and always will be.
When it comes to raising children both parents have immense responsibility. Moms are amazing creatures in terms of caregiving, but as Father’s Day approaches it’s all about the dads. This is a hard world to be a dad in. Men with families have a lot on their shoulders. If they are the breadwinners they have a particularly heavy burden of making ends meet. Their identity is found in how well they provide for their families, much of which is determined by society standards. The world tells them that success is valued by a dollar amount. That it is buried in expensive activities, adventurous vacations, name brands, new toys, the best gadgets, not to mention healthy food on the table and a recently remodeled roof over their heads. It’s tough to be a dad who has to miss so much because a client needs paperwork, scheduling couldn’t be changed, overtime couldn’t be passed up, or business couldn’t be avoided. They can miss first words, first steps, first days of school, recitals, games, awards, and so many other moments they would love to be a part of. It’s life. Jobs and a means to make a living are just part of it.
In many cases dad’s leave in the morning, missing the bowls of fruit loops and the half a dozen times of instructions to put shoes on. They are gone during the day, left out of school pick ups and homework madness. They often times are not the “taxi” that drives to and from practices and after school activities with a car full of small voices laughing, crying, talking, and arguing. Some nights their chair at the dinner table is left empty and they miss out on their turn to talk about the day they had. If they are there they are tired after dealing with the trials and tribulations of the day, a mountain of work to finish a project, power tripping bosses, disgruntled customers, new sales, trauma, recovery, time lost, and time well spent. Their minds are elsewhere and somehow they need to find the energy to love on their wife and kids. They need to compartmentalize, to separate their work life from their family life. They must put aside the deadlines and to-do lists and make a switch to math tutor and bedtime storyteller. The vitality he needs, that might otherwise be impossible to grasp, ironically is found in the very place he left it that morning. He finds it in the little voices that call out his name, “daddy”, as soon as he comes through the door. It is in the hugs and smiles he is greeted with and the realization that he has a special place at home.
Society has no influence on a child’s love for their dad. Whatever they do at work has nothing on how high they can toss their son in the air or how fun they can make teeth brushing. Daddies have a special way of turning even the most mundane chore into a silly game or small adventure. Daddies love to play. Maybe it’s like an electrical current that recharges their internal batteries whenever they hear their children laugh or witness a look of wonder on their small faces. It’s how they keep going and why they do what they do day in and day out. Whether they love their jobs or not there are bound to be days when they would rather be somewhere else. There are times when they would rather not miss out on the winning goal their kid scored or the first time their baby discovered its belly button. The time dad’s get to spend with their kids is priceless and essential not only for the kids but for dads too. So this Father’s Day don’t just let your partner have a day off of work to be a dad. Let him have a day to be a kid. Let him play streetball out front or on the courts (Michael Jordan slam-dunking optional). Let him race shopping carts across the target parking lot, no matter who’s watching (even security). Let him have a water fight, blow bubbles, build sandcastles, laugh until he cries, and school his kids in a game of Uno (because you know he gets some strange satisfaction from beating his 10-year-old in a card game). Allow the little boy inside him to smile as he watches Finding Nemo with his little girl curled up next to him. Let him completely make up the words to the book he is reading at bedtime even though that drives you crazy (that’s not what the book says!).
His face will tell it all. So will theirs. Daddies if you are reading this I hope this Father’s Day you remember the light your kids see you in. You compare to none other. You are the strongest, bravest, smartest, silliest person they know. Simply by your actions of being you, you are teaching them life lessons every day on what love is. They see how hard you work, they adore the way you take the time to tuck the blankets all the way around their little bodies at night, and they can’t get enough of the tickle game only you play with them over, and over, and over again. There are days you may feel like you are failing, months that your family budget is too tight, weekends when you are so far behind you have to be at the office instead of the neighborhood barbecue, and nights when your babies are already asleep when you go to tuck them in. Take heart and know this…they don’t see what you consider to be your faults. What they see is the one who gives the best bear hugs, the one taught them how to swing a bat, and the one who’s chest makes the best spot for a nap. All they see is a big man before them, who not only knows how to work, but who knows how to play.