For a lot of dads, there is nothing at all like the difference between the days when you could go out with your buddies and have a pitcher of beer, some wings, scream at the big screen at the game and roast each other mercilessly and right now. We all miss those days.
In the “Before Times”™, the guys I hang around with used to enjoy Thursday nights – this was the weekly meeting of the Chicken and Porn Club™, or as one darling wife put it “Husband Day-care”™.
It was a perfect marriage of food fun and, for the guys, it was a night where the guys could get together and the wives knew exactly where we were. In fact this travelling circus made stops once a week at one poor unfortunate household. The wife would be ushered out of the door with a kiss and the guys, one by one, usually dropped off by their wives with a case of beer or some snacks, would congregate to talk shop, be entertained by sports, watch a flick or play a hand or six of cards.
Husband day care was a fitting name for this weekly get together – as the boys looked like kids being dropped off at school – substituting books for beer and instrument for a tray of snacks the sad face said it all – I will miss you and YES there will be a call from the Principal at the end of the day- you can count on THAT!
We were all without kids at that time and it was a good fun. But how times have changed – we are all dads now ( well some of us were dads before this all began) and the time we have to get together because of familial commitments is shorter and shorter and harder to plan even once a week.
Should it be so hard?
For whatever reason, I truly miss the “Before Times”™, when I was footloose and fancy free. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade K for the all the toys in the toy store, but there are some times when daddy has to get out and not have one more tea party and the xth cup of imaginary tea.
I have been taking to a small group of new(ish) dads about getting together for a beer and a chat on what it means to them about being a dad. These are for the most part, dads under the age of 40 with one child at least and in the case of a couple of them, at least one more on the way.
What does it mean to be a dad these days – is it something that as men we aspire to do or is it something we begrudgingly give in to because we compromise with our partners/wives because they want to have kids?
The psychological assessments aside, there are many reasons we have kids – for some it is accidental, for others it had the romance of a planned military strike and for others still it is because they want their homes to be filled with love and laughter every day of their lives.
So, what does it mean to be a dad?
It is more to me to be a dad than just being a person – it is about being a part of a little person’s life forever and ever and if that means it is getting up at 3 in the morning when I have to be at work for 8 in order to sing nursery rhymes in the dark over and over – then that is what I have to do.
If it is getting intimately acquainted with the finer points of bodily fluid clean-up at 0400 then sign me up soldier – I’m your guy.
But on the other side of the mechanical things that daddies do for their sweet wee ones is the fact the one day the little person is going to get up – walk across the room and for no other reason other than sheer will – they give you a hug and a kiss and say the three magical words “I love you “and for that I would move mountains and fight dragons until my dying breath.
To me being a dad is something you don’t enter into easily. In fact it took years of planning and preparation and taking about it before we decided to have kids. And to be honest it was still not a step I wanted to take. But it took some convincing and lots of talking about the good and the bad of having kids. I was not one who can be easily convinced that this was a good idea. I liked the “Before Times”™. I enjoyed the freedom of not being “burdened” by the possibility of having kids. I liked the fact that we could spontaneously go out and do things. With kids it is like planning an invasion. I liked the fact that we could turn around on a dime and go out to dinner on a whim. I liked the fact that if we wanted to get tipsy and sleep in in the morning, it was ok.
But with the addition of the little K into our lives things got well, as you all know, complicated. No longer could we sleep in even if we wanted to and now a days we are serenaded by singing and we are glad to rise to the voice of an angel, even if we only just got to bed only hours before.
Having a marriage and having kids is a sacrifice. It sounds cliché but it truly is just that. We sacrifice the fact that without some outside assistance, we will never have much alone time and the needs of a smaller person must be met before all other considerations. For me – that was one of the biggest adjustments to make.
I’ve written before about the jokes I used to make about kids. I don’t any more.
I even try to be interested in other people’s children, which is a 180 turn around since the “Before Times”™.
Getting back to the real question is what is it to be a dad? It is harder than defining what is a mother.
Dads are the odd ones out. We are important for the development of the child but we don’t have a lot of the emotional connections that make mothers “mom’. We are not the doting grandparents who are loved for their ability not to be mom and dad.
Being a dad meaning being in last place. It is humbling that way.
We are the lynchpin to the whole family and we are the strong figures that support and nurture and are the overall protectors but really our job is to fade into the background. Be there when needed. Take them out of the house. Play rough and tumble games. Get dirty from the lawn. Sneak ice-cream when mom is not looking and generally we are the ones who they love the most as kids build us up to be superman. We should be the person they come to when they really need to talk because we are safe, we love and we are protective.
In short dads are the ones who over time are the ones the children should be able to confide in because we are the protectors. And if you do your job right – they will.
The relationship between a dad and especially a daughter is very special. You are the framework that all men are to be judged by for the rest oft their lives. You are the yardstick – the measure.
Some people say little girls turn into their mothers and marry their dads. A dad’s job is to make sure that is the best thing they ever do.