Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Foreign and Domestic Enemies of the Involved Dad

A lot of dads are involved and engaged with their kids.  That is awesome and of course, exactly as it should be.  What we didn't realize was that those good dads, the ones we love? Get their share of crap, too.This post came to us from the very Rob Kristoff, who you can read lots more from at: http://www.ourdaysarejustfilled.com/ and http://www.robkristoffwriting.blogspot.com/.


Let’s start with introductions, shall we? Once upon a time, not so long ago, really - I was a rather lonely, younger man. Life had its high points, but all-in-all, was pretty monotonous. Then I met a woman. My psychoses and baggage did all they could to drive her away, but she stuck around because of some vision she saw for us that I still can only see in quick glimpses. Also, I really did (and do) love her. I should mention that. We got married on the beach, moved all our stuff around to various domiciles a few times, and the most amazing thing happened: we acquired this little kid that looked and acted kinda like her, kinda like me, and mostly like herself. It was odd: we became deliriously happy, and also exhausted. And poorer. But we both agreed it was the happiest we’d ever been. So as I write this, I look back at that other guy, and I wish I could have told him this was coming.

Anyway, I find that while my daughter is my little lotus blossom and my sunshine, my only sunshine, who makes me happy when skies are grey (feels like rainbows should be involved in this image, somewhere- she’s a five-year-old girl. Probably some unicorns, too.), there are a few things about being a Dad that are the psychic equivalent of stones in my shoe. Here’s a few…
Parenting Magazines:
You know what? The title suggests its for PARENTS, not just moms. So how about this? When articles have titles like “Keeping Your Child Safe” and “How to Help Your Kid Learn”, why do you write things that show you assume only women are reading this? Are you serious? You know fathers can read, right? I have a degree in literature! And yes, that does help me appreciate that this is what women have been saying about inclusive language for decades. But this is excluding ME!

Children’s Lit:
I am getting pretty sick of even the best kids’ books starting like this: ‘There was a cute little _____, and he/she lived with its mother in an old hollow log.’ Whether they’re bats or owls, birds or raccoons, they always live a peaceful, cozy life with Mom. What the shell? I mean, it may be true with certain species, but since when were these books scientifically accurate? It is a nice surprise every now and then when cute little junior has a father at home. And that’s kind of a shame, isn’t it? That it’s a surprise?

The Divorce Thing:
Hey, guess what? I’m not divorced. This is my child and sometimes her Mom wants time to herself. Shocking, I know. I don’t have her ‘for the weekend’. Hey, I grew up without a father around. I respect those fathers doing stuff with their kids. However, it still is kind of insulting to me when you assume that if I go anywhere with my just me and the kid, it’s a part of my custody agreement. And also…

The Babysitting Thing:
Hey people who say this to fathers- do you have any idea how insulting this is to everyone involved? You’re asking me if I have to be forced to do stuff with my kid. You’re indirectly telling her that her father only spends time with her if he’s forced to. And let’s not even talk about what that could do to her self-esteem. And also, WHO ARE YOU? I don’t even know you and now you’re insulting me and my daughter? Mind your own business, why don’t you? Which leads finally to…

The Talkers:
Where did you get that red hair? What’s your name? How old are you? This one doesn’t really apply only to fathers, I realize that. But sometimes we’re the more protective and less relationshippy parent, so I’ll include this one for myself, since it’s a personal pet-peeve (that means it makes our cat mad, too). What on earth makes total strangers think that they can ask my child for personal information? And for some sort of family history, too? The part of this that I’m really amused and confused by is that then, said stranger tells me who in their family has hair that color, or that someone they know has a dog with the same name as my daughter. Hmm, how can I put this nicely? I don’t care. And my daughter is not a dog. Goodbye.

Now, don’t go away mad, they always say, and that seems wise. I do want to share a story that sums up those surprisingly cool things that also happen. Once, when we were visiting a bike shop that I frequented, my then two-year-old daughter saw one of those little ride-on giraffes made of wood. She hopped on and started riding. I quickly tried to get her off.

But the shop owner said, “Does she want that?” I replied as ingratiatingly as I could, “Sure, but she wants a lot of things!” You see, since our little miracle was born, we hadn’t really had money for bike parts, so I had sort of an ongoing guilt about looking around but never buying. “No,” he said, “I mean she can have it
- I was cleaning out my attic today and found it. Do you want it?” He’ll never know, but he made a little girl’s day that day, and that ‘Horsey Buk’, as she’s called it from then on, is now a family… well, if not heirloom, then a family friend.

But the cat and I still hate the Talkers. Oh, and one more image, because it makes me laugh. We watch lots of nature documentaries, as my daughter loves animals. The other day as we were doing this, she looked up at her mother and I and said, with a completely straight face: “I love when animals kill.”

I felt like I’d explode with love and pride...

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011


  1. RE: THE BABYSITTING THING... I can only say "AMEN" I've spent years pointing out the fathers don't babysit, they PARENT.

    You go, Dad!

  2. Terrific post! "I love when animals kill" is now my favorite new phrase.

    As a mom, I also hate it when parenting magazines direct the articles toward moms. Not only does it disregard dad's roles in their kids' lives, but it also seems to imply that mom is expected to do all the parenting!

    You rock, Rob!

  3. My husband is a SAHD and he's the one that drops our daughter off at MOTHER'S morning out. Yes, it's still called that.

  4. If your daughter is a redhead she needs to get used to those questions! I still get them at 30 but now they start with "is that your natural colour?" - rude.

  5. He has just addressed some of my biggest pet peeves (and, ironically, those of my cats as well)! Oh yeah, and my husband. He's a stay-at-home-dad and I think it odd that he's looked upon as a circus side-show freak when he's out and about with her. And forget about Gymboree - all the mothers LOVE him because, well, he's a dad taking care of his daughter and isn't that just the most amazing thing ever?

  6. This post is just awesome. Perfectly done.

    “I love when animals kill.” Just magic.

  7. Your post was lovely. However, you are in a frightening minority and I'm totally jealous and sad for myself right now. My daughter's father does have to be forced to have her on the weekends (when he's not too busy with his new family) but my daughter's self esteem is just fine because she knows her father's a jerk and it has nothing to do with her. Just wondering, you don't have a single twin brother, do you?

  8. Four out of five of my kids (ages 8 and under) are redheads. The baby is a blonde. Strangers ask me all the time where they get their red hair. I've started replying, "Clairol #753." Some people laugh, and take the hint. Others have actually asked, "Really??" Once those questions have been answered, the extremely nosy passerby will then ask, "Does he not have the same dad??"
    EXCUSE ME?? People can be so rude.

    And way to go on the babysitting! You sound like an awesome Dad. Keep being a good example for those who aren't as cool as you!

  9. Most people are nosy, true, but they are also *trying* to be friendly. We as a whole have become so suspicious of others, that every smile and question is perceived as some sort of threat. It's sad that when some stranger is attempting to be nice, they are seen as crazy.

    Unfortunately, nowadays, no one knows how to be nice-but-non-intrusive, so of course strangers come off as rude. Couple that with some annoyance a Dad (or Mom) may already be feeling, then the stranger asking questions seems downright creepy. It's probably best to be as polite as possible in return, and choose to answer only questions you feel comfortable with--or just say "Thank you for your questions. It's nice to meet you, but we really have to hurry along now. Have a good day!"

  10. My husband is an involved dad (and an amazing one). For example, he takes them to Chuck E. Cheese on the weekends because he knows I would rather shove an icepick in my ear than go to that black hole of despair. He runs errands with them, he coaches their teams, and he knows their daily routine - all because he loves it and he loves our two boys. I will definitely be sharing this with him. Thanks!

  11. You rock! I wish there were more men like you, and less like my ex husband. I had to explain to him that him spending time with his own children was NOT babysitting, or doing me a favor.
    One might consider that me spending alone time with them was babysitting and doing him a favor as they were my stepkids.
    Don't get me wrong, I love them dearly, spending time with them was a joy, he is long gone but they are still part of my life, but his "Why do you want me to babysit All The TIME?" comment still makes flames shoot from my eyes a decade later.

    So on behalf of mom everywhere, we love you. And we want you to start a bootcamp for the oblivious dads, because every kid should have a Dad like you.

  12. Amen! I'm sure sometimes people are just trying to be friendly but they should really think about what they're asking. Two of my kids wear hearing aids. I get a lot of people who ask what they are and follow up with, " oh do they have hearing loss?" I usually just say, " oh no, I just let them wear them for fun." I mean seriously, is there another reason for wearing a hearing aid? Then comes the bajillion questions about whether or not it's genetic and do I plan to have more kids and who else in our family has hearing loss...how about people try saying something like, "those are some cool purple hearing aids," or "I love your red hair!" then maybe our kids would just smile and say thanks and feel kinda special. Instead of feeling like a science project.

  13. gotta agree with "The Talkers".. when my daughter was little I started dying my hair red tones just to shut up all those people that would say "Well look at you! Where did you get all that pretty red hair from?! Does her dad have red hair? No? Are you sure she doesn't belong to the mail man!? hahahaa" I wanted to kick an old lady in the face when she said that.. there were seriously probably 15 people who said that to me in 3 months and I nearly smacked every one of them! for YEARS I dyed my hair anything from strawberry blonde to auburn as long as it had reddish tones in it.. and the first time I went golden blonde it started all over.. SIGH lol

  14. Awesome point of view! A real eye opener. I promise never to be a talker again or say babysitting to a father. Wow, Thanks for educating us!

  15. I loved this post!! My husband has daddy-daughter-dates with our girls and frequently people think he is a fun uncle or "babysitting" or "where is her mom?" He does all the field trips at school due to his awesome schedule at work. He is normally the only dad there, he just doesn't talk to the moms (except of course my favorite drinking buddy who has landed herself pregnant - he gets a lot of mileage out of giving her a hard time. Everyone else is just judgmental and can't figure out why MOMMY can't make it...umm because she has a JOB with little-to-no flexibility - I'm pulling my weight as a DAD, a PARTNER and a classroom-PARENT! Oh, I was happy to help out...jerks

  16. I happen to love "the talkers." The world is such a friendly place when you are out and about with a small child. People who stop to speak with a small child and her parent might well be quite lonely, they might enjoy remembering when their own kids were young, they might never have had kids but always wished they did. Hair and names and things like that are small talk, a way to connect. "Where does she get that red hair?" is not code for anything, it's just casual conversation. I guess I'd be more worried about modeling anger and paranoia to my child than the motives of friendly people at the park. Relax, enjoy your time with your daughter. Eventually, she'll be grown and people will happily go back to ignoring you!

  17. oh the same name as my dog. once my boss said this to a customer (whose baby had a sort of obscure, lovely name) the exchange was priceless to watch from an uninvolved perspective.

  18. Awesome post from what sounds like one awesome Dad!!!

  19. This is simply fantastic. I hate the babysitting question and so does my husband (and my three cats). He'll love reading this.

    Have you read the Knuffle Bunny books by Mo Willems? They actually feature a real live dad who does things with his daughter. It's amazing! :)

  20. Great post! I count myself lucky to have a husband who is also a very active Dad. I've never actually thought about this before! He likely is assumed to be a single Dad when I'm not along. Its sad that active Dads are such a minority that this assumption is so common.

  21. I have to agree with the two Anonymous posters (I wish there was some other way to identify ourselves!!!) who suggest you might want to lighten up about the talkers...I'm a talker. I love when people show a polite interest in my kids. It's like meeting someone at a party and asking about the weather, but you don't usually talk to kids about the weather, you talk about something concrete that they can identify with, like hair color, or the pretty shirt she (or he) is wearing.

    I actually encourage my children to talk to strangers. It has become a lost skill in our computer savvy society. In our family, it is OK to talk to strangers, but NOT OK to go off with a stranger. I make that point clear on a regular basis, and keep a sharp eye on my kids. If you don't want to chat with a person who is trying to be friendly, like one of the other posters on here said, a simple thanks, nice chatting, must be off! is more than sufficient. Often the person you who is trying to engage you in conversation is an older person who is lonely and in need of a little human contact. You might be in that place some day!

    OK, done lecturing, Loved the rest of your post! Oh, and Caillou, (on Sprout) has VERY involved parents and grandparents, if you are looking for another source of a healthy guiding family.


  22. While your post was amusingly written, I also am in the same camp as the commenters who think you are taking offense too easily. I imagine if you asked the editors of the parenting magazines what their target demographic is, they would say something like, women ages 25-40. That's because the majority of men who are fathers are not the purchasers of this type of reading material. Nor are they the ones borrowing parenting and pregnancy books from the library. As for the talkers, I suppose you can take the questions as nosy and rude, but really these people are just trying to be friendly and show that they think you have a lovely child. Not everyone is as diplomatic as they might be, but mostly they have good intentions!

  23. Great article! I do feel the need to remind people when I go away for a day or two that daddy will not be "watching the kids," he'll just be daddy. I'm a kid talker too. Thanks for reminding me to be careful with what I say.

  24. To the anonymous commenter who has kids who wear hearing aids: I'm a young grown up (25) and I wear hearing aids too! I have awesome transparent BTEs and when I see kids with hearing aids, we chat about the colors.
    Also, I have actually had two people on separate occasions ask if I have hearing loss and then say, "Well, you don't LOOK deaf!"
    WTF? Is that a comement? Does anybody look deaf? Is it because I'm not chatting in ASL because I know ALS and can sign if that would make me seem more deaf?
    I alway want to reply, "well you don't LOOK ignorant!"

  25. My husband is a full-time college student/SAHD and I loved this post! He is an amazing father and I can't wait to show him this. He takes our kids everywhere and I wonder if he gets those same looks...

  26. I *hate* when people give me the babysitting comment. Its called parenting people! I have a redhead too and people always ask where he gets it from. One day he asked me why people make such a big deal about his hair. 8 year old boys just don't understand things like that.

  27. Being a red head should come with certain allowances, like no taxes and the right to punch people who ask who your father is.

  28. I always "enjoy" the visits from the new moms who think that they are going to give me some great advice about how to deal with my children.

    They have been dealing with an infant for three months and are under the misguided idea that my 11 years of parenting doesn't count because I have a penis.

  29. Happy to see a mans point of view :) if it makes you feel any better about the books, Do you ever notice mom's always dead in movies? Bambi, finding nemo, Cinderella, beauty and the beast, snow white, Land before time, Chicken little, brother bear...just to name a few :) So I totally understand how you feel, in that sense, maybe they should write A book or make a movie with a happily, married mom and dad!

  30. My husband is a great dad, always taking the kids places, but he's found a benefit. He gets hit on all the time. Which he finds amusing. He'll come home and tell me how many moms tried to chat him up and ask what I do when it happens to me. Ummm... I had to explain to him that people don't try to pick up moms with 4 kids in tow.

  31. This is awesome! :) I am happy to hear that the babysitting comment bothers dads as much as it does moms. Whenever I have to spend more than a few hours away from home, lots of folks (particularly from the 65 and up set) ask me, "Who is going to babysit the children?" And I always say, "We don't need a babysitter. They have a dad." Ugh!

    Rob, you are wonderful, so I assume that you are sometimes also greeted by the folks who look at you like you are an adorable zoo animal? "Oh, look at that wonderful father, out to lunch with his children! You are so wonderful to spend time with your children!" My DH and I always laugh about the double standard - he goes out to lunch/zoo/etc with our three children, and he is greeted with kind smiles and compliments...I go out to lunch with our three children, and I am greeted with pitying glances. SIGH.

  32. Re Knufflebunny: Well, yes, the dad does do things with his kid, but he's also portrayed as a complete idiot. He accidentally stuffs Knufflebunny in the dryer and then can't figure out why the child is so upset. Mom takes ONE LOOK at said squalling infant when they get back from the laundromat and says "where's knufflebunny?" Yay, mommy knows everything and dad is a moron!

  33. This is particularly amusing to me since not-quite-two-weeks ago, I had a HUGE blowup with my hubs on who would be chaperoning our 3-year-old’s upcoming preschool field trip. (For the record, I chaperoned last month's field trip.) After said HUGE blowup (which was accompanied by slamming-my-hands-on-the-kitchen-counter (a lot) and some embarrassing-in-hindsight-cursing-in-front-of-the-kids), my husband.....ahem……....”volunteered” to chaperon this month's field trip. I’m sure he looked QUITE the hero being daddy/chaperon. /eyeroll

    Oh, and MIL routinely refers to him “babysitting” the kids “for” me. WTF? They are HIS kids as well. Do I "babysit" our children "for" him when he has a work function or extra-curricular activity to do? Noooooooo.

  34. It annoys me to no end that people see me with my kiddos and then ask where the mom is... i started telling them she's in the "pen."

  35. I'm sure I'm late on this, but as a dual Navy couple, my husband and I have to swap duties CONSTANTLY. He's in Afghanistan right now so the work is on me. When he comes home we'll trade off every night (just on night time duties like putting to bed and baths). Next duty station I'll be the one deploying. I hate when people tell me that my husband is "babysitting". No, he's just an involved Father with his mini me daughter. Good for you!!




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