The other day in Starbucks (duh) I saw what had to be the oddest of odd situations. And I do see my fair share: high school girls practicing their cheers (too cold outside), the guy who took his shoes off, hacking away on his PC while other patrons tried to prevent their eyes & nose as far away as possible, the dog barking under the table while the family pretended they didn’t have one.
So the other day, I see this little 4 or 5 year old girl racing around the store. Literally running. At the breakneck speed only a child would have a 10am after imbibing a Mocha Frap. Thinking she’s either lost or perhaps snapped her leash, my eyes scan the store for a Responsible Adult. I see her dad. Sitting with the aforementioned Mocha Frap. And his iPhone. When she finishes the lap, she stops in front of him and he reads out the seconds it took her to lap the store. “Really?!” she exclaims. “Yep! Can you do better than that?” And she takes off again.
To say I was beside myself would be an understatement. And not just me. Every patron in the store watched with incredulity at what was happening. Praying that the child didn’t run into someone or something and break their neck. Hoping the dad would come to his senses. Wondering why in the name of Howard Schultz the baristas didn’t put a stop to this. It was then that I realized that this was a perfect example of why society doesn’t trust dads with kids.
It’s not that we don’t have the capability to care for and protect our children, but rather the oft encountered situation wherein the Common Sense fuse has blown and we don’t seem to think it’s a big deal. Now as much as I’d like to think of myself as a Hipster Dad, capable of cooking, cleaning and changing a diaper with aplomb, truth be told I have succumed to the “well let’s just see what happens” style of parenting. To wit:
“Sure you can jump. As long as I don’t have to take you to the hospital, fine with me!”
“Let’s make a meal out of candy!” Fact: I invented Super Sugar Day, for which I buy a bunch of candy, take the kids to the park, and we separate the goodies into Appetizers, Entrees and Dessert. Then we stay at the park until they’ve either thrown it all up or I find them comatose under a bench.
“They don’t have to match, I just want them on so we can go!”
“Can you move it? Ok, it’ll be alright.”
“Don’t tell your mother.”
Now if a woman walks into a hardware store and asks where the power tools are its universally acknowledged that its wrong to question her motives. Yet most guys can’t take the mall without nearby moms pre-dialing 9-1-_, just waiting for them to screw something up. That’s ok, we deserve it I suppose.
But at some point we need a break, you know? As dads, our hearts are in the right place. We want to do the right thing. It’s just that sometimes, well sometimes we get distracted. Or bored. Or inquisitive. Or…distracted. Statistically, kids are more likely to get injured in the company of their moms. While that’s purely because moms on average spend 40% more time with them, I choose to ignore that part of the stat. All I’m suggesting is that, with Father’s Day on the horizon, maybe it’s time to give us the benefit of the doubt more often. While not every decision (or, lack of) pans out, kudos to the Baby Daddies that try, right?
My kids range in age from 17yrs to 4yrs, keeping me on my toes intellectually, emotionally, physically and financially. It’s not easy juggling the varying wants and needs of each, and I’d be the first to admit their mother is way better at pretty much everything. But I try. And, I mean well. Mostly. The point is, for every dad who clearly sucks at being a Responsible Adult, there are alot more who just need that word of encouragement, that friendly smile that says “I won’t call DCFS”, a kind thought when they’ve obviously dressed that poor child for school.
That Starbucks dad eventually realized that using the store as the training grounds for his future Olympian wasn’t the best thing idea he’d had that day. So we all breathed a sign of relief when he picked her up and shared the rest of his pastry and Mocha Frap.
One step at a time brother. One step at a time.