The Faces of Modern Day Fatherhood

There’s a running joke in our family with the punch line, “I’m just the dad” [accompanied by the small smiled head shake].  Kids only want to snuggle with mom before bed? “I’m just the dad”.  Dad works insane hours to pay for college, but mom gets the thanks for the support? “I’m just the dad”.  Kids call to check in, and they just want to talk to mom? “I’m just the dad”.

When circumstances and timing are just right, it’s produced quite a few chuckles.   As parents we all have those moments when our kids unintentionally under-appreciate us, but my problem with the joke is that today’s dads are anything but “just the dad”. 

Listen to any of your grandmothers tell stories about their children’s births or what their responsibilities were when their children were young.  You know what I’m talking about.  Times were different.  Many dads weren’t allowed to be in the delivery room when their children were born.  Many didn’t change a single diaper. Dad’s focus was on providing for the family, and mom’s was raising the children.  Not to say dads weren’t rock stars back then too, but with different expectations, culture, and opportunities, things were just… different.

Today’s dads, however, keep adding to their polished fatherhood resume.  There’s nothing they are scared to do, nothing they can’t figure out, and nothing they aren’t a part of.  They are involved in every facet of their children’s lives, and bring such a powerful presence to their parenting team.  These modern day dads are severely underrated, and need to be celebrated and supported just like moms are.  They deserve it, and they’ve earned it.  

If you aren’t sure who I’m talking about, they are easy to spot.  They are the dads that walk in the door after work, take off their shoes, and run straight to the playroom to help build a block tower.  Its the dad that stayed up late on a Wednesday putting together a crib or dresser for the nursery without being asked.  The dad that takes his baby out for errands by himself because “he’s got this”.  They are the dads the kill it in the bedtime routine game, and then head downstairs to help pick up the kitchen before bed.  The dads that are active participants in discipline and teaching life’s hard lessons.  They are the dads that take the time to teach: mowing a lawn, how to read, tying shoes, or how to be a good friend. They are the dads that have the burning ache in their heart when they’re away from their children, because to them, there is no greater joy than watching their children grow and being in their presence.

Being a dad today is no easy task, and thanks to my growing Momtourage I was able to put together a collection of pictures that finish illustrating what my words can’t. To all those rock star dads out there – you’ve got a huge fan base over here. Keep up the good work!

This is what modern day fatherhood looks like.  Enjoy!

To the dads whose immense pride is worn on their face from the very beginning

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To the dads who make baby wearing look like it’s the coolest thing you can do with your child

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To the dads who take bedtime, middle of the night, feeding, and diapering duties seriously 

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To the dads whose kisses and cuddles are tender enough to heal all  

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To the dads with a sense of humor, who don’t mind getting silly, and love having FUN

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To the dads who understand the value of reading with their children 

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To the dads who ROCK the joint nap  

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To the dads who have passed the fatherhood rite of passage by carrying their children on their shoulders 

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To the dads who are present, in the moment, and on their level

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To the dads who teach, lead, mentor, and understand that the little moments are actually the big moments 

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And as if today’s dads weren’t doing enough, the real beauty comes as a product of their example – raising boys who learn from early on what it means to take care of others and be incredible fathers themselves one day.  

Giving baby some tummy time, while keeping him warm with a bandana and multi-taksing. :)
Giving baby some tummy time, while keeping him warm with a bandana and multi-taksing. 🙂

 

Unpacking “Help” in Toddlerese

There are basically three definitions of the word “help” in the Toddlerese Dictionary.  You know them.

Help /help/

exclamation 

1. used as an appeal for urgent assistance.

“Help!” (as their head is firmly stuck in between deck rails).  “Help!” (as they are stuck planking between the couch and ottoman and are scared to fall in between).  You know this one as a toddler actually needing help, but for something usually pretty ridiculous and picture worthy.

verb 

2. request to offer your services or resources to make the toddler’s life easier – not as urgent.

“Mom. Please help.” (as she points to the kleenex box on shelf she can’t reach, wanting to take out every kleenex one at a time).  “Please help. Water.” (as he points to his water bottle on the floor of the car that you JUST picked up for him no less than 12 times already).

verb

3. an offering of assistance from your toddler to you – because through your own invitation or simple appeal of the activity, the toddler thinks their assistance will indeed be helpful.

 

THIS LAST ONE.  Numero tres.  The act of the toddler “helping” you.  This is the one.

No one talks about this act of toddler assistance, when some days I feel like it will surely be the thing that kills me one painstaking minute at a time. More so than the whining.  More so than the tantrums when leaving the playground.  And more so than alligator wrestling during each and every diaper change.  (I said some days).

If you’ve been around toddlers, you know all too well the “help” I’m talking about.  It can look like this:

Intention: help vacuuming.

Reality: toddler tries to hold and push your vacuum all on their own with NO help from you, resulting in a several minute struggle because its too heavy, and ending in tears because they couldn’t do it.  Hence, nothing got vacuumed, because your toddler now needs help coming down from their vacuum induced rage.  And if you’re thinking, “just remind her of her own play vacuum and you can do it together”, you are more than welcome to come over and tell her that.  I’ll be in the corner giggling.

Intention: help baking and cooking.

Reality: after bringing over a chair for toddler to stand on or bringing ingredients down to their level, you think you’ve got a firm grip on their hand that holds the mixing spoon.  Toddler refuses help, because after all, they’re the pro here? You calmly refuse to give them full reign, which incites immediate frustration from toddler.  Before you can say “here it comes”, that firm grip is not so firm, and there is food – everywhere. You swear under your breath as you clean up the unknown proportions of misplaced ingredients that that was the last time you let them help for awhile.  Until tomorrow. Blue berry muffins still turn out when half of the mix in your dogs mouth, right?

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Intention: help you go to the bathroom.

Reality:  Who knew that after being self-sufficient in the bathroom for 98% of your life you now needed help? You can’t say no – you want them interested in potty training and the process of going on the potty.  So, they help get you toilet paper to wipe with.  Which is fine, until you’re done wiping – but they aren’t done getting it for you.  Half a roll is on the ground, you’re stuck on the pot, and in frustration they quickly reach to flush before you tell them you’re ready.  All you’re left with is a few cold droplets of water on your butt and the shame in knowing your toddler just beat you in the bathroom.

Intention: help feeding the dogs.

Reality: This one is too easy to envision.  Toddler wants to dump food into bowls.  Gets distracted along the way (shocking).  Food ends up all over floor.  Some gets eaten by dogs.  Some gets eaten by toddler.  You don’t know how much food your dog actually got.  You find bits of dog food in kitchen over the next week.

Intention: helping unload the dishwasher.

Reality: They are playing nicely in the playroom, so you quietly open the dishwasher thinking you can quickly unload it sans “help”.  Your tot is the modern day version of Pavolv’s dog, however, and the simple sound of the dishwasher clicking open sends them running into the kitchen salivating with a thirst to help. You frantically get all the knives and deadly weapons up on the counter out of reach, and then proceed to let them help you.  Three dirty spoons, a broken plate, and 38 minutes later, the dishwasher is unloaded. How could you have possibly done it without them?

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Intention: help bringing in the groceries.

Reality: Most bags are too heavy to hand over.  You learned that when they tipped over sideways while trying to walk the bag through the garage and smashed into the wagon.  So now its a team effort between you and hubby. One sifts through bags looking for durable, non-breakable, non essential, light weight items to hand out. The other waits at the door to retrieve the items one at a time to avoid the toddler trying to walk up (and consequently falling back down) the stairs into the house.  If it was a large grocery shop, you know to run in the perishable fridge/freezer items first because they could easily go bad by the time your helper is done helping.

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To the parents of tiny helpers, I salute you.  Keep on keepin’ on.  Every day tasks take infinitely longer, the house can quickly turn dramatically filthier, and our patience meter can take significant hits when we are “assisted”, but we are determined to raise confident, independent, generous, and strong-willed young people. So we keep at it.   After all, are we really that important to take the extra time to teach them? We allow them to help us throughout our day because we know in the long run, the rewards will far outweigh the patience we put in.  And one day… one day… their help will in fact be our adult definition of help.  Right? (No seriously, some reassure me I’m right).

"Helping" me sweep out the garage.  Aka, stealing the good broom and sweeping our street.
“Helping” me sweep out the garage. Aka, stealing the good broom and sweeping our street.

 

 

 

The Things I’ve Been Meaning to Tell Him

Tayler and I were building up towers of stacking cups in the playroom when I heard him moving around upstairs.  I thought that he was surely just using the restroom and getting back in bed.  It was too early.  My husband, Matt, was on a night shift rotation at the time, and he didn’t crawl into bed till nearly 3:30 a.m.  I was downstairs silently giving him a tongue lashing, “You better not come down here yet.  It’s only 8:30! You need sleep, too! REST!”.  A few minutes later, there he was.  Groggy and half asleep, but with a small crooked smile on his face at the sight of our daughter squealing and running around at the sight of him.  She was why he came down.

“Baaaabe! Why are you up already?! You’re exhausted!”.

“I have to head in to work a little early today, and I didn’t want to miss out on that time with her.  I just want to be with my girls”.

Oh.  How could I possibly fight that?

For the rest of the day that image of a hard working, sleep deprived, “I just want to be around my daughter” father stayed with me.  It was one of those days the gratitude in my heart for this man, my husband, spilled over the brim.

Since that day I’ve thought a lot about how today’s dads don’t have nearly the amount of support us moms do.  Matt doesn’t have a rock solid community of other dads to go to for advice, a quick vent session, or a simple “I hear you – I’ve been there, too”.  No one asks the dad how its going balancing work and family life.  They don’t have the online resources, blogs to relate to, or check-in’s from friends and family simply asking how life as a dad is going for them.  They don’t get the level of encouragement us moms often do.  The kind words that reaffirm we’re doing a great job at this monumental task of parenting little humans. I spend much time and energy every day trying to build up other moms and reassure them they have someone in their corner, but I overlook all too often the man who I share my home with and raise my family with.

Yet here he was… still kicking ass in his role as father.

I recently read an article written by a dad that talked about his frustration with being complimented at how amazing of a father he was when he was doing the simplest of things with his children.  Taking them to the grocery store by himself, changing diapers without being told, or getting up in the middle of the night for feedings.  To him, those were his normal duties as dad… nothing above and beyond.  Nothing spectacular or particularly noteworthy. To be complimented at the highest level for doing those things seemed insulting, like it put down what should be expected of dads today.  While I think Matt could’ve easily been the author of that article and I fully understand and appreciate the author’s argument, I still feel our cut-above-the-rest dads deserve more praise for doing one hell of a job.  While we consciously make an effort in our marriage to continually voice and show our appreciation for things we do for our family, there’s a lot I’ve been meaning to tell Matt.

I’ve written about my mom, my mother-in-law, my daughter, my unborn son, and my Momtourage.  But I’ve yet to write about my sidekick, my baby daddy, my best bud, and my partner I’ve created this beautiful little life with.  Today is his 30th birthday, and I can think of no better time to tell him how wonderful he is in this role as dad, and how I will always continue to be his biggest cheerleader.

I remember how frustrated you used to get at times when I was exclusively breastfeeding. You understood and appreciated this gift we wanted to give our daughter, but you so desperately wanted to have a more active role.  You wanted to give her everything she could possibly need. Your desire to be so involved from the very beginning illustrated just the kind of father you would become. You have been a natural from the start. 

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I adore the fact that you are trying to create special times and memories for just you and Tayler to share.  You want her to look back one day, and have those special places, activities, and items that scream, “THIS is my dad”.  The Giving Tree will surely hold a special place in her heart. 

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I admire your effortless ability to know when and how to teach her new things.  Things that I myself, even after spending all day every day with her, don’t realize she’s ready for.  She is a nose blowing, tooth brushing, hair washing, stair descending, fork wielding maniac… because of you.  

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I respect how diligent you’ve become in problem solving when new stages and phases pop up.  You don’t always look to me for answers, you read and dig and find them on your own.  You use trial and error, come back to the drawing board, and try again when needed.  Many times you know when we need to change our approach and stay flexible, while I’m still comfortable and set in our current ways.  

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I revere your unwavering desire to always want to be around our daughter.  When you’re dog tired, you’re still present.  When she’s at grandma’s for a night, your heart aches.  And when given the choice to sleep upstairs quietly or nap on the couch with guaranteed interruptions… you choose the couch just so you can be near her.  Space and time away from her at times is healthy for everyone involved, but there is no calming that pang in your heart to be close to her.  

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I hold dear how much pride you take in being the one to provide for our daughter in all forms of the word. You work hard every single day to ensure she has everything she could possibly need.  After months of me nursing her to sleep, she had a hard transition allowing anyone else to rock her to sleep.  I will never forget the first night you were able to successfully put her down for the night without a fuss.  The emotion on your face when you left her room said more than any words ever could. 

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I find an all consuming joy in watching you play uninhibitedly with her.  You are on her level, as silly as can be, and absolutely shameless when it comes to making her laugh.  Her happiness and smile are the motors that keep your heart running.  

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I feel so grateful for your attitude on the kind of role a dad should have in the home.  Anything I do, you want to do, too.  The 1950’s are long gone, and so are those divisions of labor.  You have a hand in everything, which makes my life as wife and mom that much more enjoyable.  You are one diaper changing, bath giving, night time rocking, dinner slaying, carpet cleaning, and clothes washing son of a B.  You are the epitome of a MAN. 

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I am so appreciative for how conscious you are of making sure we stay a team.  You go out of your way to make sure we’re on the same page, working towards the same goals, and following through on our plans to get there.  Our children will only benefit from how hard you work at ensuring we are always presenting a united front.  Together.

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I feel so thankful for how you’ve always gone out of your way to build me up as a new mom.  You brush off my shoulders when I make mistakes and offer both hands to pick me back up.  You praise me and vocalize how wonderful of a job you think I’m doing.  You’ve got a keen sense for knowing when I really need to hear it.  You support, support, support, and step up when you know I need a break.  You take such incredible care of me, which allows me to take the utmost care for our daughter.  Tayler thanks you for that.  

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I’ve had the pleasure of watching you grow from boy, to man, to husband, to dad over our 12+ years together.  And soon, our little family of three will become a family of four.  I can think of no better husband to share this journey with, and no better father to grow our family with. While I may not say it quite as much as I should, please know that I think the world and the moon and stars of you.  You’re not perfect, I’m not perfect, and despite those times she does really sweet shit, neither is our daughter.  Together, however, we make one incredible little team, with you at the center of it.  

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Happy birthday, love.

Your mother would be so proud of you.

Cheers to 30 more years.

We love you!

(And to answer the question a lot of you women are thinking: yes, he has a brother. But no, he’s not available. 😉