We're modern folks in the Johnson-Leck household. I'm a modern dad. I'm changing diapers, I'm feeding Rigs with a bottle, I've got her in a Baby Bjorn and walking the dog at the same time! Please feel free to schedule my "Father of the Year Parade" any time you want. I will show up at the appointed time to ride in the back of a convertible and humbly wave to my adoring fans. I may have to wear ear plugs as the cheering may cause ear damage.
Sadly, winning "Father of the Year" this year has not been all that difficult. Apparently the bar is set pretty low. I walk around town with a baby in a Bjorn and people tilt their heads, make a cutie face and say "Wow, what a good dad." Little do they know that her pants are stuffed with restroom paper towels because daddy forgot to bring an extra diaper. Oops.
All I have to do is mention I have a kid and people will say, "You're a great father. I can tell." What do you mean, you can tell? Do I smell like a good dad? Can you see the bags under my eyes from staying up with a crying baby or the calluses on my fingers from all the diapers I've changed?
The problem isn't actually the "I can tell" part, its the "great" part. A great father is apparently just some dude walking around with a kid that is not currently on fire. Setting the bar pretty high there, huh?
In his new book, Micheal Chabon says that being a father is like pulling into a parking meter with a nickle to find that someone left you a full hour. I get to show up unprepared and incompetent, but if I still show up, I get some real accolades here.
What the heck makes a good mom anyway? I don't really here people talk about good mothers until the kid is actually an adult. If the kid makes a lot of money, cures cancer, and rescues children from a burning building, then we can say "good mother." Anything less and the kid is just lucky to have escaped.
Seriously though, as long as you just compare me to other dudes, I think I come out looking pretty good. I fixed my schedule so I can provide a whole day of day care. Every night, I change Rigley's diaper and then pass her off to Jen for a feeding. I'm happy to be alone with her for any length of time so Jen can get out and get a break. Other dads that do this... keep it up! We're looking good.
Just make sure you compare me to other dads. As soon as you compare me to Jen...? Forget the parade. I look like crap. Compared to Jen I look like the laziest, most impatient, ignorant dude-iest of dudes. Picture George Bush, Fred Flintstone, and Larry the Cabel Guy wrapped up into one.
We try to keep it real in the Johnson-Leck household. And by real I mean balanced, equal, even egalitarian. And no matter how enlightened I think I am, I slip into the same gender roles crap that dominated the 50's (or the 60's... the 1900's?... um well, pretty much all of history). Part of it is that Jen is the primary feeder when we're together, so it sets us up anyway. I have to admit though, there are times when Rigley is in her swing and starts whining and I just happen to be real busy with something else so Jen just has to be the one to go pick her up and comfort her. I know, shameless, but true. There are plenty of times when I shirk my duty as an equal because I don't really feel like holding a baby or changing a diaper. I may even try to fix something or lift something heavy just to make sure that Jen knows I'm doing something manly. You know, guy stuff. Scratching, measuring, and grunting.
Even in my attempts to share power in our house I screw it up. When I ask "Do you want me to change her diaper now?" or "Do you want me to hold her for a while?" it may seem as if I am empowering Jen so she can choose what she wants. But just asking the question puts her in the role of maternal expert and me in the role of idiot helper. Like my help is some big favor.
Long story long, we can probably put my parade on hold. Don't get me wrong if Jen re-joins the Peace Corps and I am the primary care giver for Rigley for 2 years, I will expect a marching band and some Shriners at my parade. But not now. For now, I can shrug off the compliments I get and use Jen as my model for what a good parent does. And try, try hard, to be a better father and a better partner.