10 Signs of a Good Dad
by Blair Armstrong
There is a moment in my parenting career that will be perfectly preserved in my mind for all eternity. It was the day that my 3-year-old son came sprinting through the house in a panic (wearing spaceship pajamas) and upon finding me, out of breath from his search, he yelled, “Mom, you have to come quick! We had an accident and there is poop all over my dad!!”
Oh boy. I thought to myself. Here we go.
I nearly died laughing when I found my husband in a very unfortunate situation with our then 3-month-old daughter. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where he had gone wrong, but he had clearly made a few major mistakes. He looked helpless and utterly desperate for my help, so I shooed him out of the room — to his visible relief — and took it from there.
It seems like dads often experience moments like this. Moments when the mom walks in all “expert level,” and the dad appears to be the hapless rookie sidekick. In fact, sometimes it seems this view is a product of the parenting culture that society (and possibly biology) has created. Mom is #1, the default parent, and dad is #2. Today, to give props to dads everywhere, I’m going to attempt to level the playing field. In my experience, moms and dads just have different strengths. Both parents bring things to the table that are necessary to keep the ship afloat. Yes, as a mom, there are many areas where I take the gold medal, but I also fully admit that there are things he is just better at than me. So, here they are, in no particular order:
1. Imaginary Play. I sort of hate playing “guys” or that kind of thing. I can color or play a game, but the whole imaginary play with action figures is just not my thing. I’m not at all good at it. I am an awkward player, and my kids look at me with pity when I try to pull it off. My husband, however, is a natural. He has a whole scene going on in no time, and my kids are flying around laughing and having the time of their lives. Meanwhile, I hide hoping that no one will notice me, because nothing sounds worse to me than having to join in and think of what to do with one of those little plastic people.
2. Giving Full Attention. I have a hard time relaxing at home. I will see the laundry that needs putting away, dinner that isn’t cleaned up, the permission slip I haven’t filled out yet, etc. My husband does not. When he’s playing with the kids, he’s playing with the kids.
3. Keeping Calm in the Kitchen. He loves making big breakfasts on the weekend, and he lets the kids help (even though they usually flip pancakes onto the floor and get everything everywhere). I don’t love making a big breakfast. I dread cleaning up the mess and I usually want to beat it to the gym when I wake up or get started on the 97 things I want to carry out throughout the day. Breakfast is his time with them on the weekend and they love it.
4. Keeping Promises. I think it’s easy to become too busy these days and inadvertently forget the promises we make to our kids. But when he says they can go fishing on Saturday morning, or get ice cream on Friday night, he makes it happen no matter what. If he gives them his word, he keeps it.
5. Personal Sound Machine. I can’t make helicopter noises, explosion noises, or anything of the sort (fart noises included). I am fully convinced this is an ability men are born with. Very few things delight a kid like a grown-up doing ridiculous things.
6. Physical Play. He will shake them upside down, tickle them until they’re in tears from laughing, and fly them around like they are planes like it’s his job. Sometimes, he runs around with one on his shoulders and the other on his back. I tried it once and dropped them.
7. Being Patient. He is patient with their feelings. I am very quick to correct behavior or attitudes that I don’t appreciate, and he is more likely to try to find a reason behind it. My school of thought is more, I don’t care what the reason is you are not allowed to _______________. He tries to get to the bottom of the why, and the patience it takes to get there never ceases to amaze me.
8. Laughing. He loves to laugh with them. The three of them regularly sit in front of America’s Funniest Videos bent over in hysterics, and then record their own “funny videos” in hopes of future cable stardom. It’s very difficult to tell who loves this more, him or the kids. Nothing is better than hearing your house filled with laughter.
9. Packing. He is a gifted car packer. Thank. God. It looks like we are moving to California every time we leave for the weekend.
10. Taking Risks. He is better at teaching them dangerous, but awesome, new skills. I cringe when watching things like skiing and bike riding in the early phases. I’m happy once they’ve learned, but I definitely do not like witnessing the process. Watching them wipe-out, skin their knees, acquire bruises and goose eggs… that’s just not my jam. Very counter-intuitive. I like to show up after the first few lessons and see the shiny finished product without being exposed to the painful beginning of it all. Plus, seeing me hyperventilating while I give them a thumbs-up sends a mixed message.
Dads everywhere have their own areas of expertise and I give them mad props for their many talents. Families are balanced by the things each person person brings to the table, and dads have their own kinds of flare. Kids get different things from each parent and caretaker, and the diversity is good for them! My husband spent his pre-kid free time: flying planes after work, golfing, boating, and attending professional sporting events as often as an ESPN correspondent. I’m sure on some days, that sounds a lot more appealing than changing diapers and dealing with an exhausted wife in yoga pants. However, he rarely complains, or even seems to miss the days when his time was his own. To me, that’s a sure sign of a good man. In fact, his biggest fear these days, is of our kids growing up too quickly. He’s mourning the loss of them being little before it’s even happened. He would be happy to have sticky finger prints all over his golf clubs for years to come. The evolution of man to father is complete, and it’s a good one. So, cheers to all the amazing dads out there and everything they bring to our loud, messy, noisy tables. We’re happy to have you.
What quality do you think makes a good dad??