This generation of men has produced a whole new type of dad. The kind of dad who takes paternity leave. Who isn't ashamed to work from home. Who enjoys spending time with their kids and devotes their weekends to coaching little league soccer or baseball. I've seen dads who are gentle, kind and compassionate, and I tip my hat to them all.
I'll admit, the first time I saw a few dads in line at school pick up and drop off it seemed a bit odd. Their heads rose up above the crowd of mostly moms. But then my son had a play date at his friend's house whose dad is a stay-at-home dad. Together they buried a dead bird in the yard, swung from a tire swing the dad had hung himself and from the zip line he'd strung between two trees. When I came to pick Josh up, it was like no other play date he'd been on. It's not that any of his other play dates had been bad -- this one was just different and special. He'd done new and unique things under the tutelage of another dad. It was like a new world had been opened to him. His cheeks were rosy. He was energized. And he wanted to go back.
There's been a lot of media attention lately devoted to changing the idea that dads aren't babysitters. That they are equal parenting partners. I'm seeing it more and more and I love it. While previous generations of dads (and even some dads I know today) believe in tough love, see it as their responsibility to "toughen up" their kids, and who have an easier time raising their voice than giving hugs, I hope these kinds of parents are on the way out of fashion.
How else will our children learn to be affectionate, compassionate and involved in raising their children? How else will they learn that they can cook, tidy up and take responsibility around the house? How else will they know that the house and children are not the woman's domain or a mother's job? I believe we can do an equally good job of taking out the garbage, packing lunches, making dinner and raising children.
My dad was of a different generation, and while I remember him spending as much time as possible with his kids, I don't remember him ever cooking a meal or vacuuming. But he must have done something right. My brothers always help their wives with the grocery shopping. They host family brunches and dinners. They make meals. They aren't afraid to be home with kids. They don't need an instruction list. It's normal and natural in their relationships to take on as much as their wives. My boyfriend, his brother-in-laws and friends are the same. I think it's awesome.
What kids need are moms and dads who both show affection and give encouragement, who display equality around the house and in raising children. I want my boys to know that putting away the dishes isn't just mom's job. I want them to understand that it's just as important for a dad to tuck in their kids at night as a mom. That it's important for a dad to say, "I love you." I want them to see that a mom can fix things around the house. I want them to learn to put away dishes and do laundry. I want them to do it willingly, without complaint. I don't want to see them with their feet up, watching tv, while their partners do all the work. I don't want it to even occur to them that "that's what a man does."
One day they will be the men of their own house, but what that means today and tomorrow is vastly different than what it was or should be. That's the kind of man I'd want in my house.
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