The father who’s there

Fathers are at a serious disadvantage that begins at conception. No matter how many appointments they attend or how many ultrasounds they see, mothers have an immediate and soul-deep connection with every child they carry because each is, for those many weeks, an actual part of his mother. There was even a post I remember seeing several months ago (but can’t find, I’ll add the link if I track it down) in which they showed that mothers carry a piece of each child’s genetic code in their body forever – even if she miscarries.

Sometimes it seems like that connection gives us superpowers when it comes to the little people who live with us. For example, I have a mental list of what to throw in the diaper bag depending on what mood Arthur is in, how long we’ll be gone, and of course where we’re going. I can translate his expressions and the sound of his cry to figure out whether he’s thirsty or teething or just randomly upset. (Standing and rattling the gate while wailing is also a clue to the last one.) I’m part of the mommy club for sure. Commercials and memes make the clear statement, meanwhile, that the fathers amongst us are just having trouble keeping up – for the latest, see the commercials for Valspar Reserve paint and Eggo Bites.

These commercials may be funny on the surface, but they upset me because they give all fathers a bad rap by association. I mean, I’m not arguing that Brian wouldn’t consider putting Topher on a Roomba to get around, but so would I. The thing is, though, that every father has a learning curve made steeper by simple biology and a lower tendency to devour parenting books and Web sites. In our house, at least, I initiated every conversation about parenting except the one about baby names. But what these commercials (and a lot of people) don’t take into account is that a great father dives into those conversations and tries their best to fill the biggest role they could ever have.

And the best part is, there are so many wonderful ways that a loving and engaged father can create his own soul-deep connection with his children.

Today is Brian’s first “official” Father’s Day, which he “missed” celebrating last year by two days. Arthur has been setting his own calendar since the beginning. In a way I’m glad, and not just because I didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day last year either. The benefit of having a year-minus-three-days to watch the father-son relationship blossom is that instead of just saying “Love you honey, Happy Father’s Day!” I can actually talk about the very real ways that they have grown together and all the things that make “Da-da” so special to us.

  • The way Arthur passes out in Brian’s arms within five minutes, no matter where we are
  • The look that Arthur gets when he sees Brian walk in the door – pure joy and adoration
  • The way Arthur lights up looking at pictures of his daddy.
  • The little pieces of Arthur’s appearance that scream “Brian”, even though he looks like me
  • The giggles and shrieks I hear when the two of them are playing
  • The way Brian asks me if everything’s okay with the new sitter (it was!)
  • The way Arthur looks just like Brian when he sleeps

I won’t deny that there are frustrating moments (fathers, what is it with the stinky diapers?) but watching our boy grow up and seeing the mutual love between father and child makes a part of my heart complete. It’s also reassuring that even though I didn’t have a great example of what a father should be, I still chose a great one.

Happy Father’s Day to Brian and every other father out there who is a superdad just for showing up.