Dad's view: It's not a competition, but I'm totally the better parent

May 15, 2012 at 10:48 AM ET

There’s no “better parent” competition in my household. My wife and I have been in agreement to keep quiet on that topic for the greater good.

Lately, though, something happened. And this thing has happened enough times that I’m declaring it a full-blown trend.

My wife went on an overnight business trip, and 2-year-old NJ and I had a delightful time. The kid was better-behaved than usual – i.e. when both mom and dad are around. And it was the umpteenth time this phenomenon had occurred.

Bob Trott /
Bob Trott and daughter NJ

Now, I certainly don’t understand every little thing behind this trend, the bottom line is clear: I’m the better parent.

Me. I’m a better parent than my wife. ME! ME! ME! I. Am. The. Better. Parent.

When my wife returned from her trip, she figured she’d see NJ in the tub. The child was already in bed, though, having sent me out of the room to find her favorite doll before she could close her eyes. My wife was jaw-droppingly amazed. (And went in to see NJ, who was delighted her mom was home. That led to NJ getting out of bed and my wife reading three more stories to her. I considered my work done and had a celebratory cup of yogurt. I got that child to bed in a timely fashion, and I had a witness. My work was done.)

It’s undeniable proof, right? I’m the better parent. ME – the one who taught NJ to slurp spaghetti. The one who considers it a parenting milestone if NJ recognizes Bruce Springsteen on the television.

This mystery needs more evidence. Here are some facts and observations that my wife and I agree on:

  • I think NJ prefers Mommy to Daddy, generally.
  • My wife handles the baths and bedtime readings on a regular basis.
  • Like many her age, NJ is a master at delaying unpleasant things like baths and bedtimes. She can stretch out the pajamas-and-toothbrush phase of the evening a looooooong time.
  • This often leads to time outs and tears.
  • I’m not too strict, and my wife isn’t too lenient, but it’s safe to say I’m generally more strict with NJ than my wife is.
  • I have something of a phobia about running late.

Normal dinner/bath/bedtime usually lasts a couple of hours. There’s often a crying jag in there – controversy over whether it’s time to get out of the bath, how many books will be read, etc. On bad evenings, my wife emerges from NJ’s bedroom a good two hours later, looking frustrated and exhausted.

But when it’s just me and NJ, things go much smoother.

The kid is a dream while I make dinner, thumbing through her Curious George books in the kitchen with me. Dinner is easy -- bacon and eggs when my wife was out of town.

Similarly, NJ forgoes her usual bath time shenanigans – mostly the invoking of her latest fave catch-phrase, “Two more minutes!” – when it’s me sitting there on the floor between tub and toilet. Post-bath potty, no problem. Straight to bed after bath, with no TV time in between. I read three stories (well, two stories – had to read one twice), then I get a big kiss and a hug and NJ’s off to bed.

I’m not saying it’s all laughter and balloons when NJ and I are alone. The first day, NJ was pretty bummed it was not her mom waking her in the morning. There were tears, and she had to be reminded that Mommy was working away from home and Daddy was in full command. That cleared up quickly, though, and soon she was all smiles. And we were out the door to preschool much earlier than usual.

So there’s the situation. My rudimentary theory is that because of my oh-so-slightly more strict approach, NJ doesn’t feel like she can work me like she can work her mom (she’s probably wrong about that, but please don’t tell her). Or maybe she’s cutting me a break because she sees I don’t have myself together nearly as well as her mother does. (Deep down, I know that’s probably it. I know. I know, OK?)

Can anyone come up with a better theory? Theories that back my assertion that I AM THE BETTER PARENT, in particular, are most welcome. But not expected.

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