June 15, 2011 at 8:58 AM ET
Father’s Day is clearly an afterthought on the holiday calendar. Which is too bad, because when push comes to shove, dads are better than moms.
Tacked on at the last minute –- Mother’s Day was officially recognized in 1914, while dads didn’t get an official day until 1972 (proclaimed by Richard Nixon, of all people) -- Father’s Day is the family slacker of the phony holidays created by greeting card companies.
There are lots of pros and cons for either parent, of course, and the margin isn’t big, and there’s lots of credit to go around. And it’s not a competition. But: Let’s say it is! Dads are better. If your mind isn’t so incredibly blown that you need to take some deep breaths and sip some cool water, read on:
Dads are much more laid-back than moms. From the other side, this might look like “Moms are more responsible,” but that’s just spin. We don’t gasp every time a toddler falls, we allow a few extra minutes of TV (even the Wiggles, for crying out loud), and we’re much more eager to ditch the kid for a night out or even weekend away. I think it stems from a key difference: Pregnancy changes both parents-to-be in profound ways, but once the child is born the dad mainly reverts to his old self (for better or ill).
Exhibit A: My wife recently talked my parents into babysitting our toddler, NJ, while we attended a U2 concert. No big deal, right? Except that we live in Seattle and my parents live in Houston. “They’ll jump at the chance to see their grandchild,” she said. And they (gladly, I admit) trekked up from Texas a couple of weeks ago. But – next door to us? Two responsible teenage girls who, I’m sure, would have been delighted to get the chance to overcharge me for babysitting.
Exhibit B: My wife dresses NJ in adorable polka-dot dresses with matching tights, a jaunty hat and strappy-buckly shoes. [Eds note: I have no idea what he means by strappy-buckly shoes, either. Then again, I’m a mom. Chalk it up to the male inability to understand women’s footwear.] I dress NJ in jeans and a shirt emblazoned with the Rolling Stones lips, or a Day of the Dead skull. I mean, c’mon!
Dad is Good Cop, and everyone likes Good Cop. That’s why it says “good” right there in the name. This rule has a chicken-and-egg relationship with the one above: Good Cop allows a few minutes of extra TV time because Good Cop is more laid back. When the three of us eat dinner and NJ opens her mouth to show us her food, my wife chastises her and wonders aloud where she learned such horrid behavior. (Spoiler alert: Me. It was me.) I laugh. Because it’s funny! Also, it’s a bonding moment: My daughter will remember us showing each other our chewed food for the rest of her life, and when the day comes that she’s taking care of her feeble, senile father, we can reprise the game. We all get old, but seafood/see food doesn’t.
Dads are better at playing. This afternoon NJ pulled me outside to play. We rolled around on the lawn – she’d fall into me, I’d grab her and roll over again and again, then I’d crank up the Tickle Machine. Her laughter rang across the neighborhood like a non-obnoxious wind chime (is there is such a thing?). Dads love to roughhouse, and kids do too. My wife reads books and stacks blocks with NJ. I put her in her crib, go out into the hallway and throw stuffed animals at her. NJ loves her books, but she laughs a lot more when she’s getting nailed in the head by a teddy bear.
There’s no corresponding competitive “Mom Guilt” for dads. What’s that, you say? Little Maddisyn’s parents down the street give her nothing but organic foods and already taught her to recycle, knit and play poker? Meh. Don’t care.
It’s science, to quote the immortal Ron Burgundy. According to this 2007 study (there may be more recent surveys, but I didn’t look for them lest my thesis be wrecked), “fathers today get higher grades than mothers for their performance, especially from women.” If you read the study you’ll see that it really appears as though people just think dads’ performance hasn’t fallen as far as moms’ compared to previous generations. Nevertheless, I’ll take it!
Five sound, irrefutable reasons – and there are loads more. As I sit here typing, though, NJ started wailing upstairs; apparently she had a bad dream. I heard footsteps, then a murmur, and the bawling stopped. I’m down here patting myself on the back, and my wife is up there soothing our child and getting her back to sleep. Oh well – dads are better than moms. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Happy Father’s Day!
Bob Trott blogs about his adventures in parenting at Dad Solo.
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