Robby is impossible to shop for. He has in mind a very specific thing that he wants and he either doesn’t tell me what it is so I am inevitably wrong, or he tells me something that doesn’t make sense as a gift for the occasion. Like, an HDMI cord for Valentine’s Day. Sure, getting him what he actually *wants* is important, and if a cord is what speaks to his heart, then maybe that would be a good gift. But there is also the appropriateness of the gift where it relates to the specific occasion or the gift-giver. Should your wife give you a cord for a romantic occasion? No. When you think back on your first Father’s Day and the gift your son gave you, should it be a video card? No. It’s clear your 9 month old didn’t select the gift himself, but perhaps it should be something more sentimental than Steam gift cards. So I ask him what he wants, he tells me (sometimes), and then I do that wife-thing where I tell him what he wants is wrong.
Searching for “Gifts for Dad” on the internet is bizarre. If the aliens chose the week before Father’s Day to discover our internet, they would think all men are belching, beer swilling, flatulent morons, though always ready with a multi-tool. Are the men in our lives really that one-dimensional? Pretty much nothing Amazon suggested was appropriate for Robby, my Dad, or my Father-in-law. None of the men in my life warrant the “World’s Best Farter” mug or the “Insert Beer Here ^” t-shirt. I just don’t think the options the internet suggests represent the dads and granddads of today.
Today’s Dads are INVOLVED, man. I take the kids to the children’s museum near our neighborhood occasionally, and I very often find Dads there with their kids on weekdays with one baby strapped to their chest and another running around the toddler zone. There are Dads in Moby wraps, Dads with bottles, Dads with princess backpacks, puree stained shirts, dark under-eye circles, Dads getting groceries with a cart full of kids under five, picking out wipes and butt cream, Dads changing diapers in public restrooms, sweating at the playground, chatting with moms about weaning. It’s a brave new world for Dads, and I am so thankful I could cry.
I do tend to brag about Robby, but he is just one good example of this phenomenon. We both came from households with very hard-working, successful fathers. My Dad traveled a ton and worked long hours, and his Dad is a doctor who had to be on call to take care of patients even on the most important holidays. Our Dads weren’t the generation of hands-0ff parenting, bring me my slippers, women do women’s work lifestyles. They just didn’t have the flexibility to take the kids to the park during the week. Austin is a bit of an anomaly here, because no one seems to have a regular 9 to 5 job and adults are out getting coffee or jogging around the lake at 2pm on a Wednesday and still managing to pay their bills somehow. I have no idea what these people do for a living, but they are all wearing Lululemon and Rolexes, so they are doing it well, whatever it is.
Robby has a job with regular hours, but he also has great benefits including Parental Leave when his spouse gives birth, so he was the dad at the museum chasing his toddler around and wiping his nose and changing his diaper in public bathrooms. When it comes to a day celebrating him as a father, I just don’t feel like a fart reference is appropriate. There isn’t really a gift that adequately speaks to his parenting skills, so once I eliminate the gifts he suggests that I deem incorrect and the gifts that aren’t good enough for him, I’m out of options. What do you get to show your appreciation for your partner in all things? Especially one month before our wedding anniversary where I’ll have to think of something all over again??
Having grown up with Dads that worked themselves ragged to provide for their families, it is fascinating to see them become grandfathers now that they are taking a step back from their careers. My Dad retired a few months after Jack was born, and Bob is still working hard but is able to take more time for himself now that he is established and can foresee retirement at some point in the future. I don’t remember what my Dad was like when I was two, but watching him play on the floor with my son or spoon-feed my baby opens a new space in my heart I didn’t know was missing. To me, he is a giant. He is firm, but mostly fair (in hindsight), generous, but stresses the importance of independence, concerned, but confident. Hearing him babble in goofy baby talk and seeing him rub noses with my babies fills me with love like no other I have experienced. I haven’t know Bob as long, and he is actually a giant at 6 foot 3, but watching him cradle an infant in those catcher’s mitt-sized hands shows me a new side of him that I hadn’t expected. He even lets Jackson play on his very fancy piano whenever he asks, and plays kiddie songs for him! Our Dads have become Gentle Giants.
Being a mother is something singular and magical, and we get the credit for the miserable pregnancies, labors, and long, arduous days at home with the kids. As such, we are celebrated and where possible, given time to ourselves to relax and decompress from our full-time jobs as Mommies. I have the same feelings watching my Mom and Mother-in-law be grandmothers as I do when I watch our Dads, but it’s maybe less surprising to see a mom be loving and nurturing, especially when you can better recall her acting that way toward you. Our Dads are having a renaissance through our children, and it’s pretty spectacular to behold.
Robby works hard all day at a thankless job, drives home in traffic, and then instead of guzzling beer and sitting in a cloud of farts like Amazon assumes, he walks in, changes into play clothes, and is immediately my savior while I struggle to get dinner on the table without tiny hands reaching up to “help” fling food all over the kitchen. Then we each feed a child while trying to feed ourselves, then each put a child to bed, meeting up for final good-nights in Jack’s room, and then we both collapse on the couch. And then we take turns putting Jackson back in bed and comforting Archie until they both surrender, and Robby fixes the Netflix account I somehow wrecked during the day, and we go to sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. Moms need naps and pedicures and lattes in peace, but so do Dads. I complain that my job is 24 hours a day, but his is too. The pressure of needing to provide for your family keeps you from taking career risks and takes away your freedom to up and quit a job you dislike. Sure, he rarely has to clean poop or vomit at his job, but its a different kind of stress, and he is working 24 hours a day, too. He works at the office and then comes home and works side-by-side with me. And though it sounds like I’m bragging about how wonderful my husband is (because he IS frickin wonderful), he is a typical example of Dads today.
They are involved, concerned, nose-wiping, diaper-changing, boo-boo-kissing, Gentle Giants, and I am so grateful for all the men in my life.