As a male, I know I get certain historical advantages over the fairer sex by default. Dressing business casual couldn’t be easier, opening jar lids never seems to be an issue and, as anyone who’s ever been to the State Fair can attest, the ability to pee while standing cannot be underestimated. Compassionate parenting, however doesn’t come in to play on that list. Most women have that down cold.
My patience and understanding comes to an abrupt halt when someone who is old enough to speak in complete sentences and wears big-boy underwear “accidentally” pees on the carpet… in the living room… and neglects to tell you until several hours later… after you feel it seeping through your sweatshirt while lying on said floor.
Knowing these types of shortcomings in my parenting repertoire, I’m always surprised at the double standard I’m exposed to in public when I’m out and about with the children during the day. Whether I’m dragging a screaming toddler away from the counter of Auntie Anne’s at the food court (because I promised a cinnamon pretzel and I damn well better produce if I know what’s good for me), or hastily throwing the Curious George, Berenstein Bear, Arthur potpourri into my canvas bag at the library, I’ll often have random people come up to me and comment on my parenting skills.
Amazingly enough, it’s always a compliment.
The gist is generally in the, “You’re so good with them,” or “You look like such a good Dad!” vein. To which I generally respond, “Thank you,” instead of, “Really? Because you should have seen me ten minutes ago in Sears when I was letting this one continue to lick the lollipop he’s still eating after he dropped it in the aisle of the hardware department because I was in the process of a China Syndrome type meltdown with that one because we couldn’t come to an amicable understanding on why he shouldn’t continue to kick the bottom of the particular bandsaw I was perusing at the time.”
Who am I to dispel complete stranger’s pre-conceived notions? Why clue them in to the fact that I’m a broken diaper fastener away from being a Developing Story alert on CNN.com.
Crazed Dad Takes Baby Gap Employee Hostage, Holed Up in Sbarros.
So what’s the double standard I mentioned previously? I could be wrong, but I can almost guarantee that these same people who feel compelled to tell me what a great job I’m doing with my kids, never tell the vast majority of Moms out there how well they’re doing. I asked my wife, and it doesn’t happen for her, and she is imminently more prepared and on top of things when she’s out with the kids. As an example, my wife brings along snack bags for the kids in case they get hungry. Me, I make an emergency stop at BJ’s and hope the sample ladies are out in force.
Now I grant you this particular double standard is in my favor, but it’s an imbalance nonetheless. The people who are throwing compliments my way are generally from the Donna Reed generation, or thereabouts, so it may still seem like a novelty to them that I’m taking care of the kids and haven’t devolved into a whimpering pile of old-spice scented goo in the corner. This underlying doubt on their part is usually revealed with their follow-up question, “Are we giving Mommy a break today?”
To which I generally respond, “Yep, it’s just the boys out today,” instead of, “No, Mommy is just way way smarter than me, and if she could only open her own jar lids, I would be replaced by a body pillow in a heartbeat.”