The times they have a-changed. Modern fathers aren't the bumbling, fumbling men we often make them out to be. With so many dads taking a more involved role in childcare these days, it's time marketing departments—and the rest of us—quit portraying them as incompetent dolts.
But stereotypes die hard. First came a patronizing Huggies commercial, then this onesie, and countless other advertising that continues to perpetuate the myth that no matter how they try, dads remain hapless creatures, bless them. Not so. And if they do commit some parenting bloopers along the way, I daresay we moms aren't exactly helping matters.
When my son was born, my husband and I stood side by side, clueless and equally stunned as a midwife showed us how to diaper and bathe our newborn. He was so tiny; we were terrified we would break him. Eventually my husband went back to the office while I continued to learn the ropes and gain confidence in baby duties. If he lagged behind, it was only because he didn't have the opportunity to practice half as much as I did.
But instead of jumping at any chance to let him take over—and even though I moaned about how exhausted I was—I was reluctant to pass the reins, mistakenly believing that I performed every task the Right Way. When he did attempt to 'help,' I would hover and, inevitably, criticize.
In time I learned to back off, but to this day (much to his annoyance) I find myself jumping in with unsolicited advice when it comes to our four-year-old's behaviour. Admittedly, often I'm sharing a valuable tidbit, which he should soak up. But mostly, I admit, my control freakery is a disease. The best thing I ever did was step back so my husband could step forward.
Early on, he undertook the bath/bedtime routine... by himself. I can hear some of you audibly gasp. But you know what? He managed just fine. And Saturday mornings have long been Boys Club at our place. It's vitally important, this father and son bonding time. Though my husband, the rebel, used to leave the house without a diaper bag (inducing heart palpitations in yours truly), no actual harm ever came to my son. In the end I had to trust that if I let go a little, my husband would soar. He would cope beautifully. And he did—and does—bar the odd blip along the way.
Dads have their own style of parenting, for sure. It's not wrong, just different. So if we want to see them really take off as fathers, we need to stop clipping their wings. We owe it to our kids to have faith in, and respect for, them.
Image credit: Flickr/ absolut xman