This is my first post on Dad Revolution.
On my own blog, The Didactic Pirate, I mainly write about parenting and teaching, the two endeavors that fill my days. My wife and I have an 8-year-old daughter, a precocious Mini-Pirate who entertains, frustrates, confounds, and enchants me every damn day. (We actually decided to have a child so that, if I ever decided to started blogging, I’d have stuff to write about. That’s the best reason to have kids, right?)
I’ve been blogging for a little over a year now, but I’m particularly psyched to come and sit at this particular table, sharing stories with other dads. Why? Because I’ve learned something interesting since becoming a parent:
Dads don’t talk. At least, not to each other.
Moms have this whole support network thing figured out. I don’t know how they do it. When my daughter was born, my wife was instantly welcomed into several mom groups here in San Diego before we even got home from the hospital. That’s what moms seem to do: they hear the cry of a newborn in the distance, and instantly, they’re on the move, like Batman:
“Somewhere, a new mommy is feeling overwhelmed! Quick, to the Mommobile! And bring a fresh muffin basket!”
Within the first month of our daughter’s life, my wife was a member of a Stroller Strides exercise group, three play groups and an evening Mommies’ Night Out club. Her dance card filled up before our daughter’s first diaper did. Within the first month of the Mini-Pirate’s life, she had other women to talk with, cry with, and share with – she was able to ask questions without feeling stupid, and received truckloads of support. From what I understand there was a lot of wine and hugging.
I was jealous.
I did go on craigslist when my daughter was a few months old, in search of some sort of Daddy Group. There were a couple, and I’m sure they would’ve been great. But I couldn’t help picturing something New Agey and awkward, where men gathered in the woods, painted tribal symbols their chests, and shared their deepest paternal feelings while passing around a Sensitivity Drum.
That was my own lameness, obviously. But I couldn’t bring myself to join. I’m just not that guy.
While moms seem to find each other easily, dads tend to be a little more stoic, as a group. Not that we don’t get needy a lot. Not that we don’t complain. Believe me. But when we dads hang out in person, we tend to downplay the crazy that we feel, the real stuff: the stress, the uncertainty, the anxiety, and all the inner voices in our head telling us we’re doing absolutely everything wrong. Our conversations with each other downshift into shrugging and surface-level stuff like “Man, those diapers smell, am I right?” We laugh, and leave it at that. And that’s it. And our real worries get squashed deep down and capped tight, like a BP oil leak. And we all know how well that turned out.
That socially-programmed isolation keeps us from sharing, since sharing means admitting vulnerability, which makes us think we appear weak, which means the other wolves in the pack will turn on us, point and laugh, and then rip us to shreds. I’m not the más macho of dudes, but I still find myself getting drawn into that self-destructive mindset.
There’ve been several points over the past 8 years when I’ve wished I could talk to another dad, to help me get perspective and find a parenting solution:
- The first time I was at a restaurant with my infant daughter, realized she needed an Emergency Diaper Change… and we had none with us.
- The time when she was four and a bigger boy pushed her down on the playground, and she didn’t know whether to attack, or cry.
- The time she ran for 2nd grade Class Secretary and lost.
- The time her 3rd grade teacher made her feel stupid for asking a question in class.
- The time three months ago when she asked me, “Daddy, what’s a slut? Genevieve’s sister said this other girl is a slut.”
And I know all this is just the beginning. My daughter is 8, and parenting is going to get more complicated, not less.
Groups like Dad Revolution are so valuable for fathers, for any parent. Groups like this are where we realize that the mistakes we’re currently making are also being made by everyone else. And in many cases, those mistakes may not actually be mistakes after all.
The thing that struck me when I first started reading the posts on this site was how much these dads care about the impact they’re making on their children’s lives. They’re doing more than just talking the talk: there’s something very earnest happening here. Snarky, insecure dads like me can use more of that.
I hope you’ll stick around a while and read what these dads have to say. Whether you’re a mom or dad, or future mom or dad, you’ll feel more connected, and more comfortable emerging from the parenting cave. At least, that’s what I’m feeling. So thanks to the other guys on this site who have graciously allowed me to horn in and share. I look forward to the revolution.
(You can find more of my sincere snark about parenting, teaching college, writing, pop culture and oh-so-much more at The Didactic Pirate. But check out the other dads here first.)