Fifteen minutes before it was time to leave for school yesterday, my daughter decided that she needed some make-up to “look pretty” for her teachers. Immediately after cleaning that up, with repeated face-palms for not getting a picture first, I watched her help herself to an open Gatorade bottle in the fridge and dribble half of it down her shirt.
Alaina likes to dress herself when she wakes up in the morning. These are very rarely the same outfits that she ultimately is taken into public wearing. Picking out her clothes for school can sometimes be a fairly time consuming process, partly because she seems to be outgrowing her clothes at an alarming rate, and partly because compromising with a three year old independent diva isn’t achieved quickly. These things take time and careful consideration.
Her mind was set on a Hello Kitty skirt. There was no going back from that, so there ensued a frantic search for a solid color T-shirt. Here in New England we skipped spring this year, jumping from 40 to 70 degrees in the past week. Her summer clothes are neither sorted or easily accessible. After throwing a handful of size 4 shirts around her room, I gave up, found a thin long sleeve shirt, and off we went. This was the final result:
Raise your hand if your first thought after seeing that picture was “what kind of dumbass dad would dress his little girl like that in 70 degree weather?”
If your hand is up, raise the other one if you would have TOLD the daddy picking his kid up that you felt that way.
Anybody with two hands in the air is now invited to wave them around, do the hokey-pokey, and feel free to browse some of the older posts in my archives. You may not like the rest of this one.
Still here? Great!
To be fair, I am paraphrasing the woman’s words, but the condescending tone of voice is impossible to replicate on paper. I was given a several minute lecture about how the students spend the last twenty minutes of the day outside and need to be dressed appropriately or they would have to stay inside.
My daughter had been running around and playing “chase” for the past twenty minutes. Her cheeks were red. She was probably really looking forward to an ice cream sandwich when we returned home. I think we were still well inside the safe zone regarding permanent brain damage from heat stroke.
I stood there and took it on the chin, sightly embarrassed as there were plenty of other parents present. I was mainly just afraid to speak. There is no telling what may have spewed forth had I opened my mouth, but I know myself well enough to be fairly certain it would not have been appropriate for children’s ears. I’m not sure the same level of self-control would have been present had my daughter been kept inside.
I have to wonder if my wife would have received the same lecture. Was this just another example of somebody stereotyping dads as blundering fools, gallantly trying their best until mommy saves the day? Two of her three school days I’m the parent dropping her off and picking her up. I’m not a television sitcom goofball father trying to keep his kid’s names straight while mommy has a spa day. Alaina didn’t have cold pizza for breakfast that morning. I didn’t use a spray bottle and a hairdryer to clean her ass. Yes, I’m a dad, but I’m perfectly capable of dressing my daughter every morning. I also do her hair and lots of other stuff that a lot of dads are doing nowadays.
Maybe I was being too sensitive. Her usual teacher was out yesterday and perhaps the assistant was just having a bad day. Perhaps she wasn’t trying to help out a helpless father. Perhaps, or maybe we still have a ways to go before dads are looked at as equally competent parents.
I’ve watched all the same comedies. Home Improvement, According to Jim, Malcolm in The Middle. Everybody Loves Raymond was the worst. I’m closer to Phil Dunphy than Homer Simpson.
When she ran over to us, the woman actually asked Alaina if she was hot, trying to underscore her point apparently. To show me my mistake. Alaina said no.
Criticize my parenting in front of my kid again and it may be unsuitable for network television. This is what real fathering looks like, and it’s a lot different from what you see on TV.