I’d like to begin today’s posting by stating the obvious: men and women are raised differently.
And I think these different expectations result in different parenting approaches.
Women, for example, are brought up with thousands of idealized images floating in our heads… snapshots of how a perfect life is supposed to look.
This is the perfect outfit, the right interior design, the way your hair should fall into perfect messy imperfection when having a cute pillow fight with your boyfriend.
Open women’s magazines and you’ll discover what an enviable life is supposed to look like.
They are filled with beautiful still-life compositions: pretty meals on color-coordinated table sets, adorable coffee cups with heart-shaped cappuccino foam patterns, perfect women with complex eyeshadow designs, like miniature Monet masterpieces, adorning their oval faces as they wear expensive coats while walking down lively urban streets…
Many of us grow up clutching at paint swatches and Pinterest pins, hoping to authentically express ourselves by painting our lives the right shade. If we become mothers, we fret about how to design the perfect nursery, wondering whether we are having sons or daughters and how to correctly color-coat their space.
Being a good mother, for many, means a constant production of all this conventional beauty: dressing our kids in charming outfits and serving them adorable meals on brightly-colored dish ware. We hope any candid photos of our random mothering could attest to our powerful love with their beauty alone.
Men, on the other hand, aren’t often raised with these (sometimes overwhelming) esthetic demands. They are raised instead to be practical, to fix problems, to ferret out the most pragmatic solutions. They are happy to get from A to Z with a minimum of fuss and even less concern about what observant neighbors may be thinking.
And this is probably why any time my daughters go out in public wearing something crazy, random strangers smirk and ask me if their father dressed them today. It’s funny (and sometimes true), but also illustrates how our society tends to believe mothers have this whole parenting thing down to a science, whereas fathers are holding on by the skin of their teeth.
You can see it in the countless comedy tropes about goofy dads scrambling when left alone with the children: inept fathers pouring waffle batter in the toaster while their kids are breaking plates all over the floor. In real life, any mom who mentions that her husband is looking after the kids is likely to hear chuckles and hopes that she won’t be retuning to utter chaos, as though dads obviously can barely hold down the fort while she’s away.
It’s an old joke, and in my opinion, often an unfair one. Yes, my husband’s solutions tend to be more practical than polished, but they are solutions, just the same.
Sometimes they are downright hilarious.
For example, anyone with an infant has probably wrestled with terrible restaurant highchairs before. Those things are one-size-fits-all, regardless of whether your child is 3 weeks or 3 years old, and have flimsy little seatbelts. A small baby could turn the wrong way and flip right out of them.
You have to finagle your baby out of his or her carseat, wrangle them into the crappy highchair, and try to wedge sweaters around them to keep them in place. It’s a hassle.
So when John just up and engineered a restaurant hack by angling the carseat right into the booth, I thought it was brilliant. It looked ridiculous, but worked perfectly… Bridget was happy, safe, and ready to eat. Plus, no other customers had to stumble around an awkward highchair in the middle of the restaurant:
And this isn’t the only time my husband’s slapdash innovations have come in handy. Many a joke has been made about babies being messy eaters, but you really have no idea how crazy it gets until you have one.
My kids love pasta and they especially love a recipe I’ve had around since I was tiny. We call it “Kid’s Spaghetti” around here. It’s an extremely inauthentic but delicious meal involving lots of sausage and cheddar cheese.
We served it to Brontë when she was tiny and she LOVED it. So much, in fact, that she wouldn’t just eat it–she would grab handfuls of bright orange pasta and mechanically shampoo them into her own scalp.
This particular combo of sausage, cheese, and grease is insanely delicious, but leaves such a greasy neon orange oil slick on your kid that we would keep a kitchen sink bath on the ready every time we ate the meal. After dinner, we’d scoop Brontë right out of her high chair, dump her into the sink and start scrubbing away.
But the last time we had it, John had a great idea. After snapping Bridget into her high chair, he left the table and came back with an armful of dishtowels.
He started grabbing each towel and tucking it around Bidgie’s little body: around her legs, around her trunk… when he was finished, she looked like some kind of banana-shaped dishtowel mummy with a face and two little pudgy arms sticking out. Then he plopped her plate in front of her.
When we were done eating, Bridget was a hot orange mess, but all John needed to do was peel away the dishtowels and chuck them into the laundry bin before wiping her hands. Awesome.
Daddy Hacks: not picture-perfect, but they work.