Friday, June 13, 2008

A Day for Dads

There are basically two types of parenting styles - hands on, and hands off. Everyone else falls somewhere in between. For a child lucky enough to enjoy both parents, mom's style tends to differ from dad's. While one generally assumes that mothers are more hands-on, this isn't always true.

Funny how it's the men you least expect to be hands-on parents who surprise you. Both my brothers-in-law were not particular child-lovers, but upon having their own suddenly turned into surprisingly doting dads. BIL#1 changes diapers, feeds, burps and puts his kids to sleep - he can sometimes even be more hands-on than my sister! BIL#2 has changed diapers, something Little A's dad has never yet done.

My own father features vividly in my childhood memories, despite his being a full-time working dad. There is a scar on his thigh, maybe 6 inches long, from where one of my diaper pins wounded him when he was changing me. He used to peel me grapes and feed them to me in my high chair, and I bit his finger at least once. As a one-year old, I'd listen to his car come into the driveway in the evenings and if someone carried me high enough, I could watch the car drive in. One evening there was no one to lift me up, so I had the brilliant idea of climbing the glass panes, called jalousies, to see for myself. Obviously I came crashing down and was promptly rushed to the hospital to have the glass shards taken out of my feet.

Growing up, he made sure we never wanted for anything, right up until the present, when he gifted each daughter with their own home when they got married and invested generously in his son-in-laws' business ventures. He provided well enough for us that we were able to travel regularly and study abroad, both priceless experiences. He has set the bar high for the standard that we want to meet when raising our own children.

Fathers play important roles in their children's lives. Whether they take on the role of disciplinarian, breadwinner, or playtime companion, a family isn't complete without both parents. As a stay-at-home mother to Little A, there is a definite absence in our days when Big A comes home late because of a work dinner or travels abroad for business. Little A certainly looks forward to seeing his dad at the end of every day, and listens with a smile when he calls home in the afternoons.

Big A isn't very hands-on, never having fed his son or given him a bath in the entire 11.5 months since his birth, but that may change when Little A is bigger. I don't think his hands-off policy is due to lack of thoughtfulness, though, but because he just doesn't realize that 24 hour parenting is far more exhausting than a 12 hour workday, and he probably thinks he would be criticized for doing something wrong if he attempted to feed or bathe his son. (Which may be true, but remains to be seen.)

I know he takes fatherhood seriously, though, because his end goals have now changed. He works to provide his son with a future and no longer spends much time playing golf or drinking with the boys. When he can refuse, he turns down business travel assignments to be home with his wife and son. If he must travel for work, he takes us with him. Little A and I are far more important to him than just bathtime and mealtime would indicate. He has the big picture in mind, and lets me take care of the little details. This arrangement works out fine.

On Sunday we commemorate Father's Day. Whatever their parenting style, provided they are present in their children's lives, that is enough to salute them.

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