I’m a poser.
I, at times, gracefully fake being a fully present father.
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From my vantage point on the nearby playground, I could see a golfer on the tee box in the distance. He looked like a legitimate professional – wearing a white belt, a bright-colored, neatly pressed shirt with matching shorts and sparkling clean, glowing white spikes.
My daughter attempted to interrupt my staring, “Dad? Dad? DAD?”
“Hold on, Vivi! I want to see this guy tee off,” shushing my 8-year-old as if I were a patron at the Masters.
“SHHH? What? It’s a playground, Dad!” Vivi stomped off, protesting my dismissal.
I didn’t mind. I was transfixed on the golfer – hoisting the driver slowly back, reaching the apex of his backswing and exploding forward with a WHOOOOSSSHHHH!
The next sound was a splash as the ball entered the murky lagoon to the immediate right of the tee box, followed by the golfer’s club-slamming tirade.
Chuckling, my focus jolted back to my children playing.
I suddenly noticed what my daughter was trying to tell me – a collaborative effort between her and her 4-year-old brother to hoist their 18-month-old sister into the infant swing.
“No!” I hollered and darted in their direction, reaching my kids in enough time to avoid a trip to the emergency room.
I returned, for now, to “Super Dad” mode.
My wife is better at this
My focus now squarely on my five renegade children engulfing the playground, I slowly pushed my swinging toddler and took in her joyful glees and beaming smiles.
I gladly absorbed the adoring stares of the moms seated on the benches at the playground’s parameter. I imagined them telling their husbands at home, “Honey, you should have seen this dad at the park – he was watching FIVE kids!”
Lulled into a state of comfort by my daughter’s happy squeals, I glanced to my left at the still-aggravated golfer fishing his errant tee shot from the swampy weeds.
I suddenly realized we were similar.
We were posers. He was a fake golfer while I, at times, gracefully fake being a fully present father.
Just as he, no doubt, may not have been worthy of the $500 irons that glistened from his Titleist bag, I don’t feel altogether right about being the subject of parenting accolades.
Today at the park was a perfect example of why I don’t wear a “Dads Don’t Babysit” tee or take a hard line in discussing the parental inequities that often only focus parenting superiority on the shoulders of a child’s mother.
The hard truth is: my wife is better at most of this parenting stuff.
She’s laser-focused on our kids’ needs – always.
My wife is much quicker to act on their behalf.
She is completely comfortable being honest with each of my children.
At times, I do babysit – counting down the time until Mom returns home or trying to think of how my wife would act before doing so myself.
There are certainly instances when a cold beer with the guys sounds like a better Saturday night than watching Sing on the couch with my daughters.
Try, try again
I shouldn’t feel badly about those feelings, though. In fact, these times of self-doubt reinvigorate my dogged efforts to be a better dad and to work toward a place of household equity with my partner.
I’ll strive for achieving the parenting wherewithal that is truly 50/50.
Just as the golfer I watched could use some time on the driving range, I too need to get better.
As I scanned the park again to insure the safety of my five little ones, that same golfer caught my eye on the tee box of the next hole in the offing to my right.
He still looked like a professional as he reared back and, this time, drilled his drive 250 yards into the center of the fairway. His confident stride forward erased the memory of the previous hole’s lagoon — even if his spikes remained sopping wet.
Just like him, I’ll screw up as much as I succeed – and, likely, more often than my wife does.
But, I’ll keep learning.
I’ll keep trying.
I’ll seek to be, eventually, worthy of the outward symbol of fatherhood, parental equity – my T-shirt that tells the world that “Dads Don’t Babysit” – even me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tobin Walsh writes the blog The Good-Bad Dad, and is an aspiring author and speaker. The Florida resident is a father of five. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook, or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.