I am the greatest Super Mario Bros. player in the world. Seriously. I never let go of the speed button. I can walk through a wall to get to the negative world. I can accumulate so many extra lives, the number is represented by blocks of ice. Now that you’re convinced that I’m the greatest Italian Stallion plumber with a killer mustache, I’ll tell you how I got there.
I hit the reset button. A lot.
In my daily playing to become the greatest in the world, I had to set high standards. If I didn’t get the first set of coins and blocks, kill the Goomba and get big with the mushroom all within a few simple jumps, I hit the reset button. When I practiced slapping the turtle around in 3-1 to get all the extra lives, I hit the reset button. If I did not save the Princess without warping OR dying, I hit the reset button. I hit the reset button a lot. And that was ok. It made me the greatest player in the world.
When I became a dad, I found myself struggling with the learning curve. Severe lack of sleep, constant questions to Dr. Google, and no “couple cups of coffee” before you’re already knee deep in crap, every single day– this new child instantly became a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job that nothing and no one can prepare you for. Albeit, the greatest job in the world, it doesn’t come without bumps and bruises. All of a sudden, it all made sense; being a dad was like being a master Super Marioer.
Let’s get serious here. I wasn’t eating mushrooms to get big and walk through walls. (I did enough of that in college.) Like in Mario Bros., I had to accept that I was going to make mistakes. Nothing life threatening, but I knew that I had to learn from the experiences and get better the next time.
Being a parent, you sacrifice yourself for your kids. No one can be submersed in something 24/7 without losing some individuality and sense of self. I have not been doing this long, but the word around the playground is that parents hit a breaking point. They can’t take one more lost opportunity to poo by themselves. They can’t take the dirty laundry mocking them like Bowser jumping up and down spitting fire and throwing hammers. They need a break! They need to hit the reset button. And that’s ok!!!
The best way that I found was to find a dad group and become active within that group. I assumed that my 4 month-old son was too young for play-dates, but the other dads helped me learn that your child’s age does not matter– play-dates are just as much for you as they are for the kids. So, I went, and I found that it’s great getting to hang out with other dads and our kids. I also went to the dads’ night out events and met some awesome dads who have been a great resource for me.
Eventually, our Chicago Dads Group became part of the City Dads Group, which brought with it an ever-increasing community of dads across the nation. Being part of a larger group, looking at the larger picture, and reaching as many dads as possible is what it’s all about. We enjoy sponsored events with brands that are focused on fostering, enriching, and educating the dad community. As a stay-at-home dad, it offers a break throughout my days by going to playgroups. As a dad, it offers family outings, family picnics, and the ever-popular Dad’s Night Out to gather with all types of dads over dinner, golf, drinks, movies, etc, etc.
Everybody’s situations are different. We are not all stay-at-home dads, but we’re all dads with a deep passion and love for our families. We all want what’s best for them. If either parent gets to the end of their rope, it’s ok. Encourage them, embrace them, and remind them there is a reset button.
I am not the greatest dad in the world. I am not the greatest stay-at-home dad in the world. I can’t hit the reset button as much as I did on my way to Super Mario greatness. However, I can still learn from my mistakes and get better. I’m getting involved in the dad community and when I need to, I reset. Then, I’m ready to pounce on turtles, break blocks and rescue the Princess from the evil Bowser. Don’t worry Princess, I’ll find you! I always do.
**Looking for the dad community?**
If you are looking for a few more reasons to join a dads group, or to see the amazing things going on in dad groups around the country, the City Dads Group has what you’re looking for.
If you, or any dads you know, are looking for dad group in your area, the Map of Dad Groups is the place to find it.
A version of this first appeared on Just a Dad 247.