As I made it clear in my review of the Robitussin commercial “Coughequence #8 Waking The Baby,” dads are trivialized in media, especially in commercials targeted towards women. One of the worst parts about dads being reduced to just standing there and/or making a mess is that this familiar and toxic concept is so easily received by audiences.
If the roles were reversed in that commercial, and it was the mom who coughed and woke the baby, leaving the husband to put the baby to bed alone, it would probably come across as bizarre to viewers.
But since it was the token unshaven dad, it goes unnoticed.
I think it’s weird in the commercial how the mom and dad are putting their baby to bed together, anyway. Why are they doing that? In my version of reality as a dad, Mommy and I took turns back when you were that little.
The only reason the dad was even there was to wake up the baby, creating a plot device in which Robitussin saves the day. So actually, the commercial would have been better had the dad not been there to begin with.
And so the subliminal message continues: Dads just get in the way when they do show up.
Fortunately, The Today Show‘s Matt Lauer evidently disagrees with that marketing approach. He believes that dads are very important, especially to their kids.
It’s the 30 second ad at the top of this page, by the way.
I liked it so much that I checked out the feature The Today Show did on it:
In this clip, Matt Lauer asks Eric Snow, Executive Director of Watch D.O.G.S., to explain just why dads are so important. His reply is fascinating:
“Study after study demonstrates that a child with a positive adult male role model actively engaged in his or her life is twice as likely to graduate high school as a child who doesn’t and is going to develop more socially, mentally, physically and academically… Dads make a huge difference.”
I get it that not every child has easy access to a positive adult male role model who is willing to be actively engaged in his or her life. That’s why I’m a sponsor for Men Of Valor, a mentoring program for children whose dads aren’t in the picture.
Every other Thursday night, you see me leaving right after dinner and you ask, “Daddy going to see his friend?” I mentor a 17 year-old boy.
I do this because I know the difference I can make by helping him develop more socially, mentally, physically, and academic, just by my presence and engagement as a positive adult male role model.
You can speak; and I’m not referring to a selection of the most necessary phrases to get through life as a 2 year-old. I mean that Mommy and I can carry on an actual conversation with you and you understand what we are asking or telling you.
Yes, you can participate in legitimate conversations now. Granted, there are some limitations; some concepts are just too complex for you to make much sense of right now.
This past Saturday the three of us were so busy playing in your bedroom, swinging the shaggy bolster pillow at each other and pretending that your Thor play tent was a ship on the stormy sea, that a couple of hours passed before we realized your diaper was pretty wet.
So we asked you, “Jack, who do you want to change your diaper, Mommy or Daddy?”
Your instant response: “Jesus!” The look on your face was completely serious.
It caught me so off guard, I hesitated as I attempted to answer you:
“Well… uh… Jesus can watch… but it needs to be either Mommy or me who changes your diaper today.”
You stood your ground:
“I want Jesus! I want Jesus to change my diaper!”
Thinking back now, I can’t even remember whether it was Mommy or me who actually changed your diaper. I just know it’s a very bizarre thing to think about. I mean, how do I explain to you why Jesus can’t change your diaper?
That’s a tough one for a 2 year-old to process.
I started thinking about how Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. Then I started seriously thinking about whether any of His unrecorded miracles included changing toddlers’ diapers. You really got me thinking, kid.
This is only the beginning. You are going to be saying some pretty hilarious things without trying, as you’re new to this “real conversation” concept.
I will be here to help you as you get lost in translation. I will try to help you, at least.
Today when I picked you up from KinderCare, your teacher gave me an incident report to sign:
“Jack threw a toy at a friend, hitting them in the face. Left a good sized mark. Separated them. Had time to himself and we talked about being nice to friends and using words when upset.”
It’s so natural for me to respond by asking you, “Jack… why did you do that? Why did you throw a toy at your friend?”
I realize now that by asking you that, I’m asking you a question you yourself don’t know the answer to.
In fact, you’re sort of relying on me to explain why you did it.
After all, while you can now easily and quickly piece together sentences to communicate things you observe, you’re not really able to communicate to me how you feel unless you are either very happy or very sad. Therefore, asking you to explain why you feel the way you do is even more confusing for you.
Right now Mommy and I are working on teaching you different emotions to describe how you feel. While you don’t quite yet understand “angry,” you do understand “sad.”
So I guess the best way to help you understand why you threw a toy at your friend and hit them in the face is maybe something like this:
“Jack, today you hurt your friend when you threw your toy at them. I think you might have felt angry when you did it. That made your friend sad. Jack, please say you’re sorry to them tomorrow. We hand our toys to our friends instead of throwing them; even if they do something we don’t like.”
You had to go to bed without your usual playtime at your train table, plus you didn’t get to take any of your trains to bed. That’s pretty weird for me… the thought of you going to bed without your little talking die-cast trains.
Ultimately, why you threw a toy at your friend doesn’t change the fact that I need to teach you to not throw a toy at a friend… for any reason.
So now, I don’t care about the why. I care about the how: How can I teach you that what you did was not nice?
By trying to help you use words to describe how you feel, asking you to apologize to your friend, and then by taking away your favorite toys for the night.
(There may be a better way. If there is, I’m open to suggestions from anyone else who happens to be reading this letter.)
“I am a mom who, much like you, just knew I’d be a [parent] but never dreamed of it my whole life, or knew what to expect at all. I assumed that when I had my child I’d keep working and be happy with him in daycare, because that’s what my parents did with me. I couldn’t have been more wrong — about my happiness/satisfaction with this scenario.
We can’t afford for me to stop working, but all I want to do is be with my son. It is the most horrible feeling in the world. Guilt, feeling like I’m missing out, and most of all: the inherent instinct, dare I say biological need, to be with my infant child, makes me INCREDIBLY sad to have to sit at my desk all day. I know not all mothers feel this way, but this is why I am less happy than my husband — who has no problem at all working full time.”
The main takeaway from this comment for me personally is that, as a mom, she feels guilty about having to work full time and be away from her child; meanwhile, her husband has no problem with that issue.
Good point. Not only does it appear to be the norm for most women to yearn to become mothers, therefore causing my familiarity with the phrase, “All I ever wanted was to be a mother,” but it seems just as predictable that men experience much less guilt about working all day, away from their child.
I’ll speak for myself here, as a dad. Do I feel guilty about you being in daycare all day while I’m literally a quarter of a mile down the road, working in the office?
To be vulnerably honest… never.
If the question is whether or not I miss you everyday while I’m away from you, the answer is absolutely yes!
Inconveniently, your 2 hour nap occurs during the middle of my lunch break; otherwise, I’d spend that extra hour with you.
Like most dads, I am wired with the subconscious yet undeniable desire (and biological need?) to provide for you and Mommy. So to be honest, the thought of feeling guilty about you being in daycare while I’m at work… well, it’s pretty much the opposite of how my mind works.
Instead, I would feel guilty if I couldn’t be working all day while you’re in daycare. In an ideal world, Mommy could stay home with you, at least.
I gain a lot of confidence and self-worth by going out and working to provide for you and Mommy five days a week. It’s like, for me to feel successful, I have to have this “other life” away from you to earn the right to the version of life I share with you and Mommy.
So, no; like most men I know, I never thought or said out loud, “All I ever wanted was to be a dad.”
Instead, this was my version:
“All I ever wanted was to make a good and respectable living for the family that I always knew I would have one day.”