I received my Father's Day gift early this year when my June 2014 issue of Parents magazine arrived in the mail as always, a couple weeks ahead of the date on the cover. There, before my grateful eyes, was a DAD on the cover, with his gorgeous son on his shoulders! Okay, it wasn't just any dad, but celebrity dad Nick Lachey. Still, it's a dad and his son on the cover of the best parenting magazine in the world (full disclosure: I am on the advisory board of Parents magazine, but it is the best parenting magazine in the world!). There are actually two covers of this issue of Parents. Flipping the magazine over, the "other" cover features Nick and his wife, Vanessa, with their son, Cameron. So there are two pictures of a dad on Parents magazine this month.
Why am I so excited to see a dad on the cover of the best parenting magazine in the world? Because, in the world of parenting, this is a Jackie Robinson moment. A Michael Sam moment. An Emily Keicher moment. (Who is Emily Keicher? See below.) I love moms, and I would never want to diminish the importance of moms. I've been married to the wonderful mom of our kids for 27 years. But I'm a dad. And I have read every page of Parents magazine every month for many, many years. I'm a much better dad for reading Parents magazine. I'm also a much better pediatrician for reading Parents magazine. But in all my years of reading Parents and other national parenting magazines, seeing a dad on the cover solo with his child is a first for me.
Groundbreaking covers are not a new phenomenon for Parents magazine. Readers continue to buzz about the magical February 2013 cover story featuring Emily Keicher, a gorgeous 3-year-old with spina bifida who walks with the aid of leg braces and a walker. And how about the April 2014 cover featuring Chloe and Daniel Molina, 3- and 5-year-old siblings who both have autism? And now this, a DAD on the cover with his son.
Last fall I had the privilege of giving the keynote address at the 18th annual convention of the National At-Home Dad Network. They estimate that at least 1.4 million dads are home with their kids. At the convention, I was witness to the extraordinary commitment these men have made to their families. Typically, my own "No Regrets Parenting" seminars focus on helping busy parents make the most of the time they spend with their kids, and finding more time, despite their frenzied lives. But, for the At-Home Dads keynote, I also described the two additional challenges that stay-at-home parents, dads or moms, must face:
1. Making sure the need for efficiency—getting everyone where they need to be when they need to be there, and getting everything done around the house—doesn't overwhelm the joyous experience parenting should be.
2. Helping the working spouse or partner to get more out of his or her parenting experience.
I hope I was able to convey those important ideas to those dads. But whatever I was able to contribute, they contributed more to me in the lengthy and animated question-and-answer period following my talk. I started the discussion by asking what works in other families to make parenting more fun. I wish I had recorded the answers—it would have been my next book! There were fabulous ideas, including "Talk like a pirate (on International Talk Like a Pirate Day)," "Celebrate May the Force Be With You Day (on May 4, of course!)," telling practical jokes (like putting a fork in kids' breakfast cereal for a hoot), arranging scavenger hunts and "geocaching," making homemade ice cream, and hosting costume parties.
Jane Goodall, the famous researcher of primates who was childless, is quoted as saying: "One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun." Well, one thing I learned (among many) from the At-Home Dads is that dads DO know how to have fun with their kids. Cover dad Nick Lachey sure looks like he's having fun with his son.
Happy Father's Day to dads everywhere, whether you stay at home each day or struggle to get home most days in time for bedtime. Thanks for all the good stuff you are doing for your kids.
And pick up a copy of the June 2014 Parents magazine—Dads, it's YOUR magazine this month!
Plus: What's your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).