I’m in a self-righteous lather after reading a column on CNN from Jeff Pearlman, a columnist for SI.com called “A Father’s Day Wish: Dad’s, Wake The Hell Up.”
Jeff is a stay-at-home dad who has heard the stories from moms in his community about how their husbands would never change a diaper or wake their children up for school or clean up their puke.
The woman started crying.
I didn’t expect this, because, well, why would I? We were two adults, standing in a preschool auditorium, waiting for the year-end musical gala to begin, talking summer plans and Twitter and junk fiction and all things mindless parents talk at mindless events. Then — tears.
“My husband,” she said, “doesn’t care.”
“Uh, about what?” I asked.
The floodgates now open, she told me her husband works from home. But he never drops their daughter off at preschool. He never picks their daughter up at preschool. He never wakes up with their daughter, never puts her to bed, never takes her to a movie or a carnival or a ball game; never comes up with fun daddy-daughter activities. “All he worries about is golf,” the mother said. “Sometimes he’ll take her to the driving range for an hour. But that’s it. …”
Two days later, by mere coincidence, a different mother cornered me. I was sitting in a pizzeria with my son, Emmett, and daughter, Casey, gnawing on a calzone. The woman, another preschool regular who always seems to be dragging around her kids with the worn look of a chain gang inmate, glanced my way and muttered, “My husband would never do that.”
“Do what?” I asked.
“Be out alone with both of the kids at once,” she said. “Never.”
That dads would carry on this way is of no surprise to me. But hearing about it still makes me angry.
Because it’s like looking in a mirror.
I’ve always been a hands-on dad. I clean up the throw up, bandage the scrapes and read to them daily until they started to read on their own. I still make the lunches, and while I don’t work from home every day, most weeks I get them up, dressed, fed and off to school a couple days a week as a matter of routine.
But when my OCD and addictions were slowly eating my brain, all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch TV. I didn’t want to talk. I sure as hell didn’t want to play.
Being a better dad has taken a lot of work. I still have a ways to go. I still get tired and lose my patience with them. I still have moments when I just want to be a vegetable. I’m not as good at watching my mouth around them as I used to be. Sometimes I have a hard time looking up from the computer when they’re trying to tell me something.
But I will never, ever choose golf over my kids.
Nothing against dads who like to have their golf outings. But to prefer golf all the time over family, well.
We dads must do better than that.
All the blog posts I run Sunday will be about my kids and my father. Not to celebrate me, but to celebrate them.
Because Father’s Day is about them more than about us.