In Praise of Daddy 

by Linda M. Sharp

Much has been written through the years about the role of the mother in parenting. Mom, the bearer of life, Mom the care giver, Mom the nurturer. And why not? We spend nine months of aches, pains and awkwardness carrying the baby. We endure the most intense pain imaginable to bring forth the child, and we wear our stretchmarks proudly, almost like the stripes awarded in the military. The father is generally viewed as a secondary figure, almost an afterthought. Take the recent unpleasantness surrounding Elian Gonzales. I have to agree that had Elian's father been the one who drowned, the child would have been returned to his mother faster than you can say "Hola." But bearing the moniker "Father", he has been forced to prove his worthiness to parent Elian.

Now, I will be the first to admit that there are many men out there whose sole contribution to parenting their children was the actual moment of creation. Many more throw the entire brunt of child rearing on the mother who stays at home, choosing the Lazyboy and a beer after work, over Green Eggs & Ham and tea parties. I feel sorry for them. I feel sorrier for their children. They are all losing out on the most precious moments imaginable, for while the Mother/Child bond may be talked about more, even taken for granted, the Father/Child bond is an incredible odyssey of love, laughter and loyalty.

I see it take place in my home each day. While I am lucky enough to be able to stay home with our young daughters, it is a double edged sword. While they love me without question and trust me to always cut the crust off their sandwiches, they also wallow in the aggravation and boredom of my constant presence. Daddy, however, is gone before they awaken. Like a special toy they are only allowed to play with once a day, they eagerly anticipate his arrival home each evening. I swear, these same children who cannot hear me call their names from two feet away, can hear the garage door opening over the blaring TV set. Cheers of "Daddy!" go up immediately! He is greeted with hugs, kisses and plans for the evening before he even clears the threshold.

I often stand back and observe how they gaze at him. It is with the kind of unabashed love saved for storybook princes and heroes. He is THE man in their lives. When Daddy is home, scary noises are no longer scary. Bugs do not stand a chance because the "Great White Hunter" will track them and dispatch them with the bottom of his trusty tennis shoe. And when they get all dressed up? They turn to Daddy for the admiration and approval only his glowing eyes can give them. (Actually, I'm guilty of all of the above too, after all he is MY man too!)

And where I am the accepted "taskmaster" of the hacienda, Daddy is the portable "jungle gym"! Don't get me wrong, he can parent and discipline quite well (although tears and big blue eyes do him in pretty easily), but where I am viewed as functional, he is viewed as FUN. An outing with Mommy is an errand. An outing with Daddy is a "date". Asking them to take a walk with Mommy is to see them overcome with rickets. A walk with Daddy somehow becomes an adventure filled "hike". And at bedtime? Secrets are shared that I am not privy to. Kisses are exchanged with Mommy, but Daddy's repertoire includes everything from the simple peck to the advanced Eskimo Noserub-Butterfly Eyelash combination.

Do I ever get jealous? Sure I do, but those moments are fleeting. What I predominantly feel is blessed. Blessed to have a husband who acknowledges my work as a stay at home mom to be as equally challenging and important as his work outside the home. Blessed to see a man so totally in love with and devoted to his children, from praising their indeterminate artwork to changing their soiled sheets in the middle of the night. Mostly I am blessed to know that if anything should ever happen to me, my daughters are blessed with a man who may parent differently, but no less effectively or lovingly than their Mommy.

So to all the men out there who do not fit the stereotypical, secondary, detached father figure role, I sing your praises. You may not have the physical stretchmarks of childbearing, but you have the emotional stretchmarks of childrearing. And as you continue to give and receive the incredible gift of the Father/Child bond each day, know that you are every bit as important and vital and acknowledged in your children's lives, as are the ladies who gave them that life to begin with. Happy Father's Day.

Copyright 2000 by Linda M. Sharp. Reprinted with permission. 
Linda Sharp is an internationally published humorist who writes regularly on the joyous and frustrating world of parenting. Her work appears across the Internet and wraps around the globe in parenting publications from Canada to Malaysia.
Linda is co-creator of the award winning website, Sanity Central — A Time Out From Parenting! Located at http://www.sanitycentral.com, it is totally irreverent, hysterical and packed with enough laughs to brighten even the weariest of parents! As a mother of three children (four if you count her husband), she firmly believes that laughter IS the best medicine. She may be reached via email at lsharp03@aol.com.