Have you ever noticed that men get more credit for childrearing than women? In other words, I get all sorts of accolades and applause when I take care of Jonah or when people hear I actually change diapers or feed him. I think that’s kind of dumb. If Sunday struts into a room and announces that she changed a particularly toxic diaper, people don’t think anything of it.
If I do that, however, I get ooohhs and aaahhhs.
It also works in reverse. If I forget diapers (which I have) and wipes (done that too) or even a bottle (three for three), people shake their heads and chuckle at me. If Sunday did that, she’s looked upon with scorn and jeering, with some of the elderly saints wishing to stone her.
I have mixed feelings about all that. For one, it’s pretty unfair that Sunday is held to a higher standard than I, when we both have the same level of experience.
Neither of us got Jonah’s owner’s manual.
When we went on vacation, Jonah rolled over for the first time. Well, he was actually sitting up on a pillow, so his rolling was helped somewhat by gravity. So even after we got back from vacation, Jonah was not too proficient at rolling over on flat surfaces and he was downright immobile in places where we can “wedge” him in somewhere.
My mother-in-law, Pat, brought our nephews, Kori and Seth, down to Kentucky for Vacation Bible School. Having those two, plus Jonah is a three-ring circus that is nearly unimaginable. Really, they’re all good kids, but they have enough energy to keep the lights burning on Manhattan Island for the next decade. As she was shuttling the boys out to the car, Pat needed some assistance, so Sunday took some pillows and packed them around Jonah on the couch. She literally ran out to the car, helped Pat and ran back in, only to find Jonah on the floor getting more acquainted with the legs of our couch.
Here is where I think Jonah’s thoughts should come to the forefront. Can you imagine what went through his mind as Sunday walked out the door?
Thought #1: I guess this is when that super-handsome guy with the large cranium will come in and help me.
Thought #2: Wait Mom! I can help! Look at me! I just need to get this pillow out of the way…
Thought #3: Hey. Nice carpet. Let’s take a closer look.
Thought #4: The couch tipped over. I promise. It was all the couch.
When she came back into the room, Sunday was horrified, blaming herself for our child’s advanced physical acumen. She also thought I’d have some sort of disappointment or something like that. I figured stuff like that happens all the time and, hey, he landed on a pillow. Didn’t hurt him much.
Since that day, though, we haven’t been able to leave him without some form of rolling being attempted on Jonah’s part.
Jonah’s quick trip to the floor made me realize that my view of parenting and Sunday’s view of parenting were totally different. While I thought I recognized these differences before we had Jonah, Sunday’s expectation that I would be “disappointed” jarred something.
If Jonah had fallen under my supervision, Sunday may have been disappointed or worried. She trusts me, but her mind and emotions go to places that experience what could happen. Not what did happen. What could happen.
Which brings me to a major philosophical and cultural phenomenon in the United States: the father as imbecile. Turn on the television and you might see him every night. He’s the one getting into “trouble” with his wife, leading his kids astray and acting like a complete doofus. He has become an icon, an anti-parent, a man who cannot be responsible for another human being, including himself. As an imbecile father, these characters don’t help, they don’t contribute, and they don’t care.
So the mother becomes the parent, in the entertainment industry, in the literature on parenting, and in the minds of fathers. Look around. How many television shows have fathers who are not consistently the punch line? How many more books are written with the word mother in it as opposed to father? Has the word mother become a synonym for parent, leaving father out?
The imbecile father does not exist for me. He has never been evident in my life, before or since I have become a father myself. The imbecile father is unwelcome in my house, and I can thank my own father for that.