For The Fathers Who Are More Than Babysitters
It's pretty much guaranteed that any time Little Magician and her father come home from a daddy-daughter date, there's a palpable frustration woven into his stories of where they went/what they did/who they saw.
It never takes long for the source of that frustration to make itself known. It's usually an unsolicited comment, inane question, or banal assumption putting him on par with the Homer Simpsons and Peter Griffins of the world - bumbling fools who can just barely be trusted to keep a child alive, never seen as engaged fathers who play an invested role in their child's growth and ability to thrive.
I'm not generally one for giving someone a cookie for doing what they're supposed to do, but knowing first-hand how much energy effective parenting requires, I tip my hat to the mothers and fathers who are giving it their all. That being said, it amazes me that for all the vitriol society reserves for deadbeat fathers, many people have difficulty recognizing the capability and competence of hands-on dads.
HomieLuva has often been called a "babysitter," reduced to a secondary, juvenile role that belies the true depth of his post as a father. When Little Magician cries in public, well-meaning but overbearing women tell him what's wrong with her, never once listening to the man who knows her better than almost anyone else. He often comes home and tells me about the embarrassing shows people put on in his honour - surprised that he knows how to change a diaper/measure a bottle of formula/dress her in matching, weather-appropriate clothing - surprised that he can, you know, take care of her.
Society seems to have two general views of fatherhood: either absentee sperm donor or lovable-but-incompetent buffoon. Our hinging on to these characters serves no one, and makes us fall in line with the false idea that lacking fathers and long-suffering mothers are normal. Layer over this a heavy glaze of stereotypical gender roles and patriarchy - a patriarchy which is detrimental to everyone, including the men who sadly become ingrained with a narrow idea of what nurture looks like, and impose that on themselves and others. "Men don't do XYZ" and "Isn't ABC the mom's job?" are key indicators of this, and are two phrases that HomieLuva has heard all too often.
Adding race to the mix gives this conversation another dynamic. Many of us can personally relate to not having a father figure present in our lives, and media portrayal also expands and perpetuates the idea that Black fathers are particularly irresponsible. Interesting to note is that a 2014 study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that Black fathers are consistently more involved with their children on a number of scales than White or Latino fathers. Based on this particular study, HomieLuva is not an anomaly - but general human interactions often say otherwise.
As I type this, HomieLuva is bundling Little Magician up in her snowsuit, counting the number of diapers in her diaper bag, and packing a pureed lunch for their daddy-daughter date today. He's already called ahead to see if their destination has change tables in the men's washroom. He's singing the special song that makes her laugh only when he sings it - not me - and she's giggling as he straps her into her car seat.
As the car pulls away, I say my usual prayer - hoping that they're safe, that they have fun, that she doesn't poop through these new diapers we bought her. Then I add an addendum, hoping that when they come home, HomieLuva will - for the first time - have nothing but good things to say.