When I became a father, he sent me a small newspaper cutting. It said, "the best gift a father can give his children are few moments of his time daily". Well, I learnt quite a lot and while I did not do as well as I could have with my son, I hope I improved a bit with my daughter. But it is funny and I loved this post in the NYT which I am quoting in full here. Go for it, be with your kids, spend time with them, sniff them, cuddle them, play in the garden with them, check out worms in the garden, see how the autumn leaves swish when you walk through them, complain about bad parking with them, talk about how wonderful stars are and how eclipses are formed, wrinkle up your nose at their potty habits......
Tags: ninnydom, stay at
One of the more pleasant outcomes of the slowly
growing trend toward highly involved fatherhood has been, I’ve found, the
ability to plainly see that total ninnyishness is not a uniquely female thing.
You can hear groups of fathers now having the same stultifyingly dull
conversations about their babies as moms have had for time immemorial. You can
see dads flushing red, up in arms, nearly tearful, about the same sort of
mind-numbing minutia that was once the exclusive domain of mothers on school
committees. You can see them co-playing on the playgrounds, co-watching TV,
co-dependently taking part in their little loves’ gymnastics classes, violin
lessons and friends’ ostensibly parent-free birthday parties.
They’ve got their blogs, their memoirs, their support groups and “dad lit.” And now, thanks to Charlie LeDuff, they’ve got the makings of their very own Daddy Wars.
LeDuff was a globe-trotting correspondent for The New York Times who covered Iraq and Michael Jackson and won a Pulitzer as part of the reporting team that created The Times’s “How Race is Lived in America” series. He became famous for his quirky and lively portraits of Americans on the edge.
And then, a year ago, his daughter, Claudette, was born early, while he was away reporting a story. Hearing the news, he says, he cried. And since then has traded in the life of big billboard headlines for stay-at-home fatherhood. I think that’s really nice.
I think that his wife (who is now single-handedly paying the mortgage on a
middle school counselor’s salary) is otherwise a very lucky woman.
What isn’t nice, though, is that LeDuff’s transformation from star reporter to
stay-at-home dad, chronicled in an essay in this month’s Men’s Vogue, has been
accompanied by the worst kind of moralizing, and the sort of other-bashing
ego-boosting that, penned by a mother, would be enough to get her expelled from
polite parent society forever.
“We go off to the park to see the Latina nannies who care for the Little Lord Fauntleroys of a neighborhood filled with two-career families,” writes LeDuff of his days with Claudette. “It’s only a 15-minute walk from my own neighborhood, but it’s another world altogether. My friend Angelica tells me, ‘The children love us more than they love their parents. The little one calls me Mommy.’ ”
“My child,” he chimes in, “will never call someone else Daddy.”
When Caitlin Flanagan said similar things, she was (verbally) ripped limb from
limb. She was accused of setting women back a generation. She was called
arrogant, self-righteous, above all reactionary. Could such charges be lodged
against a stay-at-home dad like LeDuff? How could they? “Reactionary
stay-at-home-dad” is an oxymoron. The simple fact of LeDuff’s “dadditude” — for more such rapture, see Philip Lerman’s book of earlier this year — neutralizes his verbal sting.
LeDuff misses his old life as a war correspondent terribly. But he hasn’t left its literary practices entirely behind. Toward the end of his piece, tooling around the neighborhood with his precious cargo, he encounters a man named Jose who is painting a house, and neatly makes him into the men’s magazine equivalent of the clever cabdriver so often called upon for pithy quotes in foreign postings.
“The whole world is in your brazos there, amigo,” says this sage. Sensing LeDuff’s longing for more virile endeavors, Jose asks, “Sometimes you see this duty as women’s work?” And: “This is preferable to the stranger who is not truly able to give the child love.”
“He said it just like that,” LeDuff then writes. “The nut graph, we
call it in journalism. The point of the story. Jose articulated the thing my
friends — the go-to-work dads — were not able, or not willing, to tell me: You
have to decide if the child is more important than the stature, the action, the
money. If she is, you must accept it and get on with the routine.”
If I were Charlie LeDuff’s wife, I’d start listening in on his conversations at barbecues and birthday parties. When he started expounding upon the virtues of
stay-at-home fatherhood, I’d slip over by his side. And then, if he started
spitting up more such hairballs, I’d come over gently, squeeze him by the
shoulders, and interrupt, “Always thinking. That’s my Charlie!”
Such are the vicissitudes of ninnydom.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!