Controversy Wednesday: LETTING MEN BE MEN

8 Dec

An awfully good-looking pair of guys.

In my opinion, there is no more obnoxious humor than men-bashing.  Quips and jabs about how stupid men are, how slow they are, how simple they are – first of all, are not all that funny, and secondly, give me the heebie-jeebies.  That our culture finds this public emasculation socially acceptable is an indication of how pathetically reluctant we all are to grow up.

Take, for instance, just about every sitcom on television these days.  Somehow between the genesis of the situation comedy and now, it became the norm for television families to berate Dad.  “Look, kids!” says the fictional mother, popping a sassy hip and rolling her eyes with thinly-veiled contempt.  “Look how stupid Dad is!”  [Canned laughter.]  “Yeah!” say the kids, “Dad’s a real idiot!”  [Canned laughter.]  And all the while, TV Dad sits in his recliner with his beer and remote control with a stunned, moronic look on his face.   Really hilarious.

While I was pregnant with Seabass, Jake and I took a six-week birthing class with a wonderful instructor named Kathy.  Every week, Kathy distributed photocopied articles that she thought might help us to prepare not only for birth but for everything that comes after.  I’ll be honest: So much of that information went in one ear and out the other.  But one article stuck with me.  It was about letting dads be themselves, letting them play and contribute to the care of the baby, even if it means that the style is different than that of the mother. 

In theory, this doesn’t sound too difficult.  But in practice, it means letting Jake dangle Seabass by one leg over his shoulder when I’m terrified he’ll drop him.   It means watching the baby thrash and fuss while Jake’s trying teaching him how to crawl.  And it means standing aside to let Jake dress the boy like a circus freak – camo shorts, black socks, a turtleneck and a jester’s cap – no matter how ludicrous I find his fashion choices for our son to be.  I’m not saying I succeed at giving Jake total autonomy all the time, but I’m certainly working on it.

Reading that article made me hyper aware of my friends’ interactions with their husbands and kids.  I started to notice how crazy controlling some of my fellow moms are.  One mother (don’t worry, she doesn’t read the blog…at least I don’t think…) got in a tussle over the father letting baby put a *clean* restaurant spoon in his mouth.  (“We don’t know where that’s been!” she spat through her teeth.)  Another snapped at her husband for giving the baby zerberts on the belly.  “You’ll scare her!!” she barked.  “You don’t stay home with her all day but I do.  And I know that kind of thing really freaks her out.”

I’ll admit it’s very tempting to make these kinds of remarks to Jake.  And sometimes I honestly do know better.  But I try really hard to let go because I want Jake to parent Seabass in the way that’s most comfortable to him.  If I interfere and control every little facet of that relationship, chances are Jake will give up and shut down.

This theory is reinforced by a piece on MSNBC from earlier this year entitled “When Moms Criticize, Dads Back Off of Baby Care,” in which researchers found that nagging, persnickety mothers preclude distant father-child relationships.  In a nutshell, if I want Jake to be involved in the raising of our Seabass, I need to let him discover his own style, because if I don’t, he’ll tend to stop trying altogether. 

Taking this train of thought to its logical conclusion, if Jake never develops his own relationship with Seabass, I’ll inevitably become that pathetic mocking martyr of a housewife on TV.  “Why can’t you be more involved?  You don’t even try to parent our children.  You come home from work and turn on the game and tune everyone out.  I have to do everything around here.” 

And why?  Because I wouldn’t let him dress Seabass in camo shorts at six months of age.

But enough outta me.  What do you think?  Is it important to let Dad do his own thing with children, even if Mom is sure she knows best?  How hard is it for you moms to back off? 

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11 Responses to “Controversy Wednesday: LETTING MEN BE MEN”

  1. SaraMcGRath December 8, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    yep, one of the bigger challenges for sure of becoming a family of more than two!
    and yes, we need to let dad’s do their thing…. and communicate…easier said than done, but true

  2. Livia December 8, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    Jaims, you’re so right on! This is such a damaging trend in our society in general, and creates disaster when it is mirrored in individual families! I witness it among my friends with children. I’m sure it must be hard, because sometimes even I feel the same way, watching dads throwing kids in the air, and they aren’t even mine! But now we know, and knowing is half the battle 😉

  3. Kristin December 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    I totally agree. When Ben was a couple of weeks old I went to change his diaper (it had leaked all over his onesie) and I saw how it was put on all crooked. I called my husband over to show him the “proper fit.” Immediately after I realized my mistake. He’s going to quit changing diapers if I’m always criticizing. I still catch myself giving too much advice from time to time but I really try to minimize it. Thanks for the reminder to keep my mouth shut! : )

  4. Hank December 8, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Thanks Jaime! Yep, us dads are different, and we actually know a thing or 2 as well. Just because “you” gave birth, doesn’t mean you are the proveyor of all child raising knowledge. We sometimes do things you wish we wouldn’t do, but that goes both ways. Many time, yes, in general, you think we’re too rough/gruff/harsh/childish and we think you’re to soft/easy/coddling/over protective. There is a balance that mush be struck, and we tend to find it by both being involved.

    For both parents, the goal is to raise healthy, happy, kids that will need little to no therapy later on but are productive members of society (still hoping and praying about that therapy thing). This requires education for both parents. Yes, read books. Yes, attend seminars. But, YES, have lunch with older, wiser parents of children you respect. You’ll definitely come away with new knowledge about raising your kids, and probably find that much of it relates to your marriage as well.

    And yes, I did throw them high up in the air and catch them, much to the dismay of my ever watchful and loving wife. The dressing like a clown, they did that on their own.

    -Hank
    Father of 2 boys, 13 & 10
    Husband 15 years

    • Kacey December 8, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

      Well said Hank.

  5. Kacey December 8, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Let’s look at it this way, if we didn’t have a significant other to help raise our children there would be no one there to do things differently and we’d be writing about a different set of lower lows.

  6. Jill Whitacre December 8, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    Love this post. I strive to let my hubby be an autonomous parent and in the process have learned that he is so so good at it. He uses so many situations to teach Jude something that I never would have thought of and yes, he also dresses our son in color combinations that hurt my eyes. The best part about letting Dad be Dad in his own way is that number one my son LOVES his Dad (read cries every morning when he walks out the door) and two neither of them balk when I leave for a few hours or more. In fact, I think they cherish their time together without the crazy (me).

  7. Debbie December 8, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    Perfect world – both parents involved and communicating. Different styles are great. Teaches the children not everyone will react the same way to them.

  8. Sheri (Mommy Stuff Blogger) December 8, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    I totally agree, we have to let the Dads do their own thing. Plus, the babies LOVE daddy play. I’m not one to put Hannah in a giant bucket and swing her around, but she dumps all her toys out of the bucket/tub thing every night so Daddy can swing her around. She giggles the entire time Daddy is playing with her. She loves her daddy time. Sure I don’t do things the same, but that’s the beauty of it. I let Daddy and Hannah go wild, and only step in if it’s absolutely necessary. I.e. if he puts her nappy on and it’s really only covering one butt cheek, the other hanging out, no doubt leaving room for a poo explosion later (which I of course would be the one to clean up).

  9. kendra December 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    Agree with all that has been said. I have great respect for my husband, considering he has done two mommy out of town weekends with Hazel (8mo. old). She has survived, and so has he with more confidence with his Daddy skills. Which in turn means more “me time” for me 🙂 I will say I do have my moments of crazy mom, where I swoop in and try to do everything, only to be met with exhaustion. So thank you Jamie for another reminder to step back and let Dad do. Plus many of his trials and errors have led to some of the greatest belly laughs!

  10. AKeo December 9, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Right on! I have tried to back off of the “nagging” behaviors even before our little guy was a twinkle in the eye. Like folding laundry, putting dishes in different places, etc. Sometimes I slip and correct things that don’t really matter. But I try to be mindful of my comments as much as possible. My husband is super involved. We share the load of parenting. It makes life a lot more pleasant!

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