geek.anachronism

she has fallen and now she is awake

On fathers

One of the (many) things I wish for Bunbun is a good relationship with her father. I don’t want her to have to fear her father, or loathe him, or simply feel that distance so many women feel. I don’t want her good memories to be made up of the times they did his hobbies (or his chores) together*. I don’t want her to feel desperate for his approval or love.

In short, I don’t want her having the same relationship with her father that I have with mine.

In some ways this is completely unlikely – Wolfman has a reasonably high level of feminist understanding and certainly has feminist leanings so a lot of the fraught aspects of my paternal relationship aren’t going to exist in our household. He actually gives a fuck about parenting as a choice, not just something that you do when you aren’t doing other stuff. So even if reading the same book four times is boring, that’s what he’ll do and that pattern will go on because it isn’t just about what he does and what he feels – she is just as important as he is.

Yet, he still does the kind of half-arsed things Bluemilk talked about here** – I looked over the other day and he was holding a balloon on a string like it was a cat toy while he played his DS with the other hand. Apart from that I have had to say (more than once) that if I request he takes over fully for a while he has to take over fully. Not let her whinge at my feet. Not hand her over for a nappy change (even if it’s the fourth in an hour). Not start talking to me because now he’s bored. I still do the bulk of the emotional work and he knows this. Acknowledges it. But we find it hard to change. I don’t want Bunbun growing up and thinking she’s got to be the caring one and I don’t want her growing up to expect her partner to do it either. Which is the crux of a lot of issues.

What am I modelling here?

I want to show her how to have a great relationship with her father, except that I don’t know how. I still have to deal with my father’s inappropriate comments, his obnoxious behaviour and his absolute certainty that I don’t know shit. I model behaviour where I go to my Maman if my Da is an arsehole – I want her to not only know she can come to me and I will protect her and act, but also know that she can do the same herself. That he will listen. I don’t want her to feel like her voice doesn’t matter here in the heart of her world. Or that her father doesn’t really care, or prefers her to be silent, or wants her to be someone she’s not. I just don’t know how.

Visiting my family always puts me in this sort of a mood. I don’t want my Da yelling and carrying on because I dare to not be thankful he’s working himself to death – I want my Da around, I don’t want money when he’s gone. I understand though but he still feels the need to act as though I can’t possibly understand the trials of his labour. That I (and my mother) are just gallivanting around because we dare not to put him and his needs first. No matter what we do it isn’t as important. No matter what I say it isn’t as right. No matter what I do it’s not as good. His pontificating on family life irks me the most – he was so rarely there so how dare he impugn my decisions? He wasn’t breastfeeding, he wasn’t dealing with three kids for weeks on end by himself. He has no idea when I was given solids yet he feels perfectly at home lecturing me for not giving my daughter toast and vegemite at two months. Or three months. Don’t I know I was always eating soft boiled egg and toast at 8 months and that’s why I’ve got no allergies? Never mind the research. Never mind what I want. Never mind what I say. He knows better.

*I cannot describe how unspeakably sad it makes me when women talk glowingly about their fond memories of doing yardwork with dad. Or watching football with dad. Or fishing with dad. Or any number of his hobbies that he does with a child in tow. It isn’t that I expect Wolfman to not play games with Bunbun just because it’s his hobby, I just expect his bonding with her to be a little bit more than ‘tag along while I do everything I’d have done if you weren’t here’. She is precious and our daughter and I fucking expect a little bit more effort to go into interactions.

** And you know the shitty thing? It isn’t that I don’t do stuff like that myself. I just feel like a shitty parent when I do and hate myself for it and angst away while he shrugs and moves along.

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9 responses to “On fathers

  1. blue milk April 2, 2010 at 23:17

    These are some big questions. It is so refreshing to see motherhood bloggers that do this kind of introspection. I really enjoyed your post.

    • geekanachronism April 4, 2010 at 10:13

      Thanks! You’re an inspiring as always even if it did take me a few weeks to work this out…

  2. Hunter April 4, 2010 at 05:05

    This comment troubles me a bit: “*I cannot describe how unspeakably sad it makes me when women talk glowingly about their fond memories of doing yardwork with dad. Or watching football with dad. Or fishing with dad. Or any number of his hobbies that he does with a child in tow”

    I think that you might want to re-visit your assumptions about his parenting style. Kids learn a lot from tagging along and enjoy doing the things that their parents do, whether it is learning how to make muffins or change a tire, or go fishing. How do you know that isn’t quality? It is not a parent’s job (and might even be detrimental) to be their child’s constant entertainment. That’s wonderful sometimes, but not necessary to be a good parent. In fact, many good parents share their lives with their children in just the way your husband does.

    • geekanachronism April 4, 2010 at 10:13

      Like I said “It isn’t that I expect Wolfman to not play games with Bunbun just because it’s his hobby, I just expect his bonding with her to be a little bit more than ‘tag along while I do everything I’d have done if you weren’t here’. She is precious and our daughter and I fucking expect a little bit more effort to go into interactions.” – it isn’t that there are those memories. Or that I expect constant entertainment to come from one of us as parents. I just think it’s incredibly sad that so many women only have these sorts of memories of interacting with their father. Not their father learning things from them, or taking them to their hobbies, or playing with them – only ever tagging along. I expect more mindful parenting – if you’re playing with your child, play with them. Independent play is vital to development but ‘parenting sticks’ or ballon cat toys aren’t independent play. It’s a way of interacting without mindfulness.

      Bunbun is more than likely going to grow up playing games. I don’t doubt that a lot of her fond memories are going to be about playing games with me or Wolfman. I just expect that they’ll be games that are appropriate for her and that she has an interest in. And that there are going to be even more where our focus is her and her enjoyment, not us getting to do what we want with minimal involvement with her.

  3. Hunter April 5, 2010 at 03:40

    I have a 3-year old and a 1-month old. While I understand what you are saying, I honestly find that playing with my 3-year old daughter sometimes to be a bit excruciating, and I sometimes I have the feeling that it’s not so good for her. Take the playground for example: We are there with tons of other children her age, and she wants ME to play with her. It’s a problem. In the past, I thought that I had to play with my child to be a good mama, and so did all the other mothers – and that leaves us with a playground full of 2-5 year olds who only want to play with their parents! So it was a huge relief to find others who felt the same way (perhaps, including your husband?):

    http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/up-with-boredom/

    “I thought — that we really do not have to play with our kids. We have to love and nurture them, yes, but unless we are really psyched for a game of CandyLand or make-believe, there’s no reason we have to do it. Kids can and should be able to entertain themselves.”

    • geekanachronism April 5, 2010 at 10:01

      This isn’t about play. It isn’t about boredom. It’s about the pervasiveness of fathering as an optional thing, something you do on the edges and something you don’t ever have to take seriously or even think about because that’s what mothers do. The concept that playing with children can be boring and tedious isn’t exactly uncommon or new and has nothing at all to do with what I’m talking about. It’s that a man taking his child to the park so he can get a coffee is praised even if he doesn’t interact with the child once but a mother going to a special cafe with a playground is derided for her yuppy yummy mummy latte-ness. It’s that children fit on the edges of a man’s lifestyle whereas women are still expected to drop everything in favour of motherhood.

      Free range kids is just the flip side of it – no matter what you do, you’re doing it wrong. Where are fathers in all this? Why are they getting free passes?

      • Aphie April 5, 2010 at 19:25

        It’s that children fit on the edges of a man’s lifestyle whereas women are still expected to drop everything in favour of motherhood.
        THIS.
        A million times over!
        I was thinking about this in regards to my own family’s dynamics, just this weekend; how my whole life feels as if it revolves around our son with a stolen hour or maybe two fitted in around the toddler’s schedule, but Daddy has this whole life separate from that role. And even when we’re parenting together, it usually feels that way. When we go out I’m the one who orders food that the dairy-intolerant child can pick at from my plate whilst my partner indulges in creamy pastas and cheesy bakes with nary a thought. I pack the toddler bag, and until the most recent outing I was the one monitoring sleepy/nappy/hungry times. At home, until very recently I was the one introducimng new games, foods and activities.

        I hope that this will wear off as the child becomes older and eventually ceases to nurse (although if we agree to trying for another, the cycle will surely begin again?), and this seems to be bearing out – though I suspect it’s been helped along by my absolute insistence that Daddy spend a bare minimum of two regular hours a week with the child, without me around (during my dance class and to go to the local library program for toddlers) and my regularly taking the car and leaving them in each others’ company for two or three hours every second or third weekend. But the consideration of himself as Major Parent seems to disappear when we are a family of 3 again.

      • geekanachronism April 19, 2010 at 09:43

        (I can’t believe I forgot to reply!)

        God, the food thing. I’m the one monitoring food and working out what she needs and researching it all. With the egg allergy I’m the one reading research about it, I’m the one reading labels. He does tend to make sure she’s got something to pick at but often forgets that if we’re eating, she needs to be eating. Yes I can give her some boob but she’s rapidly becoming disenchanted with the whole breastmilk concept if there’s food around.

        That said now he’s officially quit work it seems to have flicked a switch – he’s looking at labels now, he’s monitoring food, he’s monitoring meds for the cold and naptimes. I just wish that it wasn’t an either/or – you can be involved without being the main caregiver. But the way society plays it and the way most men do it is if you work, then you can’t possibly be thinking about your child (unless you’re a woman).

  4. Hunter April 5, 2010 at 10:23

    I agree with you there. My husband gets praised to the nines for taking our daughter to the grocery store. I just don’t see evidence of his “half-arsed” parenting from what you wrote in your original post. It is possible that he’s doing things in a mediocre way, or maybe his way of relating is just different from yours, and that he’ll shine in different parenting moments.

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