Friday, May 24, 2013

My Report Card as a Father and Man

Am I a good father? What kind of man am I? I imagined how someone might grade me on a variety of categories as a way of reflecting about the meanings of "man" and "father."

OUTDOOR WORK
Schoepflin is pretty much a circus when it comes to doing work outside. He's not totally terrible at mowing the lawn, but it's evident that he dislikes almost every minute of it. He's clumsy and ineffective at weed-wacking. The guy doesn't even own a snowblower. He lives in Buffalo, for Christ's sake. How does this guy not have a snowblower? He half-heartedly brushes snow off his car in the winter months, and clears about 70% of the snow from his wife's car. What a prince. In the spring he doesn't plant flowers. He once considered planting vegetables, but never followed through. Overall, he demonstrates an appalling lack of interest in the outdoor area of his home. Grade: D

GRILLING
Schoepflin appears terrified of his grill. He can't turn on a gas grill on a consistent basis. He doesn't ruin hot dogs, but overcooks hamburgers, wrecks steaks, and produces uninspiring chicken. At least he's smart enough to avoid trying to grill kabobs. He complains about how hot it is to stand over a grill. When asked if he wanted a new grill for Father's Day, he was so dumbfounded by the question that he couldn't muster a response. Let me be blunt: when it comes to grilling, he's an embarrassment. Grade: F

GROCERY SHOPPING
This guy is right at home at grocery stores. He likes grocery stores. He glides through the aisles with a smile, hums to whatever song is playing on the store soundtrack (he has a noticeable pep in his step when Stevie Wonder is playing), chats with workers, small talks with fellow customers, and patiently waits in line. He wisely races through the middle aisles of the store in order to limit his purchase of processed foods. He knows how to pick produce, knows a good meat bargain when he sees it, and is excellent at reading labels. I swear I've seen him counting the number of ingredients when he grabs canned goods or an item from the frozen foods section. This guy is a triple threat: he can meal plan, stay within the budget, and is a health-conscious shopper. Grade: A

CHILD CARE
OMG, have you seen Schoepflin change a diaper? It's a thing of beauty. This guy should enter a diaper-changing contest. Methodical yet efficient. Smooth understates the matter. Graceful gets close to it. This fella knows what's he doing with diapers. My only criticism is that he needs 6-8 wipes for a poopy diaper. This guy is killing the environment and that fact must be taken into account in terms of a grade. Ok, so he's great at changing diapers on his 2-year-old, but what about the rest of it? Well, he sings to him, tickles him, totes him around when needed, and loves him up. This guy is pretty steady with the kids. I like what he has to offer his 5-year-old: he makes his lunches for school, teaches him to play baseball, encourages reading, and is very affectionate with him. He does get frustrated easily and has trouble living in the moment, but overall I like what I see. It does seem like he'd often rather be blogging or tweeting, but nobody's perfect. He puts his kids in front of the TV too much. To be fair, he sometimes uses TV to buy time to empty the dishwasher, do laundry, or cook dinner. Also, in an interview with his wife, she noted that he did his fair share of overnight feedings when the kids were babies. He also created original songs to sing to the boys at bedtime. Grade: B+

FIXING THINGS AROUND THE HOUSE
He can change a light bulb. What can I say, I'm trying to be nice. I don't want to sound like a hater, but this guy is useless around the house. If something needs fixing, you better look elsewhere. He's is powerless with power tools. To him, everything looks like a screw, only he can't use a screw gun. I'd say he has two left hands, but that's an insult to people with two left hands. I'd say he tries, but that's only slightly true. I guess I'd say fixing things doesn't come naturally to him, and he clearly shows a lack of interest in improving his skills. It's like, dare I say, fixing things isn't important to him. This isn't to say he doesn't appreciate people who are good at fixing things. In fact, he's impressed by people who are handy. He admires people who can get jobs done. It's just not a personal ambition or something he values for himself. It appears as though he'd prefer to spend time doing things that are important to him, like reading and writing. Because he can do a little bit of painting without falling off a ladder, he avoids an F. Grade: D

SUMMARY
In the big picture of parenting, I judge him as above average. He gives his kids room to grow but is happy to nurture and comfort them. He works hard to be very involved in all phases of his kids' lives. He volunteers as an assistant coach for his 5-year-old's t-ball team. He puts a lot of emphasis on making his kids laugh, having fun with them, playing with them, meeting their immediate needs, and coordinates everything with his wife. This is a report card of him, but for context it must be said that all major decisions are shared with his wife. They are a team. They are good at many of the same things, and bad at many of the same things. As I write this summary, it occurs to me that "above average" is a strange way to rate a person as a father or man. Who gets to decide what constitutes a good parent or good person? Who sets the baseline? What is below average and what would it look like? What's with all the rhetorical questions? Maybe it's time to pull back on our assumptions about concepts like "father" and "man." Truth be told, I don't think there is one set of things a man should do and a different set of things that a woman should do. Honestly, I don't see it that way. I guess I want to say that people do the best they can in this life. We should pay more attention to the things people do well. The best gift we can give people is to cast aside our stereotypical expectations.







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