I think it’s fair to say my Dad never had to dress me. It wasn’t until my sister was born, and my mother was recovering in the hospital, that he was actually expected to make me presentable to the world. He failed miserably. As a first grader, I guess I had no clue as to what was fashionable, so I went with the rat’s-nest-side-ponytail-dress-on-backward look. I know it was popular in the November 1981 issue of Teen Vogue; I’m sure they have a back issue just waiting for an interview from yours truly. Needless to say, my dad was never in charge of my fashion or hairstyle again, per my Mother’s request (and later, my own request).
When my husband and I moved to a 2 child household, there was an adjustment period for both our relationship and our abilities to multi-task. I specifically remember my first weekend away, when I took a roadtrip with my Mom to Houston to visit my sister. I’d left instructions for my husband on how to manage the TWO children, but I also had confidence he could PARENT as well as BABYSIT his own offspring. When I returned on Sunday, the children were playing happily in the backyard, but sporting the same outfit from Friday. I looked at my husband with the typical “What the….????” look, and his only reply? “I kept them alive. You gotta be happy. I kept us all alive.” From that moment, our only request of any babysitter was to keep our dear children alive. A simple, yet crucial goal.
Today, I had an early meeting at school, so my husband was in charge of the Morning Routine. When I collected the children this afternoon, their outfits made me do a double take, and think about calling Teen Vogue for a “follow up generation” interview. My daughter was mismatched and mis-sized (her shirt had been in the “to grow into pile”). My son had a tshirt on from last year, a few sizes too short, and a few shades too faded for “school clothes.” I hoped they managed clean teeth, brushed hair, and breakfast to start the day, but I didn’t ask.
And to add to all of this, I have to admit I perpetuate the Daddy Incompetence Factor. When I have to be out for an evening, I work double-time to ensure the kids are fed, bathed, homeworked, and ready to just “hang out” by the time my husband and I tag eachother at the door. Why? Why do I do that? Is it because of my OCD? or Is it because I know if I don’t, the children might not be clean, fed, or in bed at a reasonable hour? I enable my husband’s caretaking shortcomings. Of course, there are exceptions, and there are attention-to-detail dads out there. To those, I salute you. But, as a general rule, when dads are in charge, sometimes things fall through the cracks.
But, despite slimy teeth, mismatched clothes, and unbalanced meals, kids love Daddy Time. They crave that special bond, and maybe it’s the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants attitude that makes that bond so unique. I guess someday the kids will be able to match their own clothes, and will want to brush their own teeth, so maybe I should just go with it. But, I also might document a few of these missteps along the way for future blackmail.