I spent today with my son. That usually makes for at least a pleasant day. Like most other red blooded Americans, I prefer to drive. As such, Desmond and I spent a significant portion of our day at the so very thrilling Department of Motor Vehicles.
Anyone who has ever had a toddler, and had to face the DMV with said toddler, knows what a trial it can be.
That precious sweet boy becomes a time bomb. You just hope he goes off after they’ve called your number. Otherwise you’re pretty much forced to leave and try again another day. Snacks and entertainment help, but only to a point. Toddlers like to stay neither still, nor quiet.
But we made the best of it, and Dez is a total ham.
“Hi, how are you?” is his newest phrase, he says it to every single person at the grocery store. Even the DMV ladies smiled at him.
Even after the two hour mark.
Still, their’s always something that has bothered me about taking Dez out in public without his mom. The moms at the DMV, wrangling their own children, look at me as if to reassure me. The sweet older couple look at me with something I can’t quite describe. Almost pride? Dads look at me with a look seen at the gym, when someone beat their old max lifting an impressive weight. A certain respect.
None of these are negatives of course. The attention is overwhelmingly positive.
What bothers me, I think, is that this attention is given at all.
Whether they assume incorrectly that I am a single father, or, correctly, that I am just out running errands with my boy, there is a recognition that comes with fatherhood.
That somehow I am uncommon. I should feel pride. I stepped up.
I am disgusted that the standards for manhood have fallen so low.
Ashamed that their’s good reason to expect so little.
The U.S. Census Bureau cites 1 in 3 children in the US live without their biological father in the home. Over 80% of single parent homes, are headed by mom.
I’m not here to crusade against divorce or failed parental bonds. Relationships are hard, they are messy. It happens.
It is no step up to be a father. It is the bare minimum. You help put a life in this world. You are responsible for that life. I could wax poetic about this all night but really it is quite simple.
In recent times the idea of manhood and through it fatherhood have come to question. There are some very toxic things about what we have allowed ourselves to become. It is up to us to create a new image of what we will be in the future. That image starts with the first conception of manhood:
If your first conception of a man is of an absent one, be better for the one that comes after you.
We can not accept standards of ourselves that are so very low that the very basis of our biology, of our evolution, of our very humanity, is made optional.
I reject that standard.
I did not step up.
I breathed air, I ate food, I fathered.