On the way to school this morning, #2 and I stopped to pick up breakfast. We parked, tumbled out of the car, locked hands, and skipped into the shop, hoping to chase down a couple bagels. We held the door for a young woman who, leaving, smiled at me, and said:
That was great. You get major dad points for that.
Thank you. I appreciate the compliment and the endorsement of my skipping despite, no doubt, the fact that I must have looked like a lanky, spasmodic gorilla. Her compliment underscores how easy it is for dads to get compliments. Organize the class party, receive praise. Skip into the bagel shop, get points. Fathers can get credit simply by not injuring their progeny.
These compliments irk a number of fathers because they presume some Y-chromosome-linked deficiency or some cultural vestige from our neanderthal past both of which prevent men from being competent dads. Fathers who are upset by such compliments urge people to stop making them. The act of complimenting a father for relatively insignificant or quotidian parenting reinforces the cultural stereotype of the failing father. Previously I seemed to come to a similar conclusion.
My real point in that previous post was ambiguous. I want to clarify my thoughts here. Rather than ask people to stop complimenting fathers when they are engaged, caring parents, let’s recognize and compliment mothers for being engaged, caring parents.
Being a parent is tough. None of us are parents because we want compliments. Still, we all could use a little recognition and a kind word now and then (or daily, for that matter). Let’s be generous with our praise and in our acceptance of others’. Let‘s strive to repay the compliments we receive by passing them on to other parents who, like each of us, is struggling to do right by our children.
So, to the young woman who was kind and generous to me: Thank you for noticing. Thank you for saying something. I, in turn, will compliment a parent I see tomorrow. Hell, I’ll live on the edge and compliment two parents.
Let me clear, I am not graceful. And at well north of 6 feet, I am hard to miss, arms and legs akimbo. The shocked looks of the people sitting just inside the shop were totally justified. ↩
I wonder if fathers are equally upset when such compliments come from women or from men, from mothers or from fathers. What is the source of this unease? ↩