Parents, do you know what we all have in common? We experience insecurity. All of us deal with a sense of not feeling good enough at some point, and it's usually due to comparing ourselves to other moms and dads.
Susie's daughter eats more spinach than Popeye, but in your world, you'd be lucky to get your kid to take a nibble from the lettuce on a fast food cheeseburger. Paul's 3-year-old son can spell "glue," while all your 4-year-old wants to do is eat it. That kind of stuff is known to drive many moms insane. But what about dads? Sure, we can be insecure about parenting, but does it bother us as much?
Yes and no.
Let's start by saying the narrative about fathers not giving a damn isn't accurate. Well, it's not entirely accurate. No, I'm not talking about the deadbeats and lazy dads out there -- we know they don't care about anyone but themselves. I'm talking about the ones who take fatherhood seriously, because oftentimes we don't give a damn about many things when it comes to parenting. For example, do I care when people stop me while I'm out with my kids to offer unsolicited parenting advice? Not really. I don't catch emotions over it. Instead, it's akin to a gnat buzzing around my ears.
"Actually, ma'am -- I don't think I'm spoiling my baby by wearing her in the Ergo, but thanks for your concern."
"Back up. It's 70 degrees outside. I don't think my kid needs a jacket."
"No, I don't need your help to put my daughter's hair into a ponytail. I got this."
Social media changed the game entirely. It's like virtual high schools are popping up all over the Internet due to the amount of mean girls/boys, rumors, and backbiting when it comes to parenting.
"She still breastfeeds her toddler? That's just gross."
"That guy has no clue what he's doing as a dad."
"They only feed their kids organic stuff. They must think they're better than us."
The beat goes on.
So, no -- I don't give a crap about what strangers or well-meaning loved ones think of my daddying style. Why? Because fatherhood isn't a competitive sport to me. There's no trophy given to the parent who gets his kid to eat the most steamed kale in a given week. Nobody is going to offer a dad the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at a parenting conference because he can create the most adorable braids for his daughter. Ain't nobody got time to be caught up in the Parent Olympics. It's completely meaningless.
Someone once told me that the main thing is to ensure the main thing always remains the main thing. Are my kids happy? Are they healthy? Are they safe? Are they kind? That's what matters to me. If my kids can check those boxes, I'm good, because they can figure out the rest as they go on through life.
That said, if my kids are experiencing challenges in one or more of those areas, then I absolutely will give a damn. And that's because I give a damn about my children (as most dads do). It never becomes a competition with Joe or Jane EveryParent. Instead, it becomes a challenge to continue to be best dad I can be without being consumed by my own parenting insecurities or factors outside of my control.
But then the magic happens. When I check on my kids while they're sleeping or witness them happily playing together -- I notice how perfectly adorable and peaceful they are. I couldn't give a rat's ass about people talking smack online, or friends with children "more advanced" than mine. All of the second-guessing and worrying seems to be replaced by an overwhelming feeling of, "Damn, I'm doing a pretty good job with these tiny humans." We're doing our kids a disservice by listening to our haters and naysayers. I mean, how can we actually enjoy our children if we're too concerned about what others are doing and saying about us? It's just noise, man.
If our kids are smiling, we should be smiling too. And if they're not smiling, we need to do something to make them smile. Before we know it, they'll be all grown up, starting families of their own, and we'll wish we could go back in time to enjoy everything about their childhood.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch Frozen with my daughters while we crush some chicken tenders. I hope you're OK with that. If not, just channel your inner Elsa and let it go.
I know I will.