Dawn dish soap is not the same as Johnson’s baby wash, it just isn’t. It cannot be used interchangeably with the justification of, “but they use it to wipe off those baby ducks after there is an oil spill.” When I caught a whiff of the distinct smell of the blue soap and noticed an inordinate amount of bubbles overflowing from the kitchen sink a mere three minutes after I asked my husband to give the baby a bath, I knew I must intervene. My husband, a man with a Ph.D. who has helped me to raise three children in the last six years, was shocked to learn that there was a difference between washing a four-month-old baby with soap used to wipe the grime off of last night’s lasagna pan and soap specifically formulated with the slogan of “no tears.” My first reaction – What other hapless schemes has he subjected our children to over the years that I don’t know about? My second reaction – Who cares?
As a mother, I have a tendency to micro-manage. (I macro-manage too….hell, I just really like being in charge.) I have a specific way to do every little task that must be done during the day to run a family of five. And my way is, of course, the right way. The hockey gloves go in the bottom of the bag because that is the last thing that our son puts on before he heads out on the ice. The baby’s banana has to be cut into quarters because she can pick up the bites easier that way. Our daughter must eat half of her sandwich first before the Cheetos are even allowed on the table (because she forgets any rational rules about healthy eating or portion control when Cheetos are spotted). So when Daddy interrupts those rules or attempts to govern in a way that would elicit an exasperated sigh from me, I have been known to react as though he has just substituted anti-freeze for their Kool-Aid. (But, if you remember our previous confusion with blue liquids, you will cut me a little bit of slack).
It is usually only in reflection of these moments, after I’ve been reassured of our children’s safety, that I realize the beauty and fortune that these bits of substitution provide for our children. Like the time that he took our first born out on the town for the day to meet up with family members and friends and allow me a day of rest and relaxation. I received text after text with phrases such as, “You’ll never guess who we ran into!” and “We’ve been all over the place today.” I was reveling in the thought of a Dad showing off his little boy to the town when I received the last text of their afternoon together…a picture of my little boy at the playground….in his pajamas. Now, these weren’t the pajamas from the night before. No, no…these were a fresh pair of pajamas put on for the expressed purpose of going out for the day. Did my husband know that these were actually jammies and not a matching “real” outfit? No. More importantly, upon receiving this information, did he care? No. Guess who had an awesome day in his jammies with his Daddy? Yep.
Dads do not bother to brush their little girl’s long hair before gymnastics class. It’s going to get “tangly” anyways. Dads do not worry about providing a meal covering all of the basic food groups. I once sent them out to get dinner and they returned with three movies, a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, and a bag of Twizzlers. Dads do not remember to take the diaper bag. Nothing an old T-shirt left in the car, duct tape, and a quick trip to the gas station bathroom for wet paper towels can’t handle.
And that, my friends, is the beauty of fatherhood. All of the fun without all of the fuss. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that fatherhood is about shirking responsibilities and just being the “fun guy” all of the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Dads play an integral role in the development of their children and are responsible for teaching them about all of the important things in life – work ethic, responsibility, love, kindness, toughness, and how to throw a spiral. But I am saying that, in addition to all of the serious stuff, Dads bring a dash of “so what,” a sprinkle of “absolutely” and a teaspoon of “let’s try it” to the mix of childhood. In other words, dads make it fun – a whole lot of belly-laughing, sugar-eating, bath-skipping, mess-creating, memory-making fun.
So the next time my husband plays “diving catches” off of the couch unto a mound of pillows on the floor five minutes before bedtime or slyly gives our daughter a handful of jelly beans and whispers “Don’t tell Mom” or forgets the baby’s pants on the changing table at the restaurant, I am going to smile and think about the charmed life that he is providing for our children. Then I’m going to brush their teeth, wash their hands with Johnson’s baby wash, and put them to bed.