Three-year-olds are exceptional conversationalists.
Sure, their base-level understanding of most things can sometimes be a source of parental confusion (and/or entertainment), but every once in awhile, a toddler can hit you with a statement so extraordinary, it feels like they’ve taken a pin and popped your already over-filled heart, causing an emotional fallout that starts in your chest, moves to your throat, and finally winds up at the brim of your eyeballs – ready to drop at a moment’s notice.
Yesterday, my son came out with a douzy.
He was playing in his room while I was getting his younger brother dressed for the day. When I went in, I found him laying his “babies” (the three stuffies that take up residence in his quarters) down in his bed. He put each of their heads on the pillow and carefully brought his little duvet up to their necks.
“I can’t wait ‘till I get a little bigger so I can be a Daddy!”
Pop! Heart explosion.
I could feel the shrapnel creeping up and converging in my throat.
“Yeah? Well I think you’re going to be the best daddy ever,” I mustered, “How many kiddies are you going to have?”
He tells me that he’s planning on five… but not right this minute.
“I can’t have them until I grow up; like maybe when I’m 10-years-old.”
Totally. Good call.
It was the most adorable conversation I have ever had in my life.
Once I came down from the cuteness, I began to think more about what he said. When he grows up, he wants to be a Daddy! And that got me thinking about dads in general – His Dad in particular.
My little family is one that includes a superb Dad. The kind of Dad who once a week, somehow musters the energy to take two toddlers skating (neither of whom can skate, BTW), after putting in a full 8 hours at work and an hour-long commute home. The dad in this house is the kind that wrangles two kids into the car at 6pm to do the grocery shopping multiple times a week (because we also happen to have a mom in this house who loathes grocery shopping).
He is the changer of diapers. The patron of magical owie-healing kisses. The sneaker of treats. And the player of hide-and-seek.
His priority is spending time with his kids and he does it really well. He cruises toy–stores with them. They go for burgers at Magoo’s. They practice their stick-handling after dinner (RIP hardwood floors). He play–fights and wrestles and gets everyone all wound up (usually right before bed)… but then he zips up their sleep sacks, sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and devises plans for where we should all meet in our dreams that night.
Dads, man; fuck. When they’re good, they’re great. And after the groundbreaking conversation I had with my three-year-old yesterday as we stood over his “babies,” it occurred to me that we sometimes forget to give them credit where credit is surely due.
Yes, of course he occasionally drives me completely mental (laundry is meant to go in the hamper, damnit!), but that’s not the point here; The point is that the dad in this house (and I hope, the dad in yours) is making a huge impact on the way our sons are beginning to think of their roles as men in the world.
Because my man shows up for them, day in and day out (and he has since the day they were born), they’re already beginning to think of nurturance as a masculine quality. Whenever I really let that settle in, my heart fills with both joy and relief. But after that hit of happiness subsides, that same heart aches because it’s just so obvious that stark, out-dated, binary definitions of masculinity and femininity, are not only harming girls and women, but they’re also doing a massive disservice to boys and men.
Being kind and empathetic and nurturing and understanding – those are human qualities. We all want to be those things; it feels good to be those things, and when we tell boys that those are “girl” traits (either with our words or with our actions), we shroud those laudable qualities in shame. What a travesty to commit against our sons; especially when all we want is for them to grow to be loving and loyal partners, parents and friends.
I want my son to continue to dream of being a Dad. I want him to grow up to be the kind of man who sets out to find a balance between his family life and professional life – a balance that feels right for him, no matter what society is dictating as ‘the norm’ at the time. I want him to hold on to the memories we’re making now and use them when he needs to reference what it means to be a good Dad to his future (real-life) babies.
But you know what? He will be a good dad.
Good dads are all he knows.
I think that fact alone renders us lucky as hell.