A New Perspective


When I was a kid, Fathers Day fell toward the end of the school year, so often the overworked elementary school teachers were itching to give us easy projects to work on as we all spent the last week of the year coasting on towards summer. I didn’t have to think about what type of gift to honor my dad with – in fact, I cannot recall ever coming up with an idea for a gift for my dad. Ever. I’d make something like a golfball paperweight in art class or I’d spend a few minutes dashing off a quick paragraph in English class about what our dads meant to us. If that failed, I’m pretty sure I could just sign my name onto a card one of my sisters bought. I never thought about it much. I’m a guy. My dad’s a guy. As long as I marked the day somehow, we were good.

Four years ago, I embarked on an exciting new career as a stay-at-home dad, despite having absolutely no experience caring for a child. In the early days, as other parents can attest, there is really no positive feedback, save silence or an extra-long nap. Sure, there’s the feeling of a job well done, but sometimes you wonder if you’re doing enough after you’ve been befouled by any number of body fluids multiple times in a day. Is the occasional toothless grin, heart-melting giggle, or hug a sign that you’re doing something right?

Caroline, my daughter, now 4, will thank me for getting her a cookie or finding her missing shoes, but I think she’d write a pretty bad performance review. She seems angry at me a lot of the time, since I try to keep her from hurting herself by leaping down stairs or eating random berries from the yard. And that’s ok by me. Keeping my daughter safe is my job – it’s just that some days I’d like a sign that I’m on the right or wrong track with this whole parenting thing.

My birthday was in February, and reportedly, Caroline agonized over finding the perfect gift for me. It took a few trips to Target and a couple of mall visits before she settled on something special. My daughter bought me a cow for my 34th birthday. A stuffed cow – a “Teddy Cow”, she calls it.

She picked it out for me herself when she couldn’t find a bear that would be appropriate for me to cuddle with at naptime. I can’t imagine what led her to believe that I was in need of a cuddle toy, but my wife reported that Caroline could not be swayed from getting me a Teddy. She loves her stuffed animals, and she was distraught that I didn’t have one of my own. Today when we laid down to take a nap, she made sure I had my cow so I could have a good sleep. I’m going to take that as a pat on the back.

I’m going to send my dad a card this year. I don’t think he wants a stuffed cow, but I’m going to thank him in my own way for doing a great job as a dad.
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