I Am Not a “Great Dad” Because I Fed My Kid

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Last Saturday, I took my toddler son on an afternoon man date to a local Mexican restaurant, after stopping off at the toy store to get more puzzles. (As a side note, I have a feeling that one of my future posts is going to be something along the lines of “For the Love of All that is Holy, Don’t Make Me Go to the Toy Store Again.” But I digress.)

Anyway, there we were, stuffing our faces with guacamole and chips — both of which would be required in vast quantities were our family ever to be stuck on a desolate island. Soon after the Little Man smashed another mound of guac onto his face (rather than in his actual mouth), he stood up on his chair. I told him some version of “Please sit in your chair,” though in fairness to him, I’m not sure he could understand anything I said with the amount of food I’d just stuffed into my own mouth.

“But I need to see how far I can jump, Dada,” the Little Man said.

Before I could protest, he launched himself forward, landed on the floor, and tumbled to the ground. He was just starting to stand when he saw a chip on the ground, ate it, and returned to his chair.

In other words: It was just your typical lunch with a 2.7 year old.

So, to recap — and I promise, this is all important for what is about to come — my son’s face looked like a Jackson Pollack painting of avocado and salsa; he launched from a chair to complete his version of the broad jump; he rolled onto a floor with carpet that may very well have been from the late ’80s (which also may be the last time they cleaned it); and he ate a chip off of it.

“Was it one he dropped?” I can hear you wondering right now. I can’t be sure … but probably no.

It was at this precise moment that two kind women came to our table. I had noticed them looking over at us earlier, and occasionally I would glance over to see just how disapproving their disapproving looks would be. Shockingly, I was always met with a kind smile and what appeared to be a little laughter with a shake of a head. I deserve their condescending sympathy, I thought, because, let’s be honest, we do look like a junk show here.

They walked up, smiled proudly at both of us like we were old friends or family, and that’s when one of them said it.

I was literally just feeding my child … If it’s ‘wonderful’ that I don’t let my kid go hungry for long stretches then, yep, just call me Father of the Year.
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“You are a wonderful father. You are so great with him. What a wonderful dad to be out with him like this.”

First of all — and I can’t make this any more crystal clear — Read. The. Recap.

Second, I appreciate the sentiment. Well, sort of … okay, not really. Because let’s be honest — I was literally just feeding my child. We ran an errand, it was lunch time, so … If it’s “wonderful” that I don’t let my kid go hungry for long stretches then, yep, just call me Father of the Year.

But the thing is, this happens a lot. Pretty much any time I’m with him alone, anywhere.

It typically goes something like this:

Stranger: “Oh, you’re great with him.”

Me: “I’m walking with him.”

Stranger: “Oh, what a good dad you are.”

Me: “I’m stealing grapes from the produce aisle so that he won’t cry.”

Stranger: “Oh, you are a real natural.”

Me: “I’m letting him pee behind a tree because I forgot my diaper bag.”

Each time I get some unwarranted praise for actually just doing what is in the parenting contract one signs when one has a couple glasses of wine and nine months later has a child, two things come to mind: What an insanely low bar I have the privilege of leaping over with the most mundane of tasks. And also, have you met my wife?

You want to hear about something that is actually wonderful? Jessica is the one who, in the greatest and bravest example of strength I’ve ever witnessed, brought him into this world. She’s the one whom you saw do these tasks every day for the first 24 months of his life from 9 AM to 5 PM because of my job, though I imagine you didn’t swing by the table to let her know how wonderful she was. She’s the one who flew solo from L.A. to Florida with the Little Man when he was one year old, because I was in a play. Can you imagine me, alone, on a plane with a one-year-old for six hours?

Read. The. Recap.

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