baby daddies in shiny tights

Ryan and I took the boys to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon.

Ryan wore Buster in the Ergo and pushed Chicken in the cart. As he wheeled up to a register, the cashier sang out, "Woah, check out Super Dad!"

I'm sorry.




I had to walk it off.

It's not that the cashier called Ryan Super Dad. Ryan absolutely is SUPER DAD. He's amazing.

I'm mad because the cashier doesn't even know why Ryan is Super Dad.

Ryan blows raspberries into our sons' bellies until they laugh so hard they fart.

Ryan crouches over Chicken in the bathtub, holding that tiny Elmo toothbrush with just his thumb and forefinger, and he sings a little tooth brushing song while he brushes every pearly fang in my baby's mouth.

Ryan's eyes well up when Chicken kisses Buster's bald dome.

Super Dad
gets his ass
handed to him

But the cashier doesn't know any of that.

All Ryan had to do was
a) have a penis
b) hold a baby


What would I have to do to be called Super Mom by a stranger in the grocery store?

Today I had both kids in the store, in the giant race car cart, alone, when Buster flipped out. He slapped the binky out of my hand and clawed at my shirt, pulling himself out of the seat as he screamed. So I did what any mother would. I nursed Buster in the produce section today, while I gave Chicken a clear plastic bag, and helped him select and bag 5 dark green zucchini.

What I did was in NO way exceptional. I know a lot of Super Fucking Moms. I witness acts of maternal heroism, superhuman patience, catlike reflexes, and compassion far beyond the call of a mother's duty every single time I leave the house.

And you know what? I witness acts of paternal superstardom too. Gentle tenderness after taking an elbow to the solar plexus. An ebullient high five, a lightning-fast hoodie-grab before the kid goes off the curb and into the street, a quiet conversation about ducklings on the pond.

When I posted about this on Facebook, one of my friends said, "for the record, the word mom implies the super."


Aw. That's really nice. Thank you.

But why, I wonder, doesn't the word dad imply the same thing?

I mean, I'm not totally clueless. I'm familiar with the standard archetype of fatherhood - strict, absent, cold, short-tempered, wayward. Papa was a rolling stone. Papa don't preach. When you comin' home dad? I don't know when, but we'll get together then, son... you know we'll have a good time then...

But it's May 18, 2015. And we live in Seattle, a city full of young crunchy families led by mothers and fathers who are building families in a time and place when parental involvement is in vogue. I would think that here and now we'd be able to say that our baby daddies deserve more respect than the lowest possible bar.

In this day and age, are we seriously supposed to be wowed by the sight of a father being a father? Are we supposed to be grateful when he accompanies his children on errands and keeps them alive until they return home?

Are we that back-asswards, still? Because shit like that makes me think that we're all just slightly taller, less hairy neanderthals, still surprised and grateful when the sperm donor sticks around for a few days and lets the offspring climb on him while he takes a nap.

I think we're better than that.

I think we built machines that pull energy out of sea water and wind and sunshine. We wrote symphonies and we wrestle with our lives' meanings and fear of largely theoretical, invisible enemies, like cancer, like bankruptcy, like self-worth, and mortality.

So can we stop being cavemen when it comes to fathers?

It's insulting to mothers whose work is taken for granted. It's insulting to children that we're amazed when their fathers aren't repulsed by their existence. And it's really insulting to fathers, who seem to be valued the most for doing nothing at all.

Ryan really nailed it when he said, "I wasn't being a Super Dad. I was just a dad who hadn't left yet." If that's all it takes to be Super, nearly every parent I know needs a set of shiny tights.

Or, you know, please not.

It's not that I think you should walk up to the next engaged father you see and say "That's right, you better parent that child. Listen, Bub, I'm not impressed. You, here, with the toddler in the cart, talking about which cereal doesn't have too much sugar? Yeah, that gets like a C, C+ for parenting. BARE MINIMUM, you hear me? I am acknowledging you only to highlight the fact that what you're doing MEETS THE EXPECTED CRITERIA."

Exhibit A:
Standard Dad
Watching the kid
Thinking about something else
It's Fine
It's not Super

And it's not that I think you should walk up to the next mother you see texting in line at the grocery store while she bounces back and forth to keep the baby from fussing in the Ergo, and say "HOLY SHIT WE HAVE A SUPER MOM OVER HERE!"

I just think, you know, think.

Think about it the next time you're at the store and you see a parent ignoring the kids and crossing shit off the list as quickly as possible, or successfully waiting out a tantrum, or compassionately and honestly answering a too-loud question about why a person is in the wheelchair cart.

Good parenting is about heart and brain and backbone.

Good parenting is - or ought to be - gender-blind.

For God's sake.

It's 2015.


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