Sunday, 1 July 2012

Stunt Parenting

I am very attuned to claims about the existence of Super Dads. Not so much because I feel threatened (I don't, OK!? So back off!) but out of genuine interest in what is considered "super" behaviour. Essentially, I want to know what is their "secret sauce". Being a parent is an endless example of creative destruction. I always learn the most in the flames of a bad parenting moment. I don't emerge from the ash like a Phoenix so much as I Stop, Drop and Roll and then evaluate how I might handle such a situation better next time.

When I investigate said Super Dad claims, what I often hear about are the two extremes of something I call stunt parenting. Dads are either given too much credit for the mundane (He gave his baby a bath! He made Kraft dinner!) where rather basic competence is treated like it's some sideshow freak of nature or they demonstrate some McGyver like prowess (He transformed his baby carriage into a sled for winter using a $7.99 Canadian tire plastic sled and bungie cords!). The second brand of action hero stuff can be impressive but there's the slight whiff at both ends of the spectrum of the "look at me" syndrome of the involved dad. Hey, I 'm guilty of it myself, walking down the street with one baby in a sling and pulling another in a sled, it gets to the point that you expect the "Aw, isn't he an awesome dad?" look on the faces of women as you pass and you feel nettled when you don't get one.

One of the latest stunt dad examples I have heard about is a guy in my neighbourhood who was determined to create the biggest and best soap bubble for his kids. I thought I was pretty cool when I mentioned that glycerine was the trick to the most stable bubbles. That observation was quickly discounted. Apparently, this dad did major research and determined that the best thing to use was bovine obstetrical lubricant with the attractive commercial name of J-Lube. He ordered a large quantity online from Wisconsin in order to effect this bubble creation. Your wife finding a large quantity of bovine obstetrical lubricant in your workshop might raise some awkward questions ("What happens in Wisconsin stays in Wisconsin") but it was worth it, I guess. Apparently he was able to create a ten foot long bubble which is kind of cool. He was declared without irony a "super dad". I'm sorry but this, to me, does not have much to do with the grind of being a good parent.

I was reminded of this after I alone took my kids off to the cottage to visit the grandparents for a "vacation". It was fun but not relaxing. My father was in awe of the endless demands upon my time, energy and sanity and commended me - which was nice on many levels. I'm certainly not claiming my performance was super but my goal - the ability to handle what comes along every single minute without losing it - would be to me a super achievement. That is why I always am looking to hear about the guy who does this dad thing with grace and panache so I can get his secret sauce. I'm pretty sure it doesn't have much to do with J-lube.

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