Why does everyone beat up on dad?

In the span of this week alone, my daughter Viva has informed me that I make grilled cheese wrong, I make mac & cheese wrong, I brush hair wrong, draw a bath wrong, choose pajamas wrong, sing wrong, dance wrong, tell jokes wrong, and that I smell bad. Sure, I get a bit of a funk after a long day of work, but I firmly reject the rest of those assertions.

Dunking on dads is practically the national pastime. We can blame fiction—all the comic strips and sitcoms where dad is a lovable doofus while mom is a foxy whirlwind of competence and wisdom.

We can blame the patriarchy: since dad’s role has traditionally been that of breadwinner and not of caretaker, there’s an assumption that dad is bad at keeping hearth and home. But dads needn’t be pigeonholed as hapless Dagwoods or Lesser Belushis, constantly bumbling and bungling. (My grilled cheese is fine. Who could mess up grilled cheese?).

It’s time we pushed back on the sass.

Dads don’t do things incorrectly, they just do things differently, and that’s OK. I brush hair a little more aggressively, I run the bath a little deeper, I put the Star Wars pajamas into rotation a little more frequently, but the hair gets brushed, and the bath gets run, and the pjs get got. Have I lost one of Viva’s shoes at the hardware store? I have, but why weren’t they on her feet? Have I served Viva pecan pie despite her mild allergy? Sure, but it is a very mild allergy. Have I misplaced Viva at Maggie Daley Park? Only briefly! And Maggie Daley Park is very fun. I make a mean pizza. I build an awesome fort. My tree climbing abilities are legend. No amount of mockery about my puns or my snoring can take that away.

So, dads, stand tall. The next time you’re told your Orange Justice is clumsy, or your lullaby is pitchy, or your use of the toaster oven has set off the smoke alarm again, remind yourself that beating up on dad is just what families do. Continuing to be a great father in spite of those slings and arrows is what dads do. … And you smell just fine.

Viva Dignity. Viva Viva. Viva Daddy.

This article originally published in Chicago Parent’s February 2020 print issue. Read the rest of the issue here.

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