Dads do things differently

In the first few months after my daughter was born, I became quite convinced that my husband was doing things all wrong. Which means, in short, that he wasn’t doing things My Way. I wasn’t the anxious mother hovering around the bathtub watching to see that Daddy got the water temperature exactly right. On the contrary, I was the one to broil my daughter…on more than one occasion. Nor did I oversee as he changed nappies, got her dressed or wrapped her up for the night. He did all that much better than me too. It was the other stuff that was the problem….you know, all that talking and singing and reading that you’re supposed to do with your babies even before they’re out of the womb.

When he read books, he didn’t put enough expression in to his voice. And he read way too fast. I, of course, read slowly and clearly, with lots of rhythm and resonance. I was interesting to listen to. On the other hand, not even a dirty old sock would enjoy story-telling when done by Daddy. I sang. A lot. If I die before my time, I am sure that one of my claims to fame could quite possibly be that I know the words and tunes to at least 3154 nursery rhymes. My husband can’t boast a feat like that. Because, of course, he doesn’t sing unless I sing too. It’s just not what he does. And then, there was the talking thing. Obsessed with language development, I knew that babies needed to have their parents talk to them. A lot. In fact, all the time. I tried, I did. I talked about how I was folding all the nappies neatly and placing them in tidy piles. I talked about what I was preparing for dinner. I talked, no, complained, about how her father didn’t talk to her enough and that there was now way she would have a vocabulary of 500 words by the time she was 2 if he didn’t up his game a little bit. Or, rather, a lot. I yabbered away constantly and quite possibly bored to tears, my daughter succumbed to sleep very easily, usually before I got to the bit about how I was peeling the potatoes now…one by one…see the skin…it’s all brown…it goes in the compost bin…now here’s the next one…(oh, sorry, I’ll stop now). But really, it was good for her. Honestly. It says so in my book.

So, as I said, in the first few months of mutual parenthood, I was doing everything right and my husband wasn’t. I thought that he would learn by my example; that he would start singing, talking and reading exactly the way I did. After all, I was a language development teacher. I knew what I was doing. He, apparently, didn’t. After a while, I decided that he just wasn’t going to get it, so rather than fret, I decided that I would just go it alone and do my thing and he could do his. I didn’t want to raise the issue with him, knowing that it was important to our parental harmony not to cause any unnecessary conflict. Instead, I tut-tutted away to myself as I watched him crawling around on his hands and knees chasing our daughter round and round the dining room table. I harumphed as I watched him tossing her in the air and catching her again, while she delightedly squealed with unabated excitement. I hmmmmmd when I heard them banging on drums and cymbals as loudly as they possibly could. I frowned when I saw him playing rough and tumble games on the carpet with cushions and pillows. Just think – all that Valuable Time Being Wasted on Frivolity and Nonsense when her vocabulary was at stake! Harumph indeed.

Then one day, it finally all clicked. He WAS doing things right after all! He was being a dad and I was being a mum. That’s a pretty sweeping generalisation I know, but it just seemed so obvious (and I’ve seen a similar pattern occurring in lots of other families). I’m more talkative than him; I like singing and I can make books sound interesting. I enjoyed doing those things with my daughter so naturally I tended to do them more. I didn’t have the energy to be on my hands and knees all day crawling and rolling and tumbling and bouncing. On the other hand, my husband is physically much stronger than me. He could toss our daughter up and down a dozen times before stopping to take a breather. His bursts with her, after a day’s work outside the home, were intense and active. And she LOVED it. A Lot.

To be honest, as time has gone on, we both read the stories, sing the rhymes, play rough and tumble games and mess around with musical instruments, but we also each have our own specialties. And so, our daughter truly gets the best of both worlds. But certainly in our case, what we do, what we enjoy doing and what we’re good at doing are quite different to each other. I’m interested in knowing if we’re a special case or if other families out there are similar – does mummy do most of the singing and reading and daddy most of the physical stuff; is it the other way round or is there no difference at all? I’ve now learned to be thankful for our different approaches because I’ve finally understood that it’s all about the balance and not about who’s doing a ‘better’ job (my stories are still more interesting though)!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Bill on August 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Not unique 🙂 My partner’s excellent at singing and making up stories, and crafting, I’m excellent at outdoors, and fixing things, and reading. We each have our strengths, and they just naturally seem to have fallen into place where we compliment each other with providing what our children need. It’s good to see it elsewhere/in other families tho 🙂 I’ve seen a lot of one-sided parenting, through lazy partners, and that kinda sucks, as you know the kids are missing out on a large chunk.

    Reply

  2. I could have written that myself! I am very much a reading, singing, talking and crafty mum but am not as good at the outdoor stuff as my husband is. He will get home from work and chase our 2 girls around the house (or yard) until he catches and mugs them, all while they squeal with delight 🙂 He is great at the park and with sports, etc, and even sings to them, and plays guitar, although they are a different type of music than what I usually sing. I have actually brought up his lack of enthusiasm while reading before and he says that he just can’t do it. He can’t read in front of anyone else, it even took him a bit to feel comfortable reading kids stories in front of me. He’s not a bad reader, in any sense, but that is just the way that he feels. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that the difference between our story-telling makes is not an issue, like I originally thought it was. My husband reads our 3 year old a story or 2 before bed every night and stays with her until she falls asleep snuggled up to him, while I put our 1 year old to sleep. Occasionally, I will offer to read her a story and half the time she will refuse, asking Daddy to read the story instead! Harumph! So much for my ‘better’ and more interesting story-telling skills! 🙂

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