In honor of Father’s Day, this two-part blog is a follow up to an earlier series sharing recent research on what every new dad can do to be a competent and confident father. In this series, we shared new research (in last week’s Part 1) on how moms can encourage dads at any stage of parenting. In Part 2, we share encouragement for all the dads out there!
“Are the kids okay?”
Yes, I will confess that I have asked my husband this question a lot. When our kids were little, and I was away speaking at a women’s conference, I would often check in like that. Are the kids okay? Did they do their homework? Did they get to bed? Even years later, with college-age kids, I have been known to text Jeff something similar when one of them was home for the weekend. Everyone okay at home? Did Luke remember his meds?
It wasn’t until I saw one dad’s hilarious response to the “are the kids okay?” question that I began to realize three things:
a. I may think I’m asking for an update (“science project turned in and meds taken”), but what I’m actually asking for is reassurance (“no, honey, I didn’t forget the science project”).
b. I’m not the only mom who regularly looks for that reassurance. And …
c. If we think about it, our need for reassurance might end up being a teensy bit insulting to our man (See Part 1 for more on that.)
One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen online is a perfect homage to Father’s Day and all the long-suffering dads out there who smile and answer “yes, dear” instead of what I’m sure some of them are thinking. “Well, I forgot the kids were playing outside unsupervised all day while I was gaming, but because you asked I went looking and found them before they crossed the highway.”
This creative Belgian guy named Kenny Deuss came up with a completely different way of answering. Whenever his wife would send him an “are the kids okay?” text, he would send her back a Photoshopped picture in response.
Take a look at these images. I have not laughed so hard in a really long time. (Admittedly, a couple are off-color – curse words and candles, no thank you – but remember, they’re Photoshopped! Presumably, no infants were harmed in the computer-generation of these images.) This dad did a brilliant job of responding with humor.
What we appreciate about dads
Have you stopped laughing yet? Because if you’ve settled down, I do have a question for the moms out there: Considering the hilarious altered images above or last week’s findings about a more serious phenomenon called “maternal gatekeeping,” are women supposed to not check in about our kids? No way! My need for reassurance is just as important as Jeff’s need for me to trust his judgment with the kids.
Thankfully, these two needs do not need to be at odds.
In my situation, for example, I can ask for grace from Jeff in advance as I seek out reassurance from him anyway. He can let me know how important it is to him that I trust his judgment. And, in return, I can think ahead of time about ways to also convey how much I appreciate Jeff and how well he loves and leads our kids.
When I asked Jeff his opinion on this whole thing, he said, “What is needed is compassion with one another and a recognition that this just may be the way my spouse is wired – it doesn’t mean either of us is a bad parent. We also have to tell ourselves that this wiring difference doesn’t mean that our spouse thinks we’re a bad parent, either.”
Ladies, most of you truly appreciate the ways your men lead. So in recent weeks we’ve asked moms what they most value about their men. Dads, I think you’ll be encouraged at the common threads that emerged.
Question 1: “What is one characteristic that you have seen evolve in your man as he has become a dad?”
Do you want to know the top characteristic my informal survey respondents mentioned? The number one answer? The thing I’m forcing you to display while you wait for me to spill it?
Moms, you say you have seen patience evolve in your men. In fact, while many respondents amplified other answers (e.g. “he’s always calm no matter how crazy thing get,” or “he’s understanding of our children’s needs to grow, explore, and learn some lessons on their own”), patience was, without exception, a one-word answer. As if it needs no explanation.
Moms can seize this as a gate-opening opportunity (see Part 1 of this blog for more on what that means), to invite and encourage men to flourish as dads. How? According to scripture, “a person’s wisdom yields patience.” (Proverbs 19:11 NIV). What a sweet opportunity we have to not only applaud our men for their patience – but also the wisdom it’s born from! (And dads, don’t you find that encouraging? When you are patient with your kiddos, you’re really demonstrating the very wisdom you long to model for them – and your wife sees it.)
Question 2: “When I see my husband ______ with the kids, it makes me fall in love with him all over again.”
Readers’ answers to this question were more diverse, but one overall trend emerged. We fall in love with our men when they show their softer sides. Just look at some of the fill-in-the-blank words that showed up in response to the prompt above:
This goes back to the heart of what we talked about in Part 1. Our men want to be good dads. And ladies, looking at them through your eyes, it’s evident they are good dads. So why do we sometimes have difficulty “letting” them be the dads they want to be? One possible reason emerged in one more key word that emerged as an answer to this very same question!
We love it when our man plays with the kids … but sometimes “dad play” careens beyond a mom’s comfort levels! Remember, according to the research, men are more apt to engage in rambunctious play than moms. (Unless we’re talking about what this one special dad did with his little girl; one mom said she falls in love with her man every time he paints her daughter’s nails. And who wouldn’t? That’s just plain adorable.)
But I digress. Here’s the point: Dads do roughhouse more. The good news is: that’s how kids learn to navigate risk while in a safe (ish) environment. It’s how kids build character, resilience, and curiosity. It’s how kids become more confident and willing to step into unknown scenarios. It’s all stuff they need.
Question 3: “What three words would you use to brag about your man as a dad?”
Dads, brace yourselves.
Our online survey respondents really admire their men! Here’s a sampling of how respondents answered the above: gentle, teacher, fun, hard-working, dedicated, leader, loving, strong, defender, respectful, kind, funny, nurturing, attentive, loyal, caring, invested, involved, intentional, steadfast, patient, level-headed, dependable, present, faithful, provider, devoted, God-loving, awesome, playful, encouraging, and laid-back.
Oh, and let’s not forget my favorite three-word answer of all: “What I wanted.”
Dads, do you see it? In the everyday grind of raising kids – yes, even on days when you seem to upset the delicate balance of the universe simply by forgetting to pick up a gallon of milk – your wives see your stellar qualities. Look at what poured out with just a simple question prompt. And this doesn’t even properly emphasize the three words that were most-repeated by multiple respondents: loving, fun, and – here’s the word we began with again – patient.
Yes, the kids may acquire a few more scraped knees under your care. There may be days when too many (in your wife’s mind) pizza slices, pillow fights, and ATV adventures ensue. You’ll need to patiently navigate her “are the kids okay” questions with reassurance – or Photoshop. But as your kids feel safe and loved while they embark upon your grand adventures, my bet is on your wives to keep falling in love with you all over again.
So keep doing what you’re doing, dads. Your way is the right way, too.
This article was also published at Patheos.
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