I’ve learned quite a bit in life, but one important nugget is to never underestimate the importance of timing. For example, let’s say you were surprised with a shiny new Lexus for your birthday from your rich uncle. If you called to thank him within an hour of receiving the new ride, he’d probably think you appreciated his thoughtful and expensive gift. If you called six months later to thank him, he’d probably take away your inheritance and have his housekeeper slash your tires. Or let’s say you visited your favorite bar at 7:00 PM on a Thursday night. It probably means that you had a long day at work and you wanted to enjoy a few drinks with your friends. If you visited your local bar at 7:00 AM on a Thursday morning (or any morning, for that matter), it probably means you have a drinking problem. Same acts, different timing.
Speaking of drinking, timing played an important role in the following discussion I had with a soon-to-be former friend with no kids last week:
Friend: “Hey, a few of us are going out for drinks after work. Wanna come?”
Me: “Nah, my wife is going to be home late tonight, so I’m going to take care of my daughter.”
Friend: (condescending tone) “How cute. Are you two going to play dress up together?”
Me: “Actually we’re going…”
Friend: “You know what? I really don’t care what you do. Babysitting your daughter has become quite a convenient excuse lately. It’s a woman’s job to take care of kids, and you really need to learn how to man the hell up – but you probably have no idea what that means.”
To provide some background, I have a beautiful 16-month old daughter. That said, if this guy made similar emasculating, misogynistic comments prior to my baby being born, I’d be composing this post from the county jail while awaiting trial for caving in his face. Since my baby girl has brought out the best in me, I simply shook my head and walked away. Just another example of the importance of timing.
By the way, I should’ve told that fool that watching your own kid is parenting, not babysitting. Babysitting is when you pay a high school girl $14/hr to fool around with her boyfriend on your couch while you’re away. Geesh.
As I drove home, I thought about what “man the hell up” actually means. Does it mean ignoring my obligations as a father to drink beer with a guy I don’t even like so he would think I’m cool? Does it mean that I should believe it’s my wife’s sole responsibility to raise our daughter while I sit on the couch watching ESPN? That’s not how I see it.
In my own words, “man the hell up” means:
Giving my wife a break: I don’t care how good of a dad I think I am, my wife will still outwork me more often than I’ll outwork her. To add a little value I rub her feet after a long day, help to cook dinner, clean up the house, fill up her car with gas, get a “real” babysitter so we can enjoy an occasional night out on the town together, or just give her a hug and tell her how much I love and appreciate all that she does for our family every day.
Exercising and eating right: Hell yes there are times when I’m tempted to hit up the McDonald’s drive-thru at lunchtime, or make excuses for not working out; however, when I feel like skipping the gym or taking a Big Mac to my face, I always think about my daughter. To “man the hell up,” I workout often and eat as healthy as possible because I’ll be damned if my baby girl has to deal with the pain of losing her father to some health ailment (heart attack, stroke, diabetes, etc.) that I could easily prevent.
PDA: I’ve only been on the job for 16 months now, but I’ve noticed that there’s a population of dads out there who won’t interact with their kids in public unless it involves some sort of discipline. I hug my daughter, kiss my daughter, high-five my daughter, play basketball with my daughter, dance with my daughter, and sing with my daughter in public almost every day. Do I get quizzical stares from others? Absolutely. Do I care? Absolutely not. I want my daughter to know that it’s perfectly normal to show public displays of affection towards the people she loves (within reason, of course…I don’t want my mind to go “there,” so I’ll move on).
Playing dress up: I know plenty of men who have tea and doll parties with their daughters. They aren’t too cool for it, they aren’t embarrassed by it, and quite frankly – they actually enjoy it. My daughter is a little young for those activities, but I’m the first to pick out clothes and accessories for her while shopping. I’ve schooled myself on Hello Kitty, bracelets, purses, Dora, hair clips, and jeggings. Hell, I didn’t even know what jeggings were until about three months ago. To “man the hell up” is to be whatever your child needs at a given time. If I have to dress up like a princess or shop at the Sanrio store for her amusement, I’ll do it with a smile.
Being a good role-model: Shit, I love to swear – especially after I had a damn shitty day. One thing you’ll never see me do is curse in front of my daughter. There are some parents out there who think it’s funny to hear their toddlers swear, and it absolutely makes me cringe. I also say “please” and “thank you” around her so she begins to understand the purpose and meaning of those words. I know it’s working because after I changed her diaper a few days ago – she smiled, looked up at me and said, “tank ew” (otherwise known as “thank you”). I’m pretty sure that my heart almost exploded from the cuteness of the event. One thing I’ve learned about parenting is kids are watching and listening to you even when you think they’re not, so I always want to be my best self whenever I’m around her.
Never giving up: There are days when my daughter won’t listen to me, has an epic meltdown, or is just a freaking terror of a human being. I sit alone in frustration wondering if I’m cut out for this, or if I can even make it through the day – but guess what? It always turns out fine. I know that my baby loves me, and to “man the hell up” is to continue being the best daddy I can be for her, no matter how tough it gets. Being a parent is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done or will do.
Giving a shit: That means that I’m always going to be loving, attentive, and supportive to my wife and daughter. It means that the best night of partying and drinking doesn’t even compare to the happiness I feel after an average day spent with my baby – so I party and drink a lot less because of it. It also means that I’ll dedicate my life to fostering the health, education, safety, and happiness of my daughter. I’m a new dad still learning the ropes of this gig, but I will happily sacrifice anything to ensure that my daughter has the best life possible. Even if it means *gasp* disappointing some guy who thinks taking care of children is women’s work.
Memo to my knucklehead “friend”: My daughter means everything to me – and if you’re reading this, that’s how I would define “man the hell up.” Instead of giving a shit, you took a shit on all of the great parents of the world with your ignorant and asinine comments, and hopefully you now see the errors of your ways. If not, I’m sure there are bunch of men and women reading this who would love to beat the stupid out of you. However, it looks like timing will save you once again from an ass kicking, because the readers are way too good for that kind of behavior. Right?
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