It was raining when I picked up my daughter from school this afternoon. Her high school shares its building with a Head Start program. We arrived early, just as many of the Head Start kids were dismissed. One by one, big burly fathers appeared at the door. From my observations, dads don't talk much. They come, pick up their kids, and go. One carried an adorable pink backpack and raced his little girl through the rain. Her ruffled coat flapped open as she ran to the car, where he opened her door for her and tossed the pack onto the seat. Another dad stomped through the rain while sharing an umbrella with his son, who took no notice of the umbrella at all. He was all about the puddles.
A few moms came, too. The scenes look very different when a mom leaves the building. She's got her son's hand firmly gripped in her own - safety first, you know. Her child carries his own backpack and his coat is safely zipped up to his throat. She looks busy and purposeful, as does the child she escorts. She has a lot to say as they walk: Did you eat all your lunch? Do you have your homework in your bag? Don't get your shoes wet!
At our home, Mom oversees schoolwork and chores. Bedtime and wake time are regulated by Mom, as well. Dad is in charge of entertaining the kids while dinner is being made and cleaned up. While this job is primarily focused on the Toddler, his influence quickly spills over to the Tween and Teen, as well. Dad is the Wii master, the about-to-be-defeated Undefeated Wrestling Champion, the silly-voiced narrator. When Mom announces bedtime, three voices rise in dissent: Teen's, Tween's, and Dad's. I don't complain about the lack of help in the kitchen. Dad has a very stressful job and needs the evening to detox and regroup. I enjoy training the kids and running the home (to an extent). But I envy the liberty. It would be nice to be seen as the playful parent, and not the insistent one, now and then.
Every once in a while, I'd like to be the dad.