Let’s Hear it for the Boys

Whether it’s a Christmas Eve construction project or a second job to make college a reality, great dads do what it takes.

by Cherri Ellis

Twenty-one years ago, while driving to Brookwood Hospital to have my daughter, it was very peaceful in the car. Since she was a frank breach baby, there was none of the sitcom–like hysteria of rushing around after my water broke. No, her firm piked position inside me allowed us to schedule a planned C-section, and I have got to tell you that is the way to have a baby. We pulled out our Daytimers (made of actual paper back then) and chose the date and time. As we drove in excited silence, my husband turned to me out of nowhere and said, “She is not driving the Jag.”

I laughed out loud at the time, but I will never forget that moment. The Jag we had was a champagne colored XJS 12–cylinder convertible. Here was a man who for most of his adult life had thought that he never wanted children, and he already loved her so much that he had come up with his first safety rule for her before she was on this side of the uterine wall. It turns out that, whether they know it or not, some guys are just meant to be dads.

So let’s hear it for all the great fathers out there. You come in all forms and styles, and I salute you. Here’s to the ones who stayed up all night Christmas Eve assembling a Star Wars Station that has 436 moving parts and 40 pages of directions written in a 7-point font-—just so that Santa’s image remained intact one more year.

Here’s to the guys who for whatever reason are no longer married to their child’s mother, but understand that paying child support is an agreement between you and your kid—not you and your ex. There are many ways of staying, and I love the men who do.

Here’s a shout out to all the men who take on a second job because clothes and lessons and college aren’t free. Here’s to the guys who handle their business. Thanks for pulling a second shift when you were already tired.

Here’s to the ones who rise to the role of step-parent, because you navigate the different boundaries of dual families with style and grace. To parent a child who is not yours is both an honor and a burden. Your name doesn’t always make the wedding or graduation announcement, but the occasion wouldn’t have been the same without you. My niece Amy had a dad whose personal struggles removed him from her life, and when it came time to go to her school’s Father/Daughter dance, my stepdad—her Grampa Bill—put on a suit, bought her a corsage, took her to dinner, and danced her around the gym floor. That is stepping up.

Here’s to all the men who have had to watch their baby girl start to date, because nothing could possibly feel more wrong. To your daughter that nice young man looks like a regular guy, but through a father’s eyes he looks like nothing more than a giant, mouth-breathing set of glands. Charles Barkley said it best when he advised, “Kill the first one who comes to the door and hope the word gets around.” I was the youngest of three girls, and every time I would walk a teenage boy to the door to say goodnight, my father would get up from wherever he was and go sit in the front room and read the newspaper. That’ll kill a pubescent romantic moment.

In its best form, being a father makes you a better man. Seeing yourself through the eyes of a kid is an attitude adjuster for sure. Sometimes, a father is what the mother allows him to be, because it is possible to be a flawed man but a good father. I know a divorced single mom who has a myriad of legitimate bones to pick with her ex, but she has the wisdom and self-control to not do so in front of or to her children. She allows them to have the father they need, even though some of what they believe right now might one day be revealed in a different light when they’re adults. That is okay. They get the love they need right now.

The funny thing about being a mom or dad is that you never really know what will crystalize into a forever memory in your kid’s brains, because the act of parenting happens in the interstitial moments.  If you could dissect unconditional love, what you would find would be millions of slivers of life that seemed insignificant at the time, but piled up over the years to become one tangible feeling.  It is that feeling that allows us to lead our most authentic lives as adults.

A long time ago, I returned home to find my husband sitting on the phone in the kitchen talking in a very serious tone to his boss. He had a page of notes in front of him, and I could tell by their rapid-fire exchanges that they were full-tilt boogie strategizing.  Behind him, standing on a chair, was our not quite four-year-old daughter, happily using brightly colored rubber bands to make as many tiny ponytails in his hair as her little fingers could.  They were sticking out all over his head as he looked up, half waved at me and continued talking.

So let’s hear it for the boys.  You guys are getting it right more often than you think.

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