Stupid Papa, that's the latest expression my youngest son (who just turned three) says at the moment. Sometimes it changes to Stupid Mama or Stupid Drawer (that was today when he squashed his finger), but it's me who is more at home than Mama, so I usually get the Stupid-Papas. Probably 25 times a day. I know very well that he doesn't mean it and that he has no intention to hurt me or, in his case today, the drawer.
He copies that word without understanding its meaning. And most of the time I feel very relaxed about it and smile back. But it can also be very annoying. Especially when I have a day where I feel low, emotional or stressed. The 26th 'Stupid Papa' is the one too much. I could either scream or run away or firmly say No, I'm not STUPID. Eat your dinner! Or I could take a short break and relax. Up to me really. But when I'm really stressed, it's hard to remember that.
So, I had such a day, felt a bit down and was browsing the net: blogs, articles, comments and so on. Written by dads, other experts or journalists. And after reading tons of stuff I was feeling even more down. So many people are talking about dads as heroes, super-cool daddies, all-rounders - you name it.
Dads with their baby in one arm, at the same time playing hide-and seek with the other two, checking their work emails and on top of that - smiling. Yeah. Daddy Cool.
Or, I found the complete opposite: the total loser. The dads who have no plan at all. The ones who touch nothing because they're afraid to fail or to upset their partner. Or in my hairdresser's voice today (after she found out that I am supporting dads): Yes, there are so many dads who have no idea. Thanks, that's exactly what I needed to hear.
Anyway, I felt a bit sorry for both types - and myself. I know, I'm not Daddy Cool (even when I manage multitasking) and I'm not sitting there clueless either. But more important: I don't want to believe in those stereotypes. I was looking for some authenticity. Some simple, honest words. I don't need the big show or heroes to look up to.
So, what do I mean by authenticity? Parenting without a mask. Living with my feelings and showing my emotions. Expressing what I think and being clear on what I want. Yes, my children should see how I feel and how I deal with it. When I experience a very challenging and stressful moment, I try to tell my kids and my wife. They need to know. Yes, it should be age appropriate, obviously. It doesn't make much sense to explain to your 9-month-old that you've had a very hard day and that you feel exhausted and depressed. But you know what I mean.
Sharing thoughts and feelings are the foundation for my children to grow up in confidence and with self-esteem. They know it's OK to have a bad day; it's absolutely fine to cry and to be sad. This way I sometimes witnessed little miracles: Just recently I felt a bit tired and slow. Then my 5-year-old came up to me, hugged me and asked: Are you OK? I never "taught" him that, he observed it many times and naturally understood.
So, being an authentic dad is the way forward for me. Talking about the stuff inside me and to see what others think and experience. No heroes, no losers - just people. That's dads included.