In the Ninth Edition of my “Week of Lists” I tackle the high level topic: Offline versus Online Parenting, exploring the collision of ideas parents face when seeking to participate and bridge gaps between themselves and other parents… while avoiding ruining their kids lives by oversharing or mild exploitation. I’ve been dad-blogging for ten years in various forms, so I’ve thought about many of the pros and cons, like…
3 vs 3 Ways that Dads Make Terrible (or Amazing) Family Historians
Ah… Vive l’historien de la famille! Le père!
Why write? Why take pictures? Why spend hours with your face behind a smartphone recording videos of your young’uns doing young’un things? And why do any of this just because you’re a dad?
I’m not excluding moms here, by the by. It might actually be that moms would make the superior version of this mythical recorder of the family history. Many undoubtedly do.
But I’m a dad. So that’s what I know. And from that perspective, why do I think it is amazing to have had the honour and opportunity to be the one who documents our lives… and why has it been absolutely terrible?
Terrible #1: Selfies Might Not Be Especially “Masculine”
I often make the half-joking excuse that the reason I get behind the camera so much is that it’s better for everyone that I’m not in front of it. After all, who really likes pictures of themselves… well, besides all those people who are forever snapping selfies?
The worst part about being the guy holding the camera at gatherings, the one telling the stories of our adventures, the dad who records all the video footage of our family vacations is that it forces me to occasionally go into narcissistic selfie mode. It has to be done.
Because if I don’t the only proof that I have of my presence is as some third person narrator that future readers and viewers of our family history will need to just assume was there. Someone MUST have been taking those photos or that disembodied voice off camera MUST belong to dad.
So, to be part of the drama, I spin the camera backwards, descend into (as a friend of mine once put it) “twelve year old girl” mode, and take some selfies. I take these trying to get some perspective on the events around me, grabbing some of the scenery or pulling in others for some narrative cohesion. Yet, in the end, these are still pretty lame attempts to jam myself into the story of our lives that need to happen just to prove I was there at all.
Amazing #1: Dads Are In The Middle of it All
Of course, that I’m there to record it at all is obviously because of that point alone: I’M THERE to record it.
My apologies if this excludes you, but in saying this I am of course assuming an unbroken home, or a situation where (and I’ve seen this happen) dad rushes off for HIS time during vacation to get in a round of golf or do some fishing while mom takes the kids on a picnic or to the mall. I’m assuming by saying this that everyone vacations like us: dads are usually in the thick of things because that’s why you went on vacation together in the first place, that’s why you are documenting things… it’s family time.
But this also transcends the physical.
Dad’s are in the middle emotionally and temporally. They are a part of the story, shape the story, understand the characters that make up their family. They know the highlights that shape the best parts worthy of documenting and are smart enough to recognize the low parts when the camera should be turned off. They are characters themselves in the family history, and can add context, depth, and authenticity.
Terrible #2: Society Assumes Dads Are Aloof and Clueless
Right now you may be shrugging this off and thinking… “Oh, is this guy ever waaaaay off. My dad/husband/father-figure doesn’t do any of this. What the heck kind of naive-pollyanna world is this author living in?”
And you’re right. A lot of dads probably extract themselves further from the role of ‘deeply involved dad’ simply because a couple hundred years of traditional kinda values have said it’s okay for them to do just that.
“Oh, you socialist liberal nutter…” You’re screaming at your screen.
But look. I don’t believe that we are aloof and clueless.
At least, I hope we aren’t and I try not to subscribe to the depiction of dads in popular culture as parentally limp and uninvolved. I try not to be the dopey dad who bumbles through his part in the family dynamic. It’s not easy, either. Societal momentum is stacked against we dads, telling kids and moms and every dad out there that we are merely secondary characters in this story.
Think of the last time you saw a dad in an advertisement: chances are he was a bumbling dunderhead electrocuting himself with a plug-in air freshener or pondering ways to fill his garage with expensive toys. Obviously, this doesn’t make it true, but it does offer an excuse for lazy guys who are trying to understand a very complex role inside of their own family. So when TV says dads are beer-guzzling, sports-watching, part-time parents, a lot of dads (sadly) embrace that too easy definition… because it takes effort to act against what society is telling you that you should be.
If that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, the result is going to be a mediocre job doing everything dad-related, particularly recording the family story.
Aim higher fellow dads, aim higher.
Amazing #2: Society Assumes Dads Like Gadgets
All that said, not every societal definition of dad works against us.
For example, TV tells us that dads are gadget freaks. I embrace that stereotype, I buy the best camera I can, hook myself up with some kick ass recording equipment, and leverage the assumptions of a consumer culture to get the job done.
Terrible #3: Dads Were Absent For a While
We live in a golden age of parenting, I think.
Yet, before this age was an age of imbalance. I can’t say I was really paying much attention prior to joining the fray, but when I first started “dad blogging” I was a bit of an anomaly.
There were a lot of mommy bloggers. In fact, it was a lot like real life: I’d go to the playground with The Girl when she about two or three and for every ten other kids, there would be nine moms… and one dad… usually that was me.
The same was true for the net. And it was a bit lonely.
Amazing #3: Dads Are Definitely Back
Or it seems to be a little less lonely out there, at least.
Guys with cohesive thoughts on a thousand fatherhood topics: single parenting, parenting after losing a spouse, parenting in same sex couples, parenting in nuclear families, parenting the good, the bad, and the ugly. Parenting for the sake of parenting, and parenting recover to clean up after parenting fails. Parenting wins and parenting losses. Parenting smart, and parenting in bizarre and questionable ways. Parenting from afar. Parenting after parenting should have long been over. Parenting a dozen kids, and like me, parenting just one.
In the era of parental blogging, my feeds are fuller than ever with dads definitely not bumbling through one thing: the act of breaking into the social media scene, sharing their adventures, documenting their family histories.
Vive l’historien de la famille!