By Aaron Traister, REDBOOK
Most of the moms I know, including my wife, Karel, are unnecessarily hard on themselves. So this month, to celebrate Mother's Day, I thought we'd take a look at some parental missteps from the Fatherhood Archives. While you guys are striving for perfection (or striving to be okay with imperfection), dads have a much simpler goal: to keep their kids out of the emergency room. Since it's relatively new for us to be heavily involved in child care, our expectations aren't so high, and we don't beat ourselves up about little mistakes. Trust me, these stories will make you feel like a regular Clair Huxtable by comparison.
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1. The ultimate coffee break
I recently witnessed a dad at the park handing his 2½-year-old son about 20 ounces of lukewarm Dunkin' Donuts coffee. (He explained nonchalantly that he'd forgotten to bring any juice or water along.) I watched in stunned silence as the kid hammered back every last drop. The dad then turned to me, oblivious to the fact that he had essentially weaponized his child with caffeine, and said, "Huh, I've never seen him drink that much coffee at once before."
I burst out laughing.
I'll admit that this guy's methods were unorthodox, but his kid seemed to really enjoy himself: He spent the next two hours doing deep knee bends and high-speed Krav Maga moves while humming something that sounded like the libretto from The Magic Flute. When I left, the dad was trying to wrestle his boy into the stroller. It wasn't going well: His toddler had the strength of 10 men!
2. Shark attack
My buddy Brock loves nature, and he's determined to instill that same love in his kids. His older boy really took to sharks, so Brock nurtured that interest as well. Now, no one would argue with a dad's imparting his wisdom about animals and the environment to his 4-year-old son. But most people would not let their small child watch Jaws. Just to reiterate, my friend let his 4-year-old watch Jaws. About a week later, I noticed Brock's son showing my 3-year-old boy pictures of shark attack survivors and explaining that "the sharks are the real victims." Surprisingly, my son handled the missing feet and lost chunks of thigh much better than he handled Lots-O'-Huggin' Bear from Toy Story 3. I should also point out that Brock's son doesn't wake up in the night screaming, "We need a bigger boat!" In fact, he's still nuts about the ocean, sharks, and the scene in Jaws where Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw get drunk and sing in the galley of the Orca. Well done, Brock.
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3. Can someone defrost my child?
My buddy Owen emailed me this one, about the morning when he left his daughter's car seat in his wife's car. He was running late for work and needed to get his kid to her grandparents' house. "So I strapped her into her seat on my bicycle and rode through five miles of windy, hilly Pennsylvania countryside to get there," he wrote. "Because I was running so late, you could accurately call my peddling pace 'brisk.' You could also call it 'brisk' because it was the middle of January in the Pennsylvania countryside, so I guess you could also call it 'freezing.'" Owen admits this wasn't his finest parenting moment, but he didn't dwell on it. After all, they made it to their destination in one piece. Which isn't to say these gaffes always work out for the best. Case in point...
4. The pig dude
Steve lives in my urban Philadelphia neighborhood. Steve decided to surprise his wife and 8-month-old daughter with a potbellied pig for Christmas last year. This is a wife who, according to Steve, never had pets growing up, and who had given birth eight months earlier and probably hadn't had a decent night's sleep since. Think about getting a puppy during your first year as a parent--horrible, right? Now imagine that puppy is a pig and that you live in urban Philly. Believe it or not, I met Steve in a bar, where he was pleading with other patrons to give "Kevin Bacon" a new home. You can't make this stuff up, folks.
5. Out with a bang
My Facebook friend Abe told me about a recent evening he spent bonding with his 3-year-old son: "After a late Utah Jazz game, I lifted my exhausted kid onto my shoulders and promptly ran him into a street sign. He had a giant goose egg on his head for a week. Oh, it turned out fine."
And that's the key: "It turned out fine." The guys in this column are all great dads. They love their kids, and they're involved. But they happen to be human, and we know you are too. So the next time you're beating yourself up because the kids haven't washed their hair in a week, or the TV's been on all day, or the couch is full of Cap'n Crunch, remember: It will turn out fine. And even if it doesn't, we still love you, because, at the very least, you didn't buy a pig.
REDBOOK columnist Aaron Traister lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two kids.
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