Hold the Coffee-House Applause – It’s Just a Dad at Work


photo credit: Nukamari via photopin cc
photo credit: Nukamari via photopin cc

So, stop me if you’ve heard this one.

This dad walks into Starbucks with his daughter …

If our blog pods intersect at all, you’ve seen the debate.

It began after a dad performed an artful bun construction on his daughter’s head at the coffee house. This brought the white-upper-middle-class crowd to its feet in applause and wonder. That led to Blogageddon.

No fair, grumbled moms.

Mamas wipe arses and noses and clean vomit and paint and feces, sometimes in combinations you don’t want to know about. They pack lunches that go uneaten, brave carpool and play dates and assembly.

Dad gets the ice cream and gummi bears and baseball tickets.

Moms get germ-crawling ENT waiting rooms.

So, dad can suck it. Right?

Not exactly. You can’t tell me a dad’s doing wrong by doing what a dad can. It’s how we treat him when he does that needs adjusting.

Thing is, I think it’s dumb to applaud a brother for a bun.

fathersWho among us needs actual physical applause? Besides Ashley Wagner, Lindsey Stirling and the dude on the CarMax commercial.

We clap for a kid when he does poopie like a big boy on the big-boy toilet.

Applause should be for events you by tickets to see.

Or by events that move you. Not to celebrate bowel movements.

Applause, it itself, is for skaters, violinists and the dude on the CarMax commercial.

Ever heard of a Bronx cheer?

Definition one is a raspberry. Like Archie Bunker or a 3-year-old would use as a retort to an intelligent argument. It’s also sarcastic praise for something easy, like recording three outs against any baseball team without giving up nine or 10 runs.

It’s sarcasm masked by a dollop of icing that can’t mask the sarcasm. When we applaud a parent – mom or dad – for simple acts of parenthood, it feels a little like a Bronx Cheer.

Someone asked a CEO of a unique local company recently to add parking spots for outstanding sales managers. He bit his lip, considered his words, paced a bit, considered his words again, covered his mouth, then uttered “**** no.”

That would be like applause, for doing our jobs. Is that what we want?

What does that say about our standards?

baselineLet’s talk about baselines.

Baselines smell a little like stereotypes. They’re often ugly.

Yet, they hold the universe together. We couldn’t tell hot from cold or up from down without them. We couldn’t distinguish health-food cookies from the good stuff – those with real butter and chocolate chips and no fancy vegan substitutes.

The baseline for moms, on the great spectrum, is high. It’s somewhere just below saints and dignitaries, and just above Peace Corps volunteers and soup-kitchen cooks.

The baseline for dads, on the great spectrum, is low. It’s somewhere just below golf cart drivers and and just above the dude with the shovel who follows the elephants in the circus. (Don’t get me started on how dad is portrayed on TV).

It’s a matter of perspective. And it takes a generation to budge most baselines.

The buns wrapped and teams coached and sweetheart dances attended by dads today won’t move the needle until the next generation, at least.

Dads shouldn’t get standing ovations for buns or hand-holding in parking lots or for remembering to buckle a kid in a car seat.

Just as we shouldn’t say “Larry Fitzgerald is SO articulate!” after an interview, because he did happen to go to the University of Pittsburgh for four years before he became a professional football player.

Just as we shouldn’t tell our waiter in a Mexican restaurant “your English is SO good!” because he just might be a fourth-generation American and English major at the local university.

Instead, how about we say, “great interview, Larry Fitzgerald, as always.” Or ask the waiter, “where are you from?”

How about we say “I appreciate all you do for me and for our kids” to our significant others? How about we say “damn nice bun, there, sparky,” when a dad whips one together right there among the lattes and laptops. And leave it at that.

go figure

A mom at the field on a soccer Saturday flipped off her flip flops and kept her son’s legs warmed up with a little game of pass. Impressive. But I didn’t applaud her. Why should I? She’s a mom being a mom. Impressive, yes. But she’s just doing her job.

Same as me.

That’s not to say she didn’t deserve a little recognition.

Even if her form needed work.

“C’mon, mom,” I said with a smile as I passed. “Good form. Nose over toes. You know the drill.”

She laughed, but she got the message.

Good on you, mom.

Imagine if I – and everyone by field A – stopped to applaud?

# # #

So, a mom goes to soccer practice and kicks the ball with her son …

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

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49 thoughts on “Hold the Coffee-House Applause – It’s Just a Dad at Work

  1. i love this and agree with it. it really bothers me when i hear of dad’s ‘babysitting’ their own children. now if we could just applaud all parents each day for all they do, in the name of parenthood, that would make me happy )

    1. thanks beth. i’d be ok if we just were nicer to each other in the process. and if any of us is in the game for applause … we’re in the wrong game. we’re parents, not Rudy.

  2. When I read, an artful bun display, I had images of him balancing bread rolls on her head. I followed the link and was a tad disappointed when it was a hair bun. *insert sad face* A great post Eli, I know what you mean about the way dad’s are portrayed on TV and in the movies. In the commercials they’re usually bumbling dickheads who don’t know crap from clay. Rant finished.

    1. I know – a warm hot-cross bun sounds really good right at the moment, mate. I’m afraid if Hollywood (or Sydneywood?) portrayed dad as connected, competent and respected, we might not recognize him.

      At least we can provide comic relief.

      1. Hmm, hot cross buns, now your talking Mate. Straight out of the oven with a dab of butter. Yum. That’s true, I wonder if in the future when people are, hopefully on an equal basis they might look back and wonder how dads had evolved from idiocy to being competent.
        That’s what we’re here for Eli, comic relief, send in the clowns.

  3. Just as there will always be the same fights about women – bottle vs. breast, work vs. SAH, etc…, – this will always be one of those things about men. Can they do it, are they capable, should they get recognition for doing things “mom-like.” I honestly think like the issues surrounding moms, this is just one of those things people like to write about. There is a new anthology coming out all about men, and hey, I’m in it poking fun at my husband for not taking care of the boys like I do. Truth is – he’s a wonderful father, sometimes even a better father than I’m a mother. But you know what? Even he will admit the way I do certain things is better, AND I will readily agree that in some areas he knows our boys better than me. That’s the beauty of co-parenting – I’ve got what he doesn’t and vice versa. Appreciation? Yes. Applause? No.

    1. Just like rivalries in sports, debates in life give us something to write about. It’s like the designated hitter rule – it’s not going anywhere, and you’re either for it, against it, or just don’t care about its existence.

      We dads can’t pretend we do the same things you moms do. Who do the kids ask for when they’re hurt or sick? Mama.

      Judging parenthood is about as subjective as judging ice skaters. It’s impossible, with degree of difficulty, mistakes, and sequins to consider.

  4. Love how you broke this down and agree neither side should get applause for doing what a parent is supped to do, but a little recognition now and again to let them know they are doing what a parent should do more along the lines. Eli, seriously you always just seem to say what we all are thinking so perfectly. Thanks 🙂

  5. I’m with Janine!
    I am nauseated by the portrayal of parents on TV, and mostly, commercials. The nagging wife. The clueless dad. Or worse. In my family, I’m a super mom and Cassidy is a super dad. He’s also a super gardener, chef and housekeeper. I’m…learning those things because they matter around here. I have my own strengths but they keep me in order, and not necessarily my family. When we take the time to thank each other and even work on these weaknesses?
    We’re a happy family.
    Can I applaud all of my blogging friends for writing great posts today?? Even though it’s kinda all of our jobs..

    1. I didn’t even think about how moms are negatively portrayed – on Disney shows, they’re overbearing and necessarily bullyish to combat the dumbass dad.

      I say we just do what we can in the family and appreciate those in it with us. Just wait until your kids are bigger and start to contribute, too.

      I’m about to check out yours and Nicole’s posts today. I also really like this http://www.quickmeme.com/p/3vt86j.

  6. I love the baselines!! You hit the nail on the head with that one. I had never thought of it in those terms before. And I so appreciate your acknowledging that the baselines for moms is a bit higher. Loved, this post:))

    1. Thanks! I think they exist, no matter what we try to do about it, and that’s not all bad. It doesn’t mean they have to define us. Do you know the movie Ratatouille?

      The storyline is that the baseline has been disrupted, because the main character (a mouse) is uncharacteristically discriminate in his palate.

      Mom’s baseline is definitely higher.

      I also loved your post today, about a dad … and I would encourage all who see this comment to check it out, too..

      http://whativelearnedfornow.com/2014/02/24/about-a-dad/

  7. I don’t want applause. I just want someone to clean up the kitchen when they make a mess. I’ll applaud ANYONE who comes in and cleans my kitchen. If the dog does it, I’ll applaud him and then call Guinness.

    1. It shouldn’t be too much to ask to put my shoes away and stack up my baseball cards neatly before bedtime. We can definitely do our part to make life easier for everyone.

      I’d clean your kitchen, if it meant I just had a meal there. A good meal. The dog can help with the plates.

  8. I love this – I think that we have become a society that expects to be patted on the back just for doing our job – whether it is a work job, our job as a spouse/parent/family member in general – whatever. Like I tell my boys – if you see something that needs done – do it. There is no such thing as “not my job.” I will thank them but I don’t think a kid should be applauded for unloading the dishwasher – half the dishes are theirs to begin with.
    Great post, Eli!

    1. If we’re playing this game of life for tips, we’re going to starve. Plus, I find that giving a little encouragement here and there goes a long way in making me feel better about my role, too.

      Sounds like you run a tight ship, Kim. Good on you, mom. And thanks!

  9. Ha ha ha – so true! I DID read the original at the Dose Peeps and was so peeved. I mean, really? Is the bar so low? Moms and dads are both out there doing the best they can. Adults can hold the applause but if my kids want to start clapping…

    1. Isn’t it true, Allie? I’m glad the Dose post got you peeved. A dad shouldn’t get ripped for getting lauded. If I get whistled at when I go running, is it my fault?

      (If I get honked at when running, it’s more likely someone asking me if I need help.)

      Kids should be required to applaud. That’s another post.

    1. I’m glad that dad got reamed for getting applauded for so that there would be a post that led to me writing this one and I’m also glad that you commented that you were glad I blogged about it.

      Someone should applaud *that*.

  10. Well said, Eli. In the original post, it wasn’t even the dad at fault – he was just doing his job as a dad. It’s the people who think that’s extraordinary and worthy of applause. Puh-leeze. Love that quote by Louis CK by the way – that man is a genius.

    1. Thanks Dana. Maybe we dudes should tone down the awesome out in public. If I clapped for a mom being awesome in Target, I might get followed by security.

      Puh-leeze is right.

      That Louis CK quote was longer … I had to edit a bit, but the whole thing was awesome.

  11. I too read Ashley and Lisa’s post (the Dose Girls) and was annoyed that a dad doing his job would be applauded, I thought it was so insulting to the dad. My mom worked, a lot. My dad really was the one who took care of me and my sisters, even though he had a full time job too. I saw my dad cook, help us with our hair and help us pack for camp. I saw my mom mow the lawn, own a business, and have a career she loves. I guess it’s no surprise that I married a man who does laundry and the shopping. (He doesn’t do hair though! Lol!) I need Lisa to teach both me and my husband the bun trick! Great post!

    1. I’d have been embarrassed. Dads and moms have to double-team this job, and sometimes, that means mom mows the lawn and dad makes the tortillas.

      It’s like the Dutch soccer team, that helps each other out when someone gets out of position.

      I don’t do hair, either. If you want to see my girls run fast and elusive, just wait until I offer to make a braid.

      Thanks Kathy!

  12. First, love me some Louis C.K. (and Carlin for that matter).

    Very insightful post, Eli (I always have to use your name. I need to type it at least once a day). I found myself nodding throughout. So true…all of it. And you’re right about the baselines. I used to get so peeved when people would “oooooh” and “aawwwww” upon hearing my husband had been SO generous and sweet to take the kids to the movies, and I’m like, where’s my parade? I do that all the damn time. haha.

    I also agree the dad stereotype (in movies/TV) is ridiculous, but just as ridiculous as women’s stereotypes. Blech.

    Eli. Eli. Eli. *sigh*

    1. Good men, both.

      Thanks, Beth. People just say dumb things and make stupid assumptions. Oh wait, is that a stereotype or a baseline? I’m going with baseline.

      A wise man once said you shouldn’t assume a woman’s pregnant, for instance, unless you see the baby actually crowning. So let’s not assume dad’s clueless and that mom doesn’t deserve some props for what she does every day.

      What’s the TV mom stereotype? All I’m seeing in my head right now is Julie Bowen and Lauren Graham. Vavavoom.

      The last time someone said my name three times in a row, it was during a parent-teacher conference. And the sigh wasn’t a good one, either.

      1. haha I can just see that parent-teacher conference.

        Mom TV stereotypes are size 0, type A’s with clueless, dumpy husbands. There are exceptions, of course, but most shows mirror that stereotype.
        P.S. love Lauren Graham

      2. I wonder if we’d even recognize real moms and dads on shows and commercials.

        At parent-teacher conferences, that was always followed by “Eli sometimes takes things a little too far.”

  13. I don’t get any applause for what I do (nor do I need it)…I don’t think my husband should either. It is kind of ridiculous though the way some of my friends go on and on about my husband and how lucky I am that he helps…well, he’s supposed to. They’re his kids too. I’m sorry for the dads (and moms) that take a back seat. They’re the ones missing out.

    1. I feel bad for the ones who have to parent without a plugged-in partner in crime. we each should do our part. If you can even manage a little familial harmony, that’s better than all the applause in the world.

      although, at least figure skaters also get stuffed toys and flowers thrown at them during the applause. I’d like ball caps and pizzas, please.

  14. Most excellent post, Eli. And you couldn’t be more right. Fathers should take pride in what they contribute in the way of parenting. (love your supermarket scenario, lmao). And as you rightly pointed out, many do. My father was a hands on daddy who was as comfortable with his little girl as he was with his two older sons. It progressed of course only getting even more adorable with his granddaughters. I can remember coming by on Sunday to pick Inion up after spending the weekend with her Nana & Papa and my father would have a face full of make-up & pink fingernails. Both his granddaughters using him as a make-up dummy. lol. He was such a burley & masculine man, that the vision to this day still makes me laugh. One of my favorite movies (with my favorite actress, Meryl Streep) shows the re-birth of the “perfect-daddy”. Kramer vs. Kramer. The father starts out not knowing much about his son but quickly learns when his wife up & leaves him. The movie does a brilliant job reversing roles and Dustin Hoffman becomes a worthy father much more attentive and finding the roles real perks & rewards in the new relationship with his son. Great post sharing this now!!!

    1. Thank you! We dads don’t have to be perfect; we just have to be tuned in. The bun-making dad? He’s tuned in. I saw lots of them at the school’s sweetheart dance on Friday too.

      Some were on the dance floor, shaking that grove thing. Others were standing on the sidelines, eating cookies and wondering where their little girls had gone (most of their shoes were in piles here and there, but the kids weren’t as easy to find.)

      No one got hurt. No one got lost. A room full of dads managed two hours of loud music and sweets just fine.

      We dads? We got this.

  15. I always wonder about passengers, especially on vacation destination charter flights – business people and long-haul folks are cooler that way. Are they so impressed by the pilot’s skills on landing the aircraft or just plain relieved to make it back on the ground safely?

    Applause is a form of recognition. Compliments are, too. There is no one who doesn’t like an honest and relevant compliment because it just makes us feel good and gets us going. Just make no mistake! There is no room for a “but” in a compliment. Let’s rewind to the late 70s when I still did well in school. 9 As, 1 B. Everybody thought those were great grades. Except Dad. He was like “what happened here?” Math. I probably worked the hardest to achieve this B than all the As together. To me it was like learning how to make a bun with giant sausage fingers. I thought my efforts deserved some praise. Not from the whole neighborhood or the SBUX crowd. The one person who mattered would have cut it.

    Now I feel bad for Dad bashing. Quickly, say something nice about him! He took me to Oktoberfest in Munich when I was 14. We listened to Tina Turner and Limahl on our way and went to the movies. Indiana Jones and the temple of doom. Unforgettable!
    He never did my hair, though. Neither did Mom. But hey, I was a girl; I could do it myself, no applause necessary.

    That was some lengthy comment. I should have taken the duck and eagle path 😉

    PS: Do you consider Starbucks to be a white-upper-middle-class place? As a former coffee bean I still take pride in having been part of a company that is all about diversity. I would like to think this applies to customers, too? I have to go back soon for some people watching. Cheesecake, here I come!

    1. Your grades? That’s a perfect example of a baseline. What’s expected of dad? To keep the kid in one piece, and behave like an ornery older brother. Anything above and beyond that is gravy.

      For you, the baseline was near perfection. That’s tough. My grades in college were awful. I’d celebrate a B. Low baseline.

      I like your lengthy comment better than the duck and eagle path! Plus, Indiana Jones? That’s dad territory, for sure. I love to help instill a sense of adventure in my girls – but I suspect they had much of it before I ever tried.

      Another baseline: Starbucks! I’ve been in one exactly three times. I’m sure now that the joint is probably more culturally diverse than I portrayed it. Upper middle class, though, that probably sticks.

      I’ve heard it called Fourbucks. Four bucks will get me and the girls a dollar-menu cheeseburger each, if we get water.

  16. Oh, this is a sore spot for me. because I have flashbacks of laying in a hospital room for 5 weeks while all anyone did was tell me over and over again how lucky I was that I had a husband/father who was taking care of home and kids while I “rested”. Ggrrrrr. I am not resting — I am trying to keep the premature baby that is inside of me from dropping out onto its head on the floor. That is NOT resting. well….okay, technically you do have to rest (i.e lay down and not move) to achieve that. But believe, I do not feel “rested.”
    Oh, I am the lucky one, yes. *eye roll*
    And the thing is – hubby/daddy was not actually doing it on his own – my mom had moved in for 4 months to help out because even when I has passed the “ok, if baby comes now it will probably live” safety zone, I was still on bed rest. Daddy still went to work when he was supposed to, and my mom held the fort on the kid and homefront. And believe me — I heard about all the things hubby did “wrong.”
    Now, the truth is, I WAS lucky to have both of them as my support network. Absolutely. But I really did resent how people worded it that hubby was some kind of Olympic champion for stepping up. Because in actual fact, he was still only doing HALF of what I normally did on a daily basis as SAHM anyway. And he had a replacement me to pull up any slack.
    Most importantly, I do not hold my hubby at blame for this attitude. He hated it too. He felt it was incredibly unfair of people not to recognize the sacrifices I made; you know, to make sure our baby didn’t DIE. WE saw each other as a team – the same team we always are. Okay, hon – time to switch hit. Get in there and get ‘er done, you know the play. High.Five. You got this.
    But it irked both of us that others didn’t recognize it as such.

    1. I’ve come to realize how many of society’s ills are caused by people saying something to strangers. Like, “when are you due?” or “are these kids adopted?”

      And I don’t think we should take it as a slap in the face when someone else gets a little recognition. Honestly, some offense can be taken with every comment made.

      Humor and sarcasm has its place when answering people, too. You know the drill, Rore.

  17. Agreed! I can’t even imagine. I mean, I often want to cheer on parents when I see great ones out there because it is tough work! And if you can just walk through Starbucks with a child and without creating general havoc, then kudos! But I’m not gonna take my eyes off my own kids to clap for you…

    1. Thanks Tricia. Crazy, eh? I will definitely make an encouraging remark when you pass some good parenting in progress – but not really any applause.

      I complimented a young woman in a Mexican airport who played an enthusiastic and engaged matching card game with two young kids on her stellar motherhood skills.

      She told me they were here niece and nephew, but that she does cool stuff with her kids, too. No assumptions. I was wrong about what she was doing, but only in the details. And I’m pretty sure no one got too offended.

      Oops! I forgot to clap.

  18. I agree with you. I don’t think we – any of us – need a standing ovation for just doing our jobs. I also agree, though, that we could all do a little bit better job of supporting our spouses and recognizing what they do as parents.

    1. Thanks Lisa. It’s just kind of crazy that we’d be angry someone else got the standing O, you know? I’d much rather have an unsolicited “way to go” or the like here and there from someone who knows what I really do.

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