I saved someone’s life the other day. I was working as a nurse, so there was an expectation that I would be doing that sort of thing. It was a team effort as well. I can’t take full credit. Still, he was my patient, he was my responsibility, I recognised the life threatening event that happened to him, and I was part of the team that put in quite a bit of effort to make sure that he didn’t die in front of us.
He was so grateful for what I had done, that when he regained consciousness, he roundly abused me, went on a long, foul mouthed and not very coherent rant about my personal failings, and tied it all up with the idea that I should mind my own business and leave him alone. It was a bit disappointing, but not uncommon where I work.
In shining contrast, however, is people’s reaction when I am in public. Walking down the street, standing in a shop, sitting in a cafe, random strangers will stop to congratulate me.
‘You’re doing a great job.’
‘It’s not easy is it, but you’re doing really well.’
‘Good on you, mate. I’ve got to admire you.’
It feels a little patronising at times, but they are so overjoyed at my mundanity, that I just haven’t the heart to take offence. Dads’ doing ordinary things in public with their children is apparently so extraordinary, that it will literally stop people in their tracks. If these people only realised that I can also mop floors, change nappies, wash clothes and cook a meal, they would just be doing cartwheels for me.
Obviously, it’s not just limited to me. Other Dads have mentioned it as well. It seems that society’s expectations of Dads involvement with their own children are so low, that any effort which doesn’t involve taking them to sport is remarkable. Even stranger to me, though, is that it only seems to work in one direction.
Like all families, the boys and I have had our ‘bad behaviour in public’ moments. I have heard and read so much from women about the judgemental looks and snarky comments they get when this happens. I might simply be blind and deaf to the opinions of others, but I cannot recall a single instance of being called out when one of us goes crazy at the shops. It is as if there is a base line assumption that I will be doing a hopeless job, and so everyone is comfortable to ignore it if that is what I do.
Life often seems such an arbitrarily difficult and inherently unfair process, that having gone to such a lot of effort to bring a couple of people into it, I can’t help but feel responsible for looking out for them. My approach to my boys stems from this basic idea. My major role in the next foreseeable part of my life is to show them how to deal with it all as best I can until they are capable of doing it for themselves.
I simply cannot understand why this should be so unusual.