Father of the Year

I have no illusions of winning the Mother of the Year award, and often say out loud, “Well, there goes the tiara.”

But under my gaffes and really, really stupid ideas, I truly believe that I am a good Mom. When I spend time with my son, I am there. Present and engaged.

Yesterday I was present and engaged with my son, my husband and my mother-in-law at a local restaurant.

The little was tired, hungry and not and his best behavior. Twice we had to tell him to turn around and face the table; that it was rude to look over the back of the booth at other diners. He was squirmy and a bit whiny, but we did our best to make sure he didn’t interfere with other diners, or make his own experience more frustrating than it already was.

Behind us was a man with his own two boys. One about 4, the other about 7. Throughout our time there, not once did this man put down his phone,

To be fair, he was clearly a doctor, returning phone calls, ordering labs, and conversing with his staff. While this does make his calls more important than the average in-public phone chatterer, it made me feel bad for his boys.

Not once did he engage with them, or even reprimand the smaller one as he perched his arms on the back of the seat and looked over my mother-in-law’s shoulder.

The boys were almost completely silent as well, not even conversing with each other. They finished their meals, wiggled restlessly until the waitress removed their plates.

While waiting for their ice cream, the older boy just leaned his head against the window, watching the traffic outside, while the younger one returned to staring at us while we ate.

When he got tired of that, he resumed the restless wiggle, but it was cut short when he flipped a spoon off the table to clatter onto the floor. The father pointed one finger at the boy, who slumped down in his seat and stayed that way until his ice cream arrived.

When the ice cream was gone, the father snapped his phone closed and stood, motioning for the boys to do the same. The younger one was missing a shoe.

In an impatient voice, the man told his son to get his shoe. The boy had barely had time to duck his head under the table before the father pronounced that they didn’t have time for that and made the boy leave without his shoe.

The men at the adjacent table and my husband watched this display, a bit stunned. As the boy with one shoe hurried to catch up with his father, my husband and one of the other men got up to do a search for the missing shoe.
No one found it, so I suspect the boy had come in to the restaurant without it. Which is, in itself, a statement to the level of attention being paid to the boys.

How do you not take the time to look at your kids as you are getting them out of a car and into a restaurant? How do you not notice that one is without a shoe? And how do you not give him time to even properly look for it when you do discover it?

I felt so, so sorry for the boys. A day out with Dad, and it was no more than being towed around from place to place. There was no displays of affection, not real attention. They were treated with the same level of emotion as one would treat two pieces of ambulatory luggage.

I recognize that this is an isolated snapshot of their lives, a moment utterly out of context.

But it made me hope that when others see me with my son in those same snapshot moments, that sorrow for my son is not what they take away.



8 thoughts on “Father of the Year

  1. When we see such a thing, it’s an example for us of how we must strive to be there for our kids. I get busy and wish I didn’t have to focus on them at times too-we all do-if we don’t take today, tomorrow may never come


    • I have those crazy busy moments, too. And I try to remember that we never know what tomorrow will bring. I try on those days to be the one that tucks him in. A few minutes of talking, a few minutes of tell-me-about-your day allows me to focus on him. It doesn’t always happen, but I try. That guy, didn’t even seem to register his boys as people.


  2. Lynnette,

    Sadly it is very likely the boys will grow up to be exactly like their father. They will then help to perpetuate the notion that men can’t be good parents. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the father was treated like that as a child himself. The philosophy in his house was probably “children are better seen than heard…”

    It is a big part of the reason I strife to change the way people think about fathers and try to tell dads there is a better way. Research has shown that a father that is actively involved in a child’s life is more likely to do better academically, socially and emotionally. Too bad that father didn’t the message.



    • I agree. People give me a hard time now and then because I work crazy hours while my husband only holds a part time job. That was a deliberate decision on our part, he turned down a great job upon finding out that I was pregnant – kids need their parents. And by taking on more time myself, I’ve bought my husband time off during the day to go to parks and playgrounds or just hang out with our boy. And so far our son is a sweet, generous, sociable little boy who is HAPPY. And you can tell that by looking at him. Daddy time is worth more than an extra car or a Wii.


    • I agree. I have friends that have no real concept of family, because theirs was more of a living arrangement than a relationship. They seem to struggle with trust, openness and affection. So sad.


  3. Love this as a reminder to savor our time with loved ones. So much in life is rushed and hectic and hurried. But we can never get time back. It’s important to savor those we love….and the moments with them! To be present, real and involved!
    Great post!


    • Thanks Natalie! If nothing else, he reminded me to go home and cuddle up with my little at bedtime and ask him about his day. He may be small, but he has just as much life to share as the rest of us. I hope I never forget that.


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