Yesterday I was taking a leisurely stroll down one of the many beach side paths my hometown boasts. My (almost) one year old daughter happily lounged in her stroller practicing her new game “Point at Everything”. I sipped my tall flat-white and relaxed into the gentle rhyme of crashing waves. As any new father will know, taking your child out in public immediately raises your attractiveness by at least 4 points, so it came as no surprise that a Lycra clad, pony-tailed jogger stopped and between light pants said “oh, she’s gorgeous”. Hoping she had a sense of humor, I replied “I know, that’s why I grabbed her from the supermarket”. I was rewarded with a very generous titter, then, as she lifted her head phones back to her ears she said “It’s so nice to see a father helping out” and off she jogged. It wasn’t until five minutes later I realized how awful that statement was.
It’s so nice to see a father helping out? Really? Now I’m not saying that dads spending time with their children isn’t nice, far from it, it’s wonderful. But does it really warrant a comment from a stranger. Is it such a rare thing for a dad to help raise his own child? The dads I know, the ones I’d call friends, all pitch in, every one of them. But that’s a small circle and the majority of them I met at antenatal classes and other family orientated events. The sort of events that all those negligent dads wouldn’t go anywhere near. Where are all these abandoning fathers? Is there some little island that they all run to and celebrate their independence by watching cricket and fishing? Just now, in my head, I counted five friends who are solo mums, I don’t have a clue who the father was? Where did they go? I’m honestly baffled.
The more I think about it the more I’m coming to realize that I probably am in the minority. In fact, it just occurred to me, that my own biological father couldn’t get out that door fast enough. He bolted before I was born leaving me to be adopted out. I was raised by a couple that earned the titles of mum and dad not through simple biology but by everything else that makes a parent. Tears, smiles, laughter, education, encouragement and unconditional love. I know I’m digressing, but that seems important doesn’t it? A “Dad” shouldn’t be any guy that can make sperm, he should be the guy that’s willing to put in the effort, like my dad did.
What if paternity tests weren’t done with blood or saliva samples but by the father exhibiting his fatherly skills. If he wants to be the dad he must put a nappy on a struggling child. He must read the child a story using no less than three different voices. He must assemble a bicycle at midnight on Christmas eve using minimal lighting. He must help with algebra homework, coach a sports team and clean a bloodied knee. If said father can’t prove his dad-worth by demonstrating these basic skills then the paternity test is over, he is stripped of his “Dad” title, castrated and sent to the island.