Friday, December 5, 2008

The B Word

This post has been knocking around in my head, and I had to finally write it because I saw a similarly themed post on the Rimbosity blog. He was pointing out the prevalence of comments about "daddy day care" that people make when a dad is out and about with kids. That's on my list of annoying reactions people have when they witness actual fatherhood.

At the top of my list, though, is the B word, babysitting. I mostly hear it from women. They probably mean no harm, but when they talk about their husband watching their kids without them around, they call it babysitting. And it's not. It's parenting. When I think about what I want from a babysitter, the bar is relatively low. I want
  • the kids to be breathing at the end of the night
  • the kids to be in bed if (s)he is watching them through bedtime
  • the house to not be a total and complete wreck
  • no evidence that any visitors I did not know about have been there
When I say parenting, I mean
  • engaging with the child in activities
  • enforcing the rules and a general moral order
  • caring for their needs in a way that prepares them and me for the future (e.g. demanding politeness when they request more food or help with something)
Calling a father's time with his children babysitting diminishes both his efforts and his responsibilities. This is a semantic danger that we should avoid.

Now, about the "Mr. Mom" comments...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Can you help me? I can't help myself?

My two-year-old said that to me this morning as he was struggling to climb into the car in his winter coat. "Tan you hep me? I tan't hep myself." It was so sweet and straightforward. I think many of us need to say that much more often than we do.

As a consultant, my business is based on "Can you help me? I can't help myself." I'm in business because I can say yes sometimes. Other times, my best answer is no. Usually, it's "No, but I know someone who can."

Then there are people who have an addiction and need to say "Can you help me? I can't help myself." If they get to that point, they're ready to benefit from some help and break the cycle.

Or the martyrs on the committee who take on everything, despite the fact that they won't be able to do it all (or any of it) well due to overwhelm. "Can you help me? I can't help myself."

Finally, there are people who buy GM cars. "Can you help me? I can't help myself." Um, nope. Can't help you. Try Congress.

I'm going to try to say it more. Thanks for the inspiration, Teddy.