Some Fathers Are Selfish & ProudS

Two different stories about selfish dads seem sad and totally retro:

First there's "I'm A Better Dad Part-Time," by Richard Seely , who claims that from the moment his daughter was born, she and her mother were forming a bond "and I was, to some degree, excluding myself." As she grew older, Seely's daughter would go into "theatrics" in the absence of her mother. Seely writes:

I lost patience with this behaviour, and ultimately with many of her imperfections.

I became more and more of an ogre. I would snap at her. Tell her "no" sometimes for no other reason than to distinguish myself from her mother. If she got an A on a report card, I'd ask why it wasn't an A-plus. Unconsciously, I would intimidate her. Once - I can't even remember what she had done - all I had to do was look at her and my expression sent her running to her room, afraid of me. I never hit her, and have never contemplated any form of physical response toward her or anyone else, but what mattered was that I made her afraid of me.

And so, when he and his wife got divorced, he was fine with the mother getting custody of the child. He says of his daughter:

Because I don't see her every day, I have much more tolerance for the behaviours that used to frustrate me. I offer comfort instead of scorn if she misses her mother when she's away on a business trip. I celebrate the time we spend together, be it an hour or two after school or a weeklong camping trip in the summer.

I'm happier and more secure in my role as a parent than I ever was before.

But: Does any of this seem like a cop-out? Of course it's easier to be "tolerant" and happy when you've only got to deal with a kid part time; instead of being awakened in the night by fevers or managing tantrums, you're only there for ice cream and games and camping. Fun! But is that parenting, or is that just "hanging out" with a child, like an Aunt, Uncle or family friend would do?

The guy referenced in Strollerderby's post A Dad's Point of View: Am I Selfish? Or Just a Jerk? at least seems self-concious enough to realize he's selfish. Bruce Sallan writes about a ski trip taken with his wife and 12-year-old son. Blogger Keri summarizes his story thusly:

Son got a bad nosebleed. Dad tended to him, called the hospital, found out what to do, and sat with the boy until the blood stopped, almost 30 minutes later. Dad wanted to take turns with Step-mom going skiing, so that one would be with the kid and one on the slopes at all times. Step-mom volunteered to stay with the boy the whole time. After 45 minutes on the mountain, nosebleed recommences, Step-mom calls Dad, and Dad returns to Son. Son wants to go home.

Did the dad take the kid home? No. Sallan explains: "I gave him a relatively stern talk on being a man, learning to deal with some pain, as there will be some pain in life... I explained that running away would only teach him how not to deal with life's crises… We give in to our children's whims and complaints too easily. Sometimes, we as parents need to take care of our needs... [Step-mom] chose to be over-the-board careful and I chose to be, what some might say, selfish..." Beyond the fact that teaching your kid to "toughen up" is soooo 1950s and reinforces some nasty stereotypes about what it means to be a man, don't both of these stories make you wonder why these dads feel no shame about being so selfish? And don't you wonder what the mothers think of such behavior?

I'm A Better Dad Part-Time [Globe And Mail]
A Dad's Point of View: Am I Selfish? Or Just a Jerk? [Strollerderby]
Related: A DAD'S POINT OF VIEW: Am I A Selfish Parent? [HuntingtonNews.net]