Updated: January 24, 2013 6:15AM
I wandered the aisles of the children’s library with my two sons last week until something caught my eye.
A drawing of a father holding his daughter adorned the hardcover of an illustrated book titled “Daddies do it different.”
“We certainly do,” I thought to myself, adding author Alan Lawrence Sitomer’s 2012 story to a growing stack of library books. My 6- and 5-year-old boys had quickly amassed a pile of books measuring more than a foot tall.
The books were still in the minivan when I picked up The Wife later that day. She paged through “Daddies do it different” and said, “I don’t think you’re going to like this.”
A few days later I read the book. If angry eye-rolling were a capital offense, I’d be on death row.
The story is told from the perspective of the young girl on the cover. She looks to be about 5 years old and shares how “mommy” gets her dressed, prepares breakfast, shops for groceries, gives her a bath and performs several other daily household tasks in textbook fashion.
On the other hand, “daddies do it different,” the narrator explains. Daddies spill syrup on the dog at breakfast, mismatch outfits when getting dressed, pig out on birthday cake at parties, flood the bathroom when it’s time to bathe and a host of other offenses.
Plenty of fathers — myself included — intentionally act goofy around children for effect. I know moms who amp up the silliness, too. This can be a useful tactic for any parent.
My main beef with this book is grammatical. The little girl doesn’t repeat the phrase, “MY daddy does it different.” Rather, she insists, “daddies do it different,” implying that she speaks for all dads. Some dads are indeed silly, but fathers can also be stoic, athletic, detail-oriented or any other personality type you can imagine.
Initially, I was also upset about the mom in the book. She’s cast as a woman who can do no wrong, playing into the long-held notion that mothers have some innate ability to care for children that fathers are missing. I’ve railed against this biased opinion for years. Male or female, nobody comes pre-wired for parenting.
As I re-read the book, I felt sorry for the mom. She nails every one of the daily tasks, but she also doesn’t seem to have any fun. Her job is to apply sunscreen and clip coupons. Never once does she let her hair down.
The book ends on a touching note. Mom and dad tuck their daughter into bed. She recognizes that her parents may be different, but they both love her very much. Awww.
My oldest son spotted “Daddies do it different” on the coffee table a few days later. Bubba read the title and looked interested.
“Let’s read something else,” I suggested.
Admittedly, I don’t want Bubba to read a book implying it’s acceptable to spill syrup on a dog or flood the bathroom floor.
But I also don’t want him to read any book that will leave him feeling confused. While I may act silly from time to time, I’m more like the mom in this story than the dad — clipping coupons, making dinners and packing snacks along with extra sweaters.
Yet another example of how “Daddies do it different.”
Howard A. Ludwig is a former business writer for the SouthtownStar who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.