Welcome back to “Dad’s Man Cave,” a monthly series from dads we know and love, sharing parenting perspectives, humor and advice. Today’s post is from Chris McFarland, husband to co-founder Annie and dad to their spitfire three-year-old daughter.
Tailgating tea parties…aka my take on Saturdays this past fall during the college football season. I root for the Auburn Tigers, who are coming off a miracle season and will play for the BCS National Championship on January 6. I’ve been able to enjoy almost all of Auburn’s games this season, with an extra fan in tow: my three-year-old daughter, who likes to watch the game and also play with her toys. When Auburn wins, we dance and yell around the house to celebrate. She even has her own set of tiger ears, pom poms and a tiger tail she wears during the game.
In order to have a successful game day experience, I learned very quickly that the days of lying on the couch watching the game without distractions are long gone. Now, during commercial breaks, halftime, and even during the game, there are tea parties, princess dramas, and pretending to be had.
How did I get here? Let me backtrack a bit and tell you how I’ve arrived at this crazy point of merging my “man cave” side with being a father to a daughter.
Flash back to Annie and I sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for the ultrasound technician to come in and try to determine the gender of our child. We were both just happy to be having a baby, so ultimately it didn’t matter what the gender was, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I was hoping for a boy. As the tech walked in and greeted us, she asked if we had any guesses. In my head I was still hoping for a boy, but something just came over me – and without even looking at the screen, I calmly said, “It’s a girl.” The technician said, “That is right!” While she was showing us the outline of female anatomy on the screen, Annie looked up at me with a face that read, “How did you know?” Call it karma or fate or something, but once we knew for sure, it didn’t surprise me at all that the baby was a girl; maybe I had been expecting it deep down. In any case, I knew that from that point forward, it was important to change my mindset from hoping for a boy to embracing a baby girl.
Once she arrived, becoming parents was new enough for both of us, but on top of that I needed to learn more about “girl things.” Yes, even as a baby, there are some important differences that I was not aware of, but I’m an expert now! For example: wiping/cleaning from front to back to prevent getting unhealthy bacteria in the wrong place. Who knew? As a boy, I never had to worry about that sort of thing. When you’re a guy, you just literally shake it off.
Fast forward to age three, and now the more traditional girl things are starting to become common around here; dress up, playing with dolls, and princesses….all things princess! I suspect this only gets more intense as she gets older, so I see a lot more pink in my future. What I find most surprising about all of this is that I don’t mind interacting with my daughter doing these “girl” things. Just a short list of some of the things I have done to get on my daughter’s level: playing Princess and Dragon (and yes, sometimes I have to be the princess); hosting tea parties; and taking care of baby dolls. If I had the hair, I’m sure I would have played beauty shop by now, as well. It doesn’t even matter what we are doing, because I love being with her and want to spend time on what interests her right now.
She is her father’s daughter, too, which is fun. I try to introduce her to things that I cherish from my childhood, and still do today. One of these is watching the older shows that I grew up watching. So far the Rankin/Bass “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” shows, vintage Disney movies, and Scooby Doo are high on her interest list. Another classic thing is watching her play with old toys that I played with as a young child – just fun for her, but it also makes me feel very connected to my child. When she visits my parents, she likes to play with the same Fisher-Price Little People set I remember playing with. Of course it is old, beat up, and not everything works right, but she loves it and it brings me joy to see that.
Now for the real reason of this post: there is a bond that I have often heard about between a father and a daughter, but of course never truly understood it until my daughter was born. From the moment I held her and cut the cord, I felt that it was my duty to protect her and be there for her. Of course, her mom is there for her and protects her, too, but this is a deeper feeling; almost like a primal instinct that drives me to be the father I am today.
I once heard that the offspring look like the father at first so they don’t reject them, and it makes sense. There aren’t as many opportunities for a father to bond with a child as there are for the mother. We aren’t the ones who carry and grow the baby for 10 months, we don’t feel the baby kick unless we touch the mother’s belly, we don’t have to deliver the baby, nor breastfeed the baby. Our bond develops later on in the process, and I feel it is important to establish it as soon as possible. There is this level of protection and love that parents should have for their children, but this goes beyond that. I feel the overwhelming sense of duty to be there for my daughter and be a positive male role model for her throughout her life. I don’t know where it comes from, but I do know it is important to me.
There are plenty of guys in this world who are jackwagons, and she will come across her fair share – after all, how many men can woman truly trust in this world? I want my daughter to know that she can trust me. I want my daughter to be able to come to me for anything whether it be advice, help, or just a safe place when the world is cruel. So we’ll start small…and for now, that means I’m watching football in a tiara and drinking make-believe tea…pinky out, of course!