I was in the tub. It was after 9 p.m. The kids were in bed. My wife, Mel, was standing in the doorway in black yoga pants and a purple t-shirt, her right shoulder leaning against the open door. We were chatting about our six-month-old baby, Aspen, and how she hadn’t been sleeping because of a cold when I changed the subject.
“Readers of my blog keep telling me I’m a great father, and I don’t know how to take that. I’m not sure if I like it.”
“That was unexpected,” she said.
“It’s been on my mind,” I said.
I’d been running a daddy blog for a little over a year. Once I started getting more than a few thousand views a month, readers started telling me that I was a great father. I’ve never really known just how to respond to that. Or just how to take it. My father wasn’t around much when I was child, and he died when I was 19 from drug addiction. When I compare myself to him, I do feel like a great father. But that’s like measuring the distance from zero.
Before the blog, I would’ve thought that having people tell me I was a great father would be a good thing. And in so many ways it is. But I never thought that it would make me feel like I was missing the mark with my writing. I didn’t start a daddy blog to feel better about myself as a father.
“You know, at first, I really enjoyed it. It felt good to hear the affirmation. But now, I don’t really like it.”
Mel shrugged. Then she said, “I don’t see what the big deal is. You might be over thinking this. But that’s kind of what you do. It’s probably the most wonderful and frustrating part of being married to you.”
She gave me a half smile.
I smiled back. Then I sank deeper into the tub.
I sat up and told Mel that when I started writing my intention was not to come across as superior. “I didn’t want people to look up to me. That sounds like a really bad idea. I’m kind of a screw up.” I told her how I get angry a lot more than I should. Sometimes I think the kids hate me. I’m inconsistent with my rules. “There are so many ways that I’m a really bad father,” I said. “I don’t really like being put on a pedestal like that. I want parents to find me… “ I stumbled to find the right word.
“Relatable?” Mel said.
“Yes, that’s it. That’s what I really want.”
“Yeah,” Mel said. “I can see that. I feel like ever since I started school I’ve been a crappy mom. I used to do all sorts of fun stuff with the kids. Now I just try to keep them quiet so I can get my homework done. I even feel bad about putting Norah in day care a couple hours a day, but I wasn’t getting any homework done with her around.” She paused for a moment. “And her fits were driving me crazy.”
“I don’t think you should feel bad about any of that,” I said. “I think you are a really great mom. And the kids, they love you a lot. Way more than they love me. This is just the kind of stuff I don’t want parents to feel bad about.” I went on, telling her about some of the other parenting blogs that I’ve read and how many of them seem very focused on condemning other parents. Telling parents how they should do things. Talking badly about other parents. “That’s wasn’t my intention. My hope was for parents to read my blog and think, ‘This guy gets me. Perhaps I’m not doing such a bad job after all.’”
Mel walked into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet next to me. “So what you are saying is, you don’t want this to go to your head?”
I laughed. “Yes, that is part of it. I don’t want to think I’m superior to other parents. I especially don’t want to think that I’m a perfect dad. I think it’s important to be critical of my own parenting.”
“I have to assume that most people find you relatable,” Mel said. “I don’t think they would read your stuff otherwise. From what I can tell, you do a good job showing how much you struggle with parenting in your writing.” Mel went on, telling me that what readers are getting is just a short glimpse into our lives. “They don’t know you as well as I do.”
She raised her eyebrows, suspiciously.
“You know,” I said. “You bring up a good point. The only person whose opinion really matters is yours. And the children.”
Mel reached out and placed her hand on my shoulder. “I think you’re a great father. But don’t worry,” she said. “I will keep you grounded.”
I laughed. “Yeah… you always do.”
Mel smiled and gave me a kiss.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.