One of the tenets of a Good-Bad Dad (GBD) is the tendency to shun our non-kid relationships. Never is this more evident in my life than the week of Valentine’s Day.
Today is February 11th and my annual fret begins right now. Valentine’s is a Good-Bad Dad’s arch rival – a holiday that is not kid-centric. This is a chance for good gift givers to separate themselves from a thoughtful, but completely kid-centric, dad like me.
Each year I plan to try harder to find a creative, sensitive way to show Aimee how much I love her. After all, she is truly the glue that keeps our madhouse running smoothly. I should relish the opportunity that Valentine’s Day provides to show her how much she’s appreciated. In typical GBD form, please allow me to share how I will likely go about “air-balling” Valentine’s Day (again).
My Valentine’s attention gets quickly diverted from my wife to my children. There is much to do for them – not only do I need the cards for their Valentine’s parties, I need candy, pencils and gifts for teachers. When these supplies are bought, the larger battle still looms – the assembly operation which inevitably takes over the living room the night before the school celebration. The impending mess I expect is already driving me crazy. As you can guess, my blood pressure is rising.
Once the kids are set, this Good-Bad Dad hasn’t left myself much time (or energy) to think about what to do for my own Valentine – my wife! The time I do have is spent searching my memory for subtle hints she’s given me. This is the point at which I realize that I’m relegated to the standard Hallmark card and heart-shaped chocolates (Note: I will remember to buy DARK chocolates this year.) When I slide my debit card to buy these cupid-day-staples, I’ve acknowledged that real creativity and thoughtfulness will wait until next year. My GBD status quo prevails once again.
As with most Good-Bad Dad conflicts, my lack of gift-giving prowess is founded in well-intentioned, attentive parenting. I’m great at rationalizing my lack of creativity – I was too busy at work, getting the kids to soccer/football/dancing (insert other activities here), etc. The rationalization does not outweigh the mild disappointment that my wife must have when she gets the same old standard gift. It is possible that my consecutive Valentine’s Day “dud” streak has taken away the sting of her disappointment. Either way, I feel badly that I don’t try harder to maximize the opportunity I have this time each year.
Through this annual screw-up, two lessons are clear. First, to be a good gift giver requires effort and attention – two items that Good-Bad Dads find in short supply. For me, the effort required is simply listening when Aimee and I are together. I should key in better to subtle hints like talking about pampering herself or taking a few hours away from the hustled life we’ve created. I have developed an amazing knack of ignoring even the most direct clues when she points out an item to me on date nights.
The second issue is that I haven’t been open for advice from other dads that do it better than I do. I’ll be the first to say that when I hear about a thoughtful gift being given, I downplay the act – “Must be nice to have the time (and money) to get that!” The reality is that I could learn something from those around me. This would require me to ask them, which would call my Super Dad powers into question.
In three days, Valentine’s Day will come and go. My Good-Bad Dad qualities will remain my “kryptonite.” Just as any Good-Bad Dad, I plan to eventually tackle this head-on. Until then, I plan to pridefully brag about nailing the gifts for my kids’ teachers while my wife files the heart-shaped chocolates with our lingering Christmas candy.