Every man hates the slow clap of pity. Before today, I had been on the bad end of the clap only one other time in my life. Back in 9th grade I joined the high school swim team, not for the chance to wear Speedos or the horrible experience of participating in shaving parties, but rather to pick up girls. Being a little preoccupied with the ‘scenery’ I never paid much attention to the actual technique involved in becoming a decent swimmer. I was much closer to frantic Chihuahua than fish in the water.
Naturally, my gracious swim coach picked the 500-meter freestyle for my first race. Stamina and focus were not my strong suits which became problem since these two qualities are necessary in long distance swimming. As you probably have guessed by now, I finished last. Dead last. Actually, not physically dead, even though there were a few blurry stretches I attribute to my goggles uselessly hanging around my neck. It was either that or the lack of oxygen from sucking in half of the water in the entire pool as I gasped for my last breath. From what I’ve been told, they were very close to calling 9-1-1 thinking that I had gone into an epileptic seizure. As I hit the wall, I hear the faint CLAP – – – – CLAP – – – – It is about time Free Willy finished – – –CLAP.
Having to do the walk of shame in a Speedo does not even compare in terms of what took place yesterday morning. My not yet two-year-old daughter, Paige, dished out the slow clap. You know you’ve hit an all-time low when the person who shows you pity still poops in her pants and can be entertained for hours with a cardboard box. After numerous failed attempts to put in a hair pretty, I finally managed to do a little squirt top. Granted, it looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but that is beside the point. Sensing my frustration, Paige rubs my back, says ‘it otay dada’ and finishes with a slow clap.
Only fathers of little girls will understand how this act cuts me deep. After all, for the past four years, I’ve been engrossed with everything female. Baby dolls, dress up, Fancy Nancy, Purplicious and all things Disney Princess. I make the most delicious tea for our afternoon tea parties and have been known to have quite the eye for picking out ‘oh so pretty’ outfits.
I realize the estrogen levels clearly outweigh and outnumber the testosterone in my household. However, I wouldn’t change it for the world. This might be due to the fact that I was always terrified of raising boys. Can you really blame me? After all, girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice. Boys come from bits of snails and puppy dog tails or at least that is how the nursery rhyme goes.
My fear has nothing to do with the stereotype that boys are wild, crazy, hard to handle and love to do daredevil tricks constantly. If I still struggle with self-confidence, how would I even come close to raising up a head strong, secure boy? How do I paint this picture of being a real man when all I have in my arsenal are crayons? Do I just make up the rules to masculinity as I go since I never received the handbook?
I feel like I don’t have the right skills and interests needed to be a father of boys: I’ve never built anything with my bare hands, have never gone hunting and I am clueless when it comes to cars and home repair. I picture a very Andy Griffith moment when my son asks me, “Dad, what does it mean to be a man?’ and me just stumbling over my words before finally blurting out “I’m still trying to figure that one out on my own after 30 years…. good luck.”