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The Goddess Speaks

By Camille Domaloan Michel

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

On ground, on planes,
it’s Super Dad

I can't remember the airline or destination. What stands out is this scene, in which a hero was born:

My husband and I had boarded early with our infant daughter Christianne. I did the sway-bounce, pat-the-okole routine and hummed my repertoire of Karen Carpenter tunes to soothe our fussy child. This song-and-dance extravaganza went on for the entire 40-minute boarding process.

After we were airborne, I handed Christianne over to my husband, Whit, so I could wipe the sweat off the back of my neck. She looked up at him and beamed. He looked down at her and cooed. The flight attendant, seeing this, exclaimed, "Oh, what a lucky girl you are to have such a good father."

To my credit, the snarl that started down deep in my chest ended up a benign throat-clearing. I might even have smiled. At that moment, I realized that "perfect parent" standards are different for men and women.

Don't get me wrong. I love my husband dearly. But it still irked me when, months later, his status became legendary. At a family party, I walked into the kitchen where my auntie announced, "We call Whit 'Super Dad.' "

My mind scrambled backward to try and figure out what he had been doing to earn this accolade. It was probably something like feeding Christianne dinner, changing her poopy diaper and making sure she didn't fall down the stairs.

Newsflash: That's the stuff I do EVERY DAY, all day in fact, as a stay-at-home mom, with two kids now that we had Ryan.

"Super Dad," indeed.

LAST summer, when we were living in Washington, my uncle Jimmy passed away. Whit and I decided it would be best if I came to Honolulu alone to attend the funeral. As you can imagine, my conversation with my mother went really well.

Me: "Mom, I'm coming home for uncle Jimmy's funeral but I'mnotbringingthekids ..."

Mom: "What?!?"

Me: "Well, we can't afford ..."

Mom: "Hmmph."

Eventually, I came for a week. By myself. People were surprised. Not just because I had come back without my babies, but because I had left them with -- gasp! -- their dad.

My brother-in-law, who had just returned from an evidently harrowing eight-day cruise to the Bahamas with my sister and their three kids, was stunned. Much later in the day he was still shaking his head and muttering, "So you left the kids with Whit ..."

My husband was the subject of a lot of warm thoughts that week. What a guy, taking time off work to watch the kids while I went away. His stock in my family soared. Yet, nobody is shocked when fathers leave town on business trips and fishing vacations, leaving the kids alone with mom.

Perhaps my resentment of accolades heaped upon Whit is because I feel that praise for Dad somehow diminishes the worth of Mom. Perhaps I'm frustrated with the inconsistencies between the lip service paid equal parenting partnerships, and the actual responses -- surprise, shock, wonder -- that greet the embodiment of those values in real couples.

But even though I may be sulky and whiny, I am truly grateful for having the perfect husband. Not every father stays up late the night before his daughter's preschool snack day to bake banana bread.

Whit puts in a full day at work, then takes over my job at night, bathing the kids, brushing their teeth, reading them stories and tucking them into bed, because this is what he signed on for when he became a father.

Super Dad, indeed.

Camille Domaloan Michel is always a mom
and sometimes a writer in Honolulu.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
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