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Our Story Begins: The Default Parent


Our Story Begins:
The Default Parent


There’s a phrase that’s started floating around recently that I hadn’t heard before.

“…the default parent.”

The definition of this phrase is, essentially, that kids choose one parent as their emotional, physical, and intellectual source.

Normally, I don’t pay much attention to the phrase du jour of the parenting blogosphere. I leave it alone, parenting the only way I know how as best I can.

But I couldn’t ignore the other phrases the blogs and news sites (who really were just quoting or reprinting the blogs) were tossing around.

They start with a question: “Are you the default parent?”

They ask the question, but they all went to one foregone conclusion in various turns of phrase:
“If you have to ask the question, you’re not.”
“It’s usually the one with the uterus” (I swear, I didn’t make that one up)
“Those who are (usually the Mom) know what that means.”

I’m not jumping into the “Dads versus Moms” argument here. I don’t believe parenting is a competition. What I am taking umbrage (yes that’s spelled right, it’s not a Harry Potter character) with is the formatting of the articles. The assumption, however correct, is that it is the norm for the Mom to be the default. It’s a foregone conclusion, in their minds, that Dad just isn’t connected with his kids.

I’m apparently the massive exception.

That’s not, by the way, due to the fact that my wife passed away in 2011. When my oldest daughter was born, from the moment she came out of her mother’s womb, she struggled and fought with every person who tried to hold her, including her Mom.

Then I picked her up.

At that moment she snuggled into my arm, eyes up at mine – day 1, I kid you not – and relaxed, sleeping.

Her sister was tied at the hip to my wife. Still . . . when she felt sick and was about to throw up, Mom wasn’t who she saw it was me. She didn’t lean emotionally to me she did that with her Mom. But when the chips were down and she was hurt, sick, in tears, or angry, I was there.

My twin boys divided and conquered. One was joined to his mother. The other was attached to his Dad. When the Mom-oriented kid came down with juvenile migraines guess who took him to the doctor? He talked with, hugged, snuggled and loved his Mom. When his head hurt . . . he came to me.

Related: Our Story Begins: Losing a Parent

I bring all this up because the phrase “default parent” was glommed upon by people who used it to start posting with the headline that one parent is better . . . only to say “but that’s not to say Dad can’t be the default parent, too” somewhere under the fold, buried on page 43.

I am now the default parent by default. Good or ill I’m the parent they have. If you go by the pseudo-research of the blogs out there at least two of my kids should be emotionally decrepit because I’m all they have.

I give you a corollary to the phrase: it’s not one parent over another. It’s all about involvement. I was involved. I get that many, many fathers aren’t that involved. I get that letting your kids see your love, touch, emotion and all of that usually falls on Mom’s shoulders.

My point is that I – and so many other dads – am, was, and will forever be involved in the lives of my children. That being the case, my stepping up and taking the role of Dad and Mom didn’t take them by surprise.

It’s not “default parent” we should be talking about.  It should be “involved parent.”

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