Why write GATOR DAD?
When our daughter was born, my wife was a VP at a Public Relations agency in Boston, and I was a freelance author/illustrator with a home office. We discussed how we were going to raise our daughter, and agreed that it made sense, after maternity leave was up, for me to be a stay-at-home Dad, and to try to get some work done during nap times and in the evenings.
What followed became the basis for my thoughts for GATOR DAD. Like any other Mom or Dad, I spent the day my daughter. We played. We took walks in town, to the library, and down the road to an Audubon Sanctuary. She napped. I tried to get a little work done. The days went by as days do for any parent who is at home with kids.
But there was one difference. I was a dad. And in 1995, there weren't a lot of stay-at-home dads. At least none that I knew. So some things were different. There were no invitations to play groups. At the playground, I felt a little like a cheetah off to the side of a herd of antelope—though I tried chatting with the moms who stood, watching their kids play, it was clear that I was an interloper.
It also seemed hard for people to understand a man with kids during a weekday. At the grocery store, well-meaning folks would lean in and say, "Oh, you're babysitting. How nice!" or "Oh, you're being Mr. Mom!" A friend recently reminded me of another comment which didn't seem quite so well-meaning, directed at my daughter, "Looks like Daddy dressed you today!"
Combining those comments with how I saw dads depicted on tv and in advertising, my hackles rose. I was parenting, not being Mr. Mom. My daughter was wearing what she was in because you've got to choose your battles, and that day, she'd wanted that particular combination.
Flash forward sixteen years.
My daughter headed off to college, and I couldn't help but think about how close we were, and how many great times we'd had. I thought about my Dad, and how many fathers don't say they love their kids—they do love them, but they show it with actions, rather than with words. When my dad kicked a football around with me in the back yard, I knew he loved me. When he let my older sister and me climb all over him on the living room floor, we knew we were loved. When he carried us on his shoulders to bed—tugging one ear, then the other to "steer" him to our rooms, we knew we were loved.
So GATOR DAD is about all of those things—Dads who say they love their kids, and those who don't. Time spent together doing things that aren't extraordinary—just daily routines, but done in a "Dad way."