My sister, who holds a PhD in nutritional biology and wrote an excellent book about parenting, once pointed out to me that men today occupy a rare historical sweet spot.

Society increasingly embraces the idea of men contributing to the family through active parenting, yet expectations are still relatively low, so any father who makes even a minimal effort is typically celebrated.

With a child finishing pre-K and preparing to enter kindergarten next year, I’ve continued to experience this unearned windfall of goodwill. And now not only as coequal parent, but in a new role, both humble and exalted: school dad.

It hasn’t always been smooth. I had the awkward experience of showing up for a PTA meeting, and discovering that I was the only male in the room. I had to ask myself: Do I challenge the gendered division of volunteer labor and keep showing up, or defer to the accepted social order and find a way to contribute that’s less likely to make waves?

In the meantime, I enjoyed chaperoning my daughter to the Greensboro Children’s Museum. At first it stung slightly to know that only a handful of parents were asked to show up, as guardians to children with a reputation for wandering. But I got over it, and I ended up feeling good about my contributions, from modeling attentive listening to body-blocking 4-year-olds bolting for the exits.

On Tuesday evening, I took the opportunity to work on a project with other dads at my daughter’s school to make cardboard arcade games for the upcoming school carnival. Happily, some moms showed up as well. I came with a battered cardboard box for a Dewalt Compact Miter Saw Stand that the previous occupants of our house left behind, and with a nagging feeling that I was going to make a fool of myself. Miraculously, through attaching cardboard tube legs and carving holes in the panel, with plastic fruit baskets attached as pockets, I fashioned something that reasonably functions as a speedball game. Before I was even finished, my handiwork had attracted a succession of 10-year-old boys eager to test their aim.

If I can entertain kids, maybe I’ve amounted to something after all.

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡