I tried to get a conversation going with Michal tonight about parenting and about fatherhood. It lasted roughly 2 minutes. I was unable to provide him with questions that I did not know the answer he was going to give. Michal could not get into a momentum on the subject, probably because of two major reasons:
“Parenthood? How do I see it? It’s just normal isn’t it? It’s not like there’s an art to it. For me it’s just a natural extension to the next bit in your life. That’s all.
He was/is streaming the Sweden v Ukraine football match. Live. And there was a goal by Sweden when I started talking to him (you may not know this but the UEFA Euro 2012 has begun and Poland and Ukraine are hosting it this time round. This is a very big deal).
But before I gave up I asked one more thing. How does Polish society view fathers? Michal’s answer was quick without his eyes leaving the laptop screen, “fathers are treated like disabled child rearers”. Yup. That sums it up. There is a prevailing archetype in Poland and it has a name, the Mother Pole (Matka Polka).* She dominates all that is domestic and she knows best. Including how children are raised. The term makes me shudder. Men who live with this Matka Polka type really do resemble dimwitted creatures when around their own offspring. They either run away to the pub or the tv to hide from the Matka Polka, or they stick around being mocked, listening to instructions on how to put on a pair of socks on a five year old, having to deal with constant eye rolling. I feel their pain. They bring it on themselves though, don’t they? Makes life a whole lot sweeter if you are kept at bay from a screaming toddler, a shitty nappy, a soup that needs to me mushed and a load of vomit washing that needs to be done. I’d sign up for it. And have my shirts ironed too, thanks.
When we first hooked up with Michal, I asked myself whether this dude could be the father of my children. The answer was yes. I didn’t have to over-think it. He was tall. He was a good sort. In my mind I knew he would be a tops dad because we were not dissimilar in our approach to life. Later when we were a couple I asked him whether he had similar thoughts when we first met. He said yes. Said he had checked out my hips and weightlifter thighs at the Romanian seaside and this was confirmation enough. See. It really was just that easy.
Michal is good at this parenting business. He’s into his kids and he is into his home. He doesn’t do stuff half arsedly. Unless it’s a Vegemite sandwich (never spreads it to the edges). Just goes with the flow. I think he thinks more about his business than about child rearing, because the latter is a natural process for him. He is more patient, tolerant and very rarely do I see frustration in his eyes. He is the one reminding me that it’s all not that much of a big deal. And most of all he’s just not into bullshit. This is very important for me.
Having said all this, he also has more freedom. This makes me jealous. He has an external life that he is maintaing and cultivating. Work, sport, his business interests. Things that will benefit him and strengthen him way into his middle age and beyond. Long when the kids have gone and left home. It is this that I, too, need to work on.
* I just heard a joke about the Polish mother. This joke is popular in Israel. What is the difference between a Polish mother and a rottweiler? The rottweiler will eventually leave the child alone.