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Our Fear of Being Ordinary

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I carried them everywhere when my kids were young, like 3 and 1. I would strap the baby on my chest and carry my three-year-old in one arm. I remember a few times, people in the mall would applaud me and call me “super dad.” Being a stay-at-home dad (SAHD), one would think that encouraged me.

It had the opposite effect. I never see myself as a super dad or someone extraordinary. As a SAHD, most of my days were mostly survival in taking care of the house, taking care of my kids and trying to get as much rest as possible because I am always tired.

I am sure I am not the only SAHD or any parents who struggled with the mundaneness of endless everyday tasks of cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking and taking care of the children.

Last year when we were in Canada, my wife and I discussed starting the stay-at-home dad group in the car. My wife told me to start one, but I don’t want to. Starting a group means I have to take care of it. I am already tired of doing my stuff and staying alive. Why bother starting a group that no one will show up?

Finally, the conversation in the car gave me the step to go. My wife jotted down the mission and vision of the group. Lastly, it came down to the name.

With my wife’s help and encouragement, I decided to call it The Ordinary Dad.

Our obsession with superhero

Then it dawned on me. We live in a society with an obsession with superheroes. Maybe we need an escape from our mundane suburbia life. Just look at the blockbusters. Ironman, Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman…on and on, the list goes on.

And why not? Nothing is more exciting than a superhero fighting a supervillain, like Avengers vs Thanos. The whole universe is at stake!

But that doesn’t resonate with me as a SAHD. I ain’t your superhero trying to save the day. I don’t have the grand ambition to change the world. I don’t have super talents like a child whispering that helps them take a nap.

I struggle. I struggle when my kids throw tantrums. I groan when I see the mess I must clean up at home. I don’t think I am a REAL SAHD because my wife does 90% of the cooking and gives me rest after lunch.

I don’t find encouragement if you give me some great title. Because deep down, I know that’s not me.

So who is Cliff? I am just ordinary, and that’s ok with me.

And so this is how The Ordinary Dad is born. It is a stay-at-home dad community in which we gather together once in a while to hang out. Many of us become SAHDs not because we are highly talented or ambitious. We are just ordinary dads.

I desire that ordinary dads, like myself, can just come and be honest. Good days, especially bad days, let’s be honest. Let’s skip the how you doing good? and how are you? good ping pong talk and just be who you are without fearing being judged or you have to prove yourself.

The Justification of Being Ordinary

There was a period in my life when I was doing a lot of triathlon and endurance racing. There is one very, very long triathlon distance called the Ironman. It comprises of 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride and 42 km run. The story of how it got started was back then, a swimmer, a cyclist and a runner were at a bar. They were boosting whose race was harder. So they combined all these distances and made a race.

This is the beginning of the Ironman Triathlon brand. It is highly attractive for triathletes and people who want a challenge. Why not? Claiming you’ve done the Ironman race shows everyone you are strong, tough, and unbreakable. Oh, all the attributions of a superhero…or someone extraordinary.

If they call it Cottonman, no one will sign up.

Funny, even back then, after I did my Ironman, I didn’t tell anyone I was an Ironman. I find it too pretentious and work up my ego. I rather called myself a triathlete.

These days, I find it hard to say I am ordinary. It is like a bad word. Maybe it implies you are weak or lazy. Maybe you are not trying hard enough. After all, the difference between extraordinary and ordinary is a little bit of extra.

But what if you give it all and achieve ordinary results? Will you still do it?

If I tell someone I am ordinary…do I need to justify myself? If so, why?

And this is where I find myself these days. Looking back, now that I am older, I realize I don’t think I am that extraordinary. I am ordinary, and that’s ok.

This journey of being a SAHD helped me strip away the externals. It strips away the need to be a super Christian because I serve in the church, do missions, and attend every prayer meeting and Bible study class. It strips away my need to prove who I am to myself (or others).

There were (are) many days where I clung to God for help because I couldn’t be a SAHD by my strength. I am fine being ordinary. It humbles me. And with this humbling causes me to look to God for help.

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