The Bar for Dads is Set Pretty Low

My son’s sixth grade social studies class is doing a thing in which kids come up with their own unique culture. Or a pretend nation or something. The idea is for them to create their own customs and folkways and stuff like that. As a bit of extra credit, the kids can bring in an “indigenous” food dish unique to their land. My son decided that in his country – the nation of Big Top, which is an island in the North Atlantic where citizens’ lives revolve around circuses an roller coasters – the local specialty is macaroni and cheese. So he asked me to make macaroni and cheese. 

I baked it last night. It was the Martha Stewart mac and cheese, by the way, because the Elders of Big Top don’t friggin’ play.  This afternoon I heated it back up in the casserole dish in the oven and then spooned it into little foil cups in muffin tins so each of the 28 kids in the class could have their own portion. I kept that warm until it was time to take them to school.

When I got to the school the two women in the office audibly gasped. “Oh, my, you baked?!” one said in genuine surprise. “We had a dad bake something and bring it in last spring,” the other said, recalling it as one can only recall something truly notable. “That wasn’t you, was it? I think maybe it was you?” It wasn’t me, but I smiled and then took the mac and cheese to my son’s classroom when they buzzed me through. 

The mac and cheese was a hit. Every kid in the class had some. It was gone in seconds. As they finished it, several of the kids said how much they liked it, telling Carlo things like “your dad is a good cook!” That obviously made me happy. Several others, however, added words describing how shocking and surprising it was that a dad, and not a mom, did the cooking and brought stuff in to school like that. 

It’s amazing how low the bar is for dads. It’s so low that office staff who probably see a few dozen parents a day are legitimately tickled pink that a dad cooked something for a school project. Yet, despite it being so low, so few dads jump over it, apparently, as their shock and the shock of the children in my son’s class make plain. 

I realize that working from home gives me an advantage a lot of dads don’t have. I can take some time out of my day and swing by the kids’ school for stuff like that. And, as a divorced dad, I obviously do the cooking at my house. But I would nonetheless hope that a few more dads did stuff like this so as to render it at least a tad less shocking. Especially in an affluent ‘burb like New Albany, where most dads aren’t punching a clock or holding down multiple jobs.

​Step it up, guys, will ya?

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.