Lord help me, I have an Earnest Daddy in the ranks. When they first started, I hadn't pegged him as Earnest at all. Usually, Earnest Mommies and Daddies are easy to pick out, because they have no sense of humour. None. These two laughed a lot, particularly dad. Their son has turned out to be an utter joy - one of that elite group that I actually fall in love with, whom I'd happily take into my family as my own. (I am very good at my job: Every parent believes that I feel just exactly that very way about their own precious tot. I'll tell you what I'd never tell them: it just ain't so. I'm fond of them, that's inarguable -- and pretty much unavoidable in this job. In over ten years of doing this, I've only come across one child I simply could not warm to, and eventually I gave them notice. Continuing in care where the child is simply endured, no matter how smilingly, is not in anyone's best interests. (And no, I didn't tell them "It's because I just can't like your child!") But to actually love a child, just as one of your own? That child is a rarity.) It turns out that while Daddy is a cheerful, smiling fellow in most areas of his life, when it comes to Precious Son, he is most Earnest. Sigh. So, when tot, in his contrary two-ness, decides that he doesn't want to go to bed at night, I am asked to reduce his daytime naps, even though the child's total sleep time in 24 hours is inadequate. When contrary two balks at putting on his coat over the weekend, I am asked if I've been letting him go outside without one during the week. When the child, who had been giggling and chirpy when dad picked him up at 4:30, has a meltdown and major tantrum at home, dad calls me 15 minutes later to ask what had happened at daycare to throw him off like this. This child was gleeful, gleeful when he was picked up! Somehow his tantrum is my fault? Because, you see, for an Earnest Parent, a child's emotions are always rational, and so his misbehaviour always has a logical precursor, and always needs to be analysed, understood, supported, nurtured through. They never, ever simply laugh at their child's determined contrariness. They never seem to see that the child is merely being two, simply pushing buttons and boundaries for the sheer cussedness of it, that he's being a little pill just to see how far he can get with it, because that's what two-year-olds are wired to do. That the tantrum does not originate in some deep-rooted unhappiness. He's just testing his wings, and man, are you letting him fly! Which would be all right if it stayed at home, but Earnest Parents almost always then ask me to make some sort of accommodation to their inability to deal with it at home. That would be my perspective. They see it as asking me to be a team player. Except the smallest member of the team isn't causing me any problems at all: why would I mess with what works? The thing that doesn't seem to have occurred to this particular Earnest Daddy - and in this he is not typical - is that the problem might, just might, originate in something he is doing, or not doing. I am going to have to sit down with them soon. Normally I enjoy these conversations: they're the part of my job where I get to do some tremendously valuable support and training work with the parents. In this case, though, when Dad would far rather believe all the problems originate elsewhere, I'm not so sure how it will go. It will be an interesting and stimulating conversation, I'm sure. Should I start looking to fill the space, I wonder? Earnest Mommies and Daddies. Every caregiver should be without one.