Why I love Pantene’s ‘Dad-Do’ Super Bowl commercials

It’s not often that you see a NFL player doing his daughter’s hair. In a series of new Pantene commercials, three players do just that.

The commercials, which are set to air this weekend during Super Bowl 50, show how meaningful it can be when dads bond with their daughters in unconventional ways.

In one of the ads, the Steelers’ DeAngelo Williams tries to twist his daughter Rhiya’s hair into pigtails.

“You know what’s easier for me?” Williams asks his daughter. “Running through a defensive line because I have help running through that defensive line.”

In another, the Cowboys’ Jason Witten attempts to give his 3-year-old daughter Landry a “ballerina bun,” but settles on bow-studded pigtails after a few failed attempts.

“I think the difference between a mom-do and a dad-do [is] the end result is a whole lot different,” Witten says. “But to me, I wouldn’t trade a dad-do for anything else in the world.”

The commercials end with the line: “Girls who spend quality time with their dads grow up to be stronger women.”

It’s true; I spent a lot of quality time with my dad when I was young and like to think that I grew up to be strong. My dad believed in sharing parenting responsibilities with my mom — something I’ve developed a greater appreciation for now that I’m about to become a parent. He was the gentle, sentimental soul,  the dad who never raised his voice or said an unkind word. My mom, the loving but strict disciplinarian, had a quick temper. Whenever she and my dad would argue, I would side with my mom because it felt safer. I knew that no matter how many times I sided with her, my dad would never yell or hold it against me. He’d still love me unconditionally.

When I was 8, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She got sicker as time went on, and my dad had to take on a greater share of the parenting. It was then that I realized how emotionally strong my mom and dad were and what a good team they made. Through their strength, I found mine. Cancer eventually took my mom’s life, leaving my dad to fill the void. Truth is, he could help fill it, but neither he nor anyone else could make it go away. I felt empty for a long time after my mom died.

With time, though, I found comfort in my dad’s endearing efforts. He started making home-cooked meals, he ironed my dresses, and he attempted at least one or two dad-do’s. Sometimes, he even let me be his hairstylist. I have vivid memories of putting colorful clips and bows in his hair, then laughing at how goofy he looked.

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One of the nights I did Dad’s hair…

As I think about my dad’s role in my life, I think about how influential Troy will be in our daughter Madelyn’s life. I already know that he will be a thoughtful, fun-loving dad — one who will help with late-night diaper changes, bath-time, and bedtime reading. I won’t be surprised if he even puts some bows in Madelyn’s hair.

I remember the first time I saw Troy interact with children — his little cousins. He squatted down so he could be at eye-level with them, then asked them questions and showed genuine interest in what they had to say. When we go to church and children in the pew ahead of us turn around, Troy sticks out his tongue and makes goofy faces. He almost always gets a smile in return, or at least some wide-eyed stares.

I think about Troy’s natural ease with children whenever I read parenting books and articles. Some of them make false assumptions about fathers — characterizing them as aloof, out-of-touch guys who will be clueless once the baby arrives. Sure, some dads don’t have a clue, but the same can be said for moms. I think pregnancy and breastfeeding are experiences that cause some women to be more nurturing, but I know plenty of dads — mine included — who are also nurterers.

Earlier today, I sent Troy a link to the Pantene commercials and pointed out the line about dads helping their daughters become strong. His response? “Madelyn will be a strong woman because of both of us!”

It’s comforting to know that we’re in this together. We don’t see parenting as a division of labor that’s defined by gender stereotypes. We see it as a shared experience — a team sport that will have its fair share of fumbles, handoffs, and time-outs, but also lots of wins. And hopefully lots of dad-do’s.

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