What does a night in the life of a dad look like? For 28-year-old Jon Arrigo, who posted a picture on Reddit entitled “Just being a dad,” it looks pretty good: Playing video games, snuggling with one daughter while getting his toenails painted by the other.
Arrigo posted the photo on December 2, and with nearly 2000 comments, it quickly became one of the top posts of the day. In the photo, the Erie, Pennsylvania, dad is playing a video game, resting his feet on a table covered in stickers while his 3-year-old daughter, Emilia, gives him a multi-colored pedicure. His one-year-old, Kylie, is by his side.
"I rarely post photos, but I thought this was just a funny picture that showed us all doing what we love to do," Arrigo tells Yahoo Parenting. "It really captured what a typical night looks like at our house."
As a guy who grew up surrounded by brothers and male cousins, he also wanted to show just how much times have changed. “I think the picture shows what being a dad is about,” he says. “There are no barriers like, ‘Oh I can’t do that because I’m a boy and you’re girls.’ They want to do something, we do it.”
Responses to the photo were mixed. Some commenters noted that letting his daughter paint his nails demonstrated Arrigo’s willingness to have a little fun. “That’s awesome, no shame in making your kids happy, this warmed my heart up :)” wrote user Sasha_Fire. “I hope so much that if/when my [significant other] and I decide to have children he’s this awesome of a parent,” echoed Kmccain9.
But others questioned Arrigo’s choice to play video games instead of engaging with his kids. “This looks less like multitasking and much more like an amazing ability to ignore his kids,” writes Farren246. “I understand kids are infuriating at times but here it looks like they are being well behaved. Why not interact with them a little? The game will be there when they’re in bed,” says HyperactiveToast.
But parenting expert and family physician Dr. Deborah Gilboa says people shouldn’t rush to judge a person’s parenting skills from a single photo. “There’s no way to know, on the basis of a picture, if a person is a good or bad parent,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “But we can say that he is comfortable in his skin and wanted to connect with his daughter.” Parenting isn’t always about sitting on the floor and interacting with our kids, she says. Sometimes just being in the same room is enough. “Sometimes we play with our kids and sometimes we are simply with our kids, and that really is ok.”
And while Gilboa says there’s no way to know what’s going on in a family from one picture, what she takes from the photo is the impression of a father who lets his kids express themselves. “They were clean and comfortable and have a cool table with stickers,” she says. “At least he didn’t kick anyone out of the room and say ‘don’t bother me I’m playing video games.’”
In a comment posted a few hours after the original, Arrigo responded to those who questioned his parenting: “I did not expect my toenails to be front page news today, let alone be a judgement on today’s parenting…but here we are!” he wrote. “A few things, the fingernails were done next, they have been more difficult to get off than I expected as well. … And I love my kids and play with them all the time, thanks!”