Sunday was Fathers Day which gave me a great opportunity to think about one of the toughest, most thankless jobs going. Okay, it would be thankless except for the contrived display mounted every Father’s Day to assuage our children’s guilt for having recently, so exuberantly and ostentatiously, celebrated Mothers Day. Dad’s Day, however, is a much different beast than the splashy event that Moms get.
We patriarchs don’t get roses and chocolates. We get to take our kids golfing, usually on our dime, (like it’s only a dime to golf) on a course so crowded you’d think kids believe playing golf is the only thing dads like to do. Dads like to do lots of other things, too, although, admittedly, lots of them don’t involve having our kids around.
Don’t get me wrong; I love spending time with my two fine sons. They are both adroit conversationalists, good-hearted, and have even recently discovered since they matured* into adulthood that I’m not actually as dumb as a stump as they suspected. (*To avoid fueling the ongoing debate, I admit male maturity is not yet “settled science”.)
Dads do have it tough due to widespread prevalence of a phenomenon I call “The Dad Ladder”. To get to the top of this ladder, a fella must climb rung by rung to achieve the apex. These rungs include getting a car that girls like, getting a girl to like you for more than your car, getting all her girlfriends to like you (but not too much), getting all your buddies to like her (this isn’t absolutely necessary as she will make sure you have no time for them, anyway), getting her parents to like you, (“That’s your boyfriend? Hoo boy.”), getting her to the altar (apparently it still happens in this order sometimes) and then, the only fun part, getting her in a weak moment. You have now attained the top rung. Congratulations!
Unfortunately, being at the pinnacle of rungmanship, only lasts for nine months. Once the baby is born, you will notice a tremendous drop from the top rung of your betrothed’s estrogen-marinated heart as Junior and Princess take their place instantly above you. You will be knocked down rung after rung as subsequent babies come along. When it’s time for the grandbabies to attain the top of the ladder, you will find you’re dropping multiple rungs at a time. The only joy is the feeling of schadenfreude you get seeing your children lose their perch atop the rungs, thanks to grandbabies’ incredible cuteness and obvious intelligence.
To be a successful dad, nowadays, one worthy of the honorific, men must have the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the wallet of Trump. Actually, when considering the type of man Trump is, if you have his wallet, you might not even need wisdom or patience, either.
Dads are more than a handy source of “gap financing”, of course. We’re also a constant font of excellent advice to be studiously ignored. Kids have this crazy notion they should decide for themselves what’s best for them rather than allow dear old Dad to run their lives. What’s up with that? Why can’t they see I have perspective from my advanced years that gives me better judgment than they possess? What have my opinions got to do with dinosaurs anyway?
Dadship has been great fun, though. Every stage of our kids’ lives is a different adventure and each child as individual as rolling the genome dice allow. In the eight-kid family I was born into, we’re all radically different from the others. There are common traits, of course; like stubbornness that thankfully I was spared and won’t abide those don’t agree I wasn’t. Apparently all negative traits, children get from their father. Ask any mother.
I do feel rather ambivalent about Father’s Day. It’s almost as filled with commercial fakery as Valentine’s but with a better colour scheme. My kids had no part in the decision to climb that dadhood ladder. Frankly, I should be the one buying me the present. It sure as heck wouldn’t be after-shave.
But we dads are nothing if not good sports and will act our part on Father’s Day as we barbecue meat and tend the potato packs. As much as we enjoy our vaunted position in the family, we can’t really remember why we did it other than it seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s not the worse thing I’ve done for that reason.