Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eighteen Father's Days: What I've Learned.

Sunday is Father's Day.

It'll be my eighteenth paternal celebration, but make no mistake—I'm not an expert.

All along this climb, every time I've felt a solid foothold beneath my crampon, the rock has crumbled and I've dangled by my fingertips over the abyss of parental disequilibrium.

In other words, each time I've thought I've figured out how to deal with my kids, they've changed the password on me.

I've never been the type of dad who stands equipped with the perfect word or two to motivate my children. Whether its concocting a split-second consequence for disrespectful behavior or conjuring the ideal phrase to console a child's raw heartbreak, I haven't exactly excelled.

Quick with a one-liner? I've got that one covered, but it's a tactic which I've often utilized as a distraction rather than a solution.

But, oh, how I've learned. As cliché as it sounds, the wisdom my two daughters have imparted upon my leathery old carcass overwhelms any amount of knowledge I've barked at them from the south end of our IKEA sectional.

Yep, eighteen years, eighteen Father's Days and thousands of pointers, both monumental and obscure. Here are a few, but they're certainly not in chronological order:

When your kids are little, like meatloaf-sized-little, they possess a fire-hose-like ability to spray you with their bodily fluids. Yes, girls can do it, too. And that's why the Roman centurion approach works when changing his or her diaper—one Pamper in each hand. The sword hand maneuvers the child, wipes and blow dries if necessary, while the shield hand staves off biological attack.

Keep your face and head at an angle not vulnerable to a direct salvo. I sustained a direct hit once, and completed the diaper change looking like Popeye.

Don't adopt your kids' phrases and slang terms. You may think it sounds cool and hip, but it doesn't. I tried this once, when I told my daughter how well her basketball dribbling was going. I said something like, "Yo, those drizzle moves are mos' def' hella sick."

The last time she looked at me like that, I was at Target trying on skinny jeans.

If your kid says she's going to throw up, believe it. Don't try to talk her out of it with some lame "mind over matter" lecture. In the time it would've taken you to fetch the metal punch bowl, you opted for the Vince Freaking Lombardi approach, and now you're trying to sop up half-digested Sprite and saltine stew from the soaked thighs of her Power Puff Girl jammies.

Try to read them books in which you're also interested, like anything Dr. Seuss. Otherwise, you'll be tempted to skip ahead. You're child will notice, because she's memorized every book to make it seem like she knows how to read. She will then brand you a loser who believes in cutting corners.

If you let them watch too many Disney movies, they'll try to relate them to real-life scenarios. I realized this when my four-year-old saw an elderly lady with osteoporosis and loudly remarked, "Look, Dad. It's a hunchback."

Always bring food and water, no matter how small the excursion. I've been burned too many times walking to the mailbox with my daughter and not packing a baggie of cheddar goldfish.

Invest in one of those stadium chairs which provides back support when placed on bleachers or metal folding chairs. Most middle school band concerts outlast a '78 Springsteen show.

If your kid's been invited to a birthday party but you don't know the parents, it's not necessary to hang out the whole time and make small talk. Just shake hands with the dad while casually scanning his ankle area for any type of home monitoring device. After you've ascertained that no clowns are coming later, go home and take a nice nap.

Never go to Chuck E. Cheese's. Ever. Make excuses. Lie if you must, but do not enter that smarmy palace of Babylon.

Happy Father's Day, all you dads and granddads and step dads and foster dads. Have a relaxing Sunday because if you don't, I will turn this car around.

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