An old dad's advice to the young
Friday, August 31, 2012
I want to talk to fathers, especially the new guys. Hi. Welcome. I'm not a new guy. I'm an old guy. I come from a generation that saw the installation of colored TVs; our morning cartoons were interrupted by Watergate. This old guy is grizzled and haggard and worn down and I'm here to tell you something.
You're doing it wrong.
You are gentle and firm and worthy of admiration and I appreciate it, I do, but in your overhauling of the good dad toolbox, you've discarded a tool you really, really need.
You need a Dadface.
That thing you see in the mirror? That may be the face of a dad, but it is not a Dadface. You know the Dadface. Your dad had one, remember? There you are on your skateboard half-pipe using his $300 seven-iron for ramp jousting. He comes out of the garage and doesn't say a word. He just stares. Like Magneto with a three-day beard, he uses only the power of his splenetic visage, bending you to his will, causing you to carry that seven-iron over to him in perfect silence, your pancreas withering in his gaze. He didn't need to yell.
You've tried it. Your kid races into the playground fountain with his shoes and socks on and you think, "this is it, I'm using the stare," and you turn your grim countenance toward your child who promptly falls into a slump of giggling oh-my-gods because you look like your just pooped your shorts.
Here is where you've failed.
It isn't about the way the dad's face appears. It's not about facial expression. There is no facial expression. It's about what's in your heart and I'm telling you, newbie, for a proper Dadface, you have to fill your heart with a dark inflexible vengeance. You have to suffuse your soul with a murderous spirit.
Don't tell me that emotion hasn't fluttered like a bat through the dark recesses of your dome. I know. My son once ripped his Pull-up off in front of my friends, wagged his butt around like a microscopic Magic Mike and sang "Looook at mmmyyyy buuuutttt!" I felt instant overwhelming dude pride. Fraternity. Bonhomie. I high-fived everybody. Later that day, he mooned my in-laws and I thought: this wouldn't happen if I were childless. That was my Dadface being born.
You'll know when you've got it right. You'll catch your kid running out the back door with a roll of duct tape, an ice cream scoop, and a bowling ball and you'll catch his eye and he'll freeze. You don't know what he's doing. You just know it's going to end with 911 and a bill.
Suddenly, though your face belies nothing, nothing at all, a Stygian wind will blow through your heart and your kid will feel it. You will witness a miracle:
"Wow! How did these get here? I will put these away so no one gets hurt."