By now, all seven of you loyal readers have probably developed a fairly clear picture of my fathering style. I’ve done some statistical regressions of my approach and the math breaks down like this: I’m 53% playmate, 24% idiot savant and 18% authoritarian. Wait, that doesn’t even equal 100. Whatever, let’s not get bogged down with facts.
Does my style work? Well, allow me to replay a conversation young Katie and I had recently while splashing around in our pool. It began with this statement: “Get out, you stupid bug,” after some insect with Olsen-Twin-skinny legs had made its way into the water. This exclamation was immediately followed, of course, with, “We don’t say ‘stupid’.” And then a grudging, “I know. I’m sorry.” The exchange was completed with a little shorthand we use: “Okay. Forgive.”
Five of you seven readers just clicked over to YouTube to watch a video of a wombat lip-syncing “We Are the World.” You’re thinking, “Paterson used to be interesting, but that story really sucked.” Have I earned no trust from you people? Here comes the big payoff: I’m the one who said the word “stupid”. And Katie was the one doing the admonishing. Yeah, man, I must be doing something right. (Although, in fairness, I nearly took her to school in her pajamas the very next day, until she corrected me.)
So, I’ve droned on plenty about my way of daddying. It’s time to look at some of the other flavors of parental unit out there. There are probably as many fathering styles as there are brands of condoms available to prevent it from happening in the first place. I’ll outline a few, based on the actual profiles of people I know. Some have been amalgamated together into a composite character, and in all cases the names have been changed to protect me from getting punched in the face.
Let’s start with Stefan (See, fake name. I’d never associate with anyone with a lame handle like that). Anyway, on the surface, Stefan would appear to be the worst possible choice to entrust with a human life. The man is a bit rough around the edges. I might say unrefined, you might say Neanderthal. He is, however, a great guy. One who happened to sire two little girls with a shrew who probably should be incarcerated. Thank God, they’re divorced now. Conventional wisdom would probably not lead you to consider someone with his general lack of regard for societal niceties as father of the year. But damned if he doesn’t make a good case. When he’s with his kids, he’s a different guy. He makes sure they eat healthy, he takes them to dance class, and he makes them clean up after themselves. As a result, they are polite, smart and rarely smell of urine or gin. Improbable as it is, he’s the most attentive and devoted father I know.
Shifting gears, we have Lars. I know, there’s a definite Norwegian theme here with my fake naming convention. I’ll do better with the next one. Anyway, Lars is the comic book character known as the Incredible Dad-Wuss. His wife wears the pants, and possibly other things I don’t want to think about. The kids run amok hitting and shoving and breaking stuff. I think his three year old might’ve stolen a car once. But does Gandhi say a word? Nope, a pacifist at all times. Probably afraid the missus will rescind his golf privileges and confiscate his fanny pack. I tell you, though, he’s not doing those kids any favors. That hands-off, my-kid-can-do-no-wrong philosophy is bad for them and everyone they will ever encounter. I might have a son just to beat up his.
For a complete 180 on the duties of dad-dom, consider Corporate Dad. The guy who has a high-stress, long-hours job that requires a real briefcase and everything. He’s got a huge brood and his wife has her own career as well. But here’s his secret weapon: the guy is wicked organized. That whole house runs like a company itself. Dad is the CEO and he’s got calendars, flow charts, job descriptions for the kids, the whole works. Each child is committed to about 11 activities – and this dynamo dad still finds time to be at every single game and recital, despite also playing on the company softball team and serving as a volunteer fireman. And if you need help moving, he’ll be there. Leaving me questioning why despite having about sextuple the free time this guy does, I’ve yet to find five minutes to hang the picture frame next to my desk.
Then there’s Rudy. He’s the guy who keeps having kids even though he’s not a big fan of the ones he’s already got. Always complaining that the rugrats are driving him nuts, he hasn’t got any money, blah blah blah. Consequently, Rudy and his wife can barely stand to look at each other. Except, of course, when they’re in the mood to share some bodily fluids. Which, clearly, happens often due to the number of unwanted prototypes they continue to produce. So what’s his fathering style? Fear. He keeps the whole mess together by bellowing out pre-emptive threats to maim or banish the seedlings. Which might explain why one little one is always wandering around alone out in the yard. But, it’s cool. If she takes off, they’ll just crank out another one.
My last example is Barack (Not that one. There could be others). Barack has the ideal parenting style. He’s fun, he’s really involved, but he’s tough when he needs to be. Sound familiar? Correct: he’s just like me. He too throws his kids in the air, chases them around, and creates cool little games that are just between them. But if they get out of line, look out. Like me, he knows that discipline is as much a part of the gig as frolicking is. And really, anyone who validates my slightly off-center view of the world can expect to get big props in my little public forum.
I suppose I could learn a little something from each of these guys. (Except maybe Rudy.) But the thing is, your fathering style emanates from who you are. So you just have to take what you’re good at – whether it’s being a good manager, being funny or being fertile – and make it work for you. And if all else fails, just copy everything I do.
Hey you dads out there...let me hear your thoughts on daddyhood!