Monday, June 13, 2005

Take the Fatherhood Test

Don't worry, guys, I'm not talking "paternity test" here, so that little indiscretion a few years back isn't going to bite you in the ass... Yet. I'm talking about what it takes to be a good father. Do you have what it takes to be a positive father-figure in a child's life? Let's see what criteria one would have to meet to pass paternal muster:

1. Do you like golf?
2. Do you like tools, but aren't very good at using them?
3. Do you like watching TV and hogging the remote control?
4. Do you refuse to ask for directions when driving somewhere?
5. Do you mow the lawn frequently?
6. Do you like beer?
7. Do you like burping?
8. Do you like farting?
9. Do you show love to your family members by giving them money?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you have the right stuff to be a dad. According to Hallmark/American Greetings/other card companies this is the list of what makes a good father. If more than one of these apply to you, you are an exceptional father. If they ALL apply to you, then get ready for the elusive Father of the Year award (yes, the coffee cup one). Hopefully, my disgust is apparent by now (hahaha, a parent! That's a good one!)

Even more enraging than the trivializing, pigeon-holing portrayal of fatherhood by these cards is the realization of how many I embody. Yes, I like golf, I fart and burp in the presence of my son routinely (to make him laugh), I love tinkering with things with tools (but don't really know what I'm doing), and watch a lot of TV and constantly flip channels. Stereotypes are the worst when they're right.

Now ask yourselves if any of these virtuous qualities apply to your own fathers. If none do, then you're just fucked as far as finding a good card for him. My dad is a very smart, very funny/witty, non-emotional guy who likes coins and stamps, philosophy, trivia, and the Peanuts comic strip. He doesn't play golf, but used to watch it on TV a lot. I don't recall my dad ever fixing something with tools, or mowing our short-lived lawn. He rarely drinks alcohol, and the only beer I know he likes is Stroh's (R.I.P.). And the only way he shows love, really, is by laughing at his sons' jokes. So for the last two years I've given him the "If I'm weird it's because of you, so thanks for that" card. It's just too strange to get him a serious/sappy card. I did that once, and that was under circumstances where the importance of letting him know how much I love him outweighed the awkwardness of saying that to a man who I couldn't remember ever hugging. He'd had a heart attack earlier in the year and I figured I better do it before it was too late. I consider him a good father because he's taught me a lot, and even as I grow older and learn more about the world, he still occupies a place of high esteem in my mind. I'm always striving to reach his level, but probably never will.

I suppose that's the kind of thing I should put into a card, but doing so also makes me cry like a baby. It took me 21 years to do it the first time, and it's only been 10 since, so I may have some time still.

iPod: "Wolfman's Brother" by Phish, "Iron & Stone" and "Up in Arms" by Foo Fighters, "In My Tree" by Pearl Jam, "Long Island" by That Dog., "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" by Elvis Costello, "The King of Bedside Manor" by Barenaked Ladies, "The Ocean" and "Moon" by Fossil