June 17, 2011

The author with his children

The author with his children

“Did I tell you I like turtles?” asked Jesse’s dad in a recent email to his long-lost son. Jesse is a writer I used to work with, and he had gotten in contact with his father despite his mother’s vehement eye-rolling. I was privy to his dad’s emails and they were hilarious. “Let’s get a hotel room and just sit down and talk to each other. We’ll be brutally honest and get it all out.” Sure, dad. Let’s take care of two decades in a couple of hours.

What deadbeat dads don’t seem to comprehend is that being a father is not a full-time job. You get breaks from a full-time job. Being a dad is an 86,400-second-a-day job. If you hear creaking in the middle of the night, you wake up and go into the hallway to see if your kid is sleepwalking or, God forbid, an intruder has busted into the house. Later, when you wake up for real, you tell them to stop harassing their mother about how soggy the cereal is. Then you help them get dressed. You can’t help too much, because you want them to learn. When it’s time to leave, you let them open the door but you don’t show them how to undo the deadbolt because that’s not safe. The stairs are tricky and you want to carry them down, but it’s important they get better at stairs and now is as good a time as any. Navigating the street outside is like walking a tightrope between protecting them and encouraging their independence. And that’s only one small part of one morning of one day. The fact that deadbeat dads think they can possibly catch up cracks me up.

Jesse and I eventually realized his dad had mentioned turtles on the off chance Jesse was in the gift-buying mood and needed some inspiration. This is common among the deadbeat set. My neighbor Claire’s biological father gives her a Christmas list every year. He never buys anyone anything but in case you’re interested, he’d love another NY Giants towel.

It’s not easy to buy a Father’s Day gift for good dads, because the only thing they want is for you to be healthy and happy. BORING! I can’t be bothered getting my dad a Father’s Day gift. He already has an abyss. But if you’re out shopping this weekend, Dale’s dad would like a Maurice “The Rocket” Richard movie poster (framed), Sam’s dad would like a sable-hair paintbrush, Sebastian’s dad would like a Civil War knife, Jesse’s dad would like a spiny turtle shell, and Claire’s dad already got the towel but would like a chrome Giants clock.


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