My husband had been a father for exactly one month on his first Father’s Day. What he lacked in experience, he made up for with enthusiasm.
We were both still completely infatuated with our newborn — and completely aghast that they let us take him home without question or adult supervision. Yes, we were adults. We just felt there should be adultier adults ready to hop in and save him from our inexperience.
Shouldn’t there have been some sort of a test?
If there was an ad hiring a “dad,” I imagine it would read something like this:
Wanted, strong, capable person able to play horsey after a long day of work, watch a child do the same “trick”a few thousand times in rapid succession, explain why the sky is blue, why boy ladybugs aren’t called “gentleman bugs.”
Must be able to shoulder the burden of explaining why he cannot bring a deceased pet back to life in the face of a child’s insistence that “daddy can fix anything.”
Must be able to work long hours, multiple jobs if necessary, and still consider coaching youth sports, fixing the brakes on the car or working late into the night to make sure all the family needs are met. The ability to do all these things simultaneously is preferred.
The schedule includes days, nights, weekends, holidays and any day that ends with “y.” There is no time off — paid or otherwise. Speaking of pay, most of it will go to meet the needs of the children, so don’t get too attached. Ditto the use of your car, unblemished lawn and for some reason, your socks. Must be both understanding, but able to be a disciplinarian when required — and even if what your child has done wrong is actually hilarious.
The ideal candidate will possess the following qualities:
• Dependability. Being there through thick and thin is key.
• Valuing their coparent.
• Acceptance that his children will not be exactly like him and may make different choices.
• An understanding that he should be able to diagnose car troubles including “weird lights and noises’’ over the telephone when necessary. A strong ability to repair almost anything is a plus.
Key performance indicators will include:
• Ability to assemble toys after midnight on Christmas Eve armed with nothing more than an Allen wrench and sheer determination.
• The ability to coach and watch his children take part in extracurricular activities without acting like Olympic greatness and the fate of the free world hangs in the balance of a tee-ball game.
• And, finally, the ability to perform his job so well that he will, God willing, work himself right into retirement.
Passing the torch
Mr. Wonderful has been a “dream dad” for his entire quarter-century of parenting. He is certainly older and wiser than he was on that first Father’s Day. Most importantly I think, he remains a lot of fun.
Just a few weeks ago he gave a speech at GirlWonder’s wedding that summed this up so well:
“My baby girl is all grown up and it’s very hard to believe. Last week you were 8 years old and knocking my socks off and laughing uproariously when you did so. A month before that you were 18 months old and we were playing Pajama Sam on the computer and trying to follow the clues. Somewhere in the middle we tried to open a coconut on the countertop when mom was away for the evening and broke the countertop — not the coconut — but of course, you remember.
Now you are grown and out in the big world. When you started college, I felt like a nervous wreck. You were walking all over campus in the “big city.” Then suddenly you were dating, and I was even more nervous about who you might meet.
Then the pandemic came along. The only good thing that came out of the pandemic was that all the bars and clubs closed. But the gym was open, and a determined young man was not going to give up. In a blink, I am writing a speech that I’m supposed to give you away. Which, by the way, I will never do. We will bring your husband into the fold and keep both of you.”
Isn’t that just the sweetest thing you ever heard? When I tell you there wasn’t a dry eye in the room, it’s true.
Finally, he summed up his speech with a closing that is, quite possibly, the most “experienced dad” thing ever to be said. He turned to her new husband and said, “Welcome to the family. Now that you have signed these papers and promised to love, honor, cherish and take care of her, I just want you to know that … she is definitely going to need new tires on her car before winter.”
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