Baby, I’m a lot of things. And “cool” ain’t one of ’em.
I’ve been rolling it over and over in my brain for, well, years probably. “If I ever become a father, what sort of father will I be?” Options are limitless and I suppose you more or less get to choose up front, don’t you?
Arty Hipster Dad
“Listen, kids: CREATE and EXPERIENCE. Everything you do is fuel and fodder, dig? Be fabulous and incandescent. Leave your mark, wherever you go, whatever you do. YOU ARE ART.”
“Gang, it’s 5 AM, get up! That 10k isn’t going run itself and according to my watch, you’re gonna need to double-time it. Hustle hustle! Losers sleep in… you’re not losers, are you?”
“My concern is that another Wii game will cut into your volunteer time at the shelter. Have you prayed about this? By the way, how’s Habakkuk coming? Tough book!”
“You’re gonna find that a hearty, red stout mixes well with menthols. Just a real nice bouquet, know what I mean? No? Fine, here’s your pacifier back, y’lightweight. Ho! S’midnight, let’s see what’s cookin’ on Cinemax.”
Drill Sergeant Dad
“Oh, you want dessert, Mr. A-MINUS? Do you think MINUSES are reasons to celebrate? And by the way, you call that a crease? Google “proper-way-to-iron-a-pair-of-pants”, you dirty-hippie-with-an-A-minus!”
Mushy Softy Dad
“We’re a family, you know? A family. We complete each other. We lift each other up. Treasure these moments we have, kids. They’re precious… THEY’RE ALL PRECIOUS, JUST LIKE ALL OF YOU.”
Tough Love Dad
“I know re-shingling the roof in mid-July with no sunscreen seems like an extreme consequence. I do, I get it. But you know the rules about talking without permission after 8:00. Hey, don’t cry: if we don’t honor our own system, what are we?”
“Hey, I’m not here to lecture you like some kind of square. You want to jump naked into traffic, who am I to stop you? We make our own consequences, you know? We’re all just passengers in the Ship O’ Life, kiddo.”
Power Trip Dad
“Because I’m your father, that’s why. And if you ask me that again, you’re going to experience something horrible and arbitrary. Also, call me ‘sir’.”
Creepy Buddy Dad
“You guys cool with me tagging along? If you’re thinking R-rated movie, y’know, I can totally get us in.”
Political Pundit Dad
“Hey, I wanted to go to DisneyLand as much as you! Know why it’s not happening? Well, it’s a long story, but it has to do with tax breaks and Bill Clinton. Think I’m wrong? Go ahead, look it up. I’ll wait.”
“You’re giving a book report in front of the class tomorrow? Why didn’t you say anything? Hang on, let me cancel a couple of meetings. Is the video camera charged? What time should I be there?”
“Heh? Oh, good, happy birthday, then. Whatever, just take what you want out of my wallet and have a blast, I don’t know. Check with your mother.”
Old Salt Dad
“You morons with your LOL and OMG and BBQ and what all. In my day, we had fax machines and Pac-Man! And that was plenty!”
But of all of the options on the table, I suppose “Cool Dad” is the one I’m most committed to avoiding. I don’t really ever remember being cool and I can’t imagine starting anytime soon. At some point, these kids are going to have friends and I can’t quite imagine overhearing “your dad is so cool!” And if I do, I think I’ll wince a little.
Thing is, thanks to my upbringing, I have concerns. I don’t know how else to say it: I had great parents. And, man, that’s a lot of pressure.
My dad? Co-coached the little league team I was on. Never missed a game, a school play, a presentation or a parent-teacher conference. He took the time to teach me what riding a bike was all about and he threw pop-ups to me in the back yard until I wasn’t scared of catching them anymore. Discipline was fast and appropriate when I was being a moron and when I wasn’t, he trusted me to make good decisions.
Mom? Same thing. She was fully available and invested in me and my sisters. She was fun and wise and hilarious and proud of me. She reminds me now how many mistakes she made, but I don’t remember any of them.
Can I do that? I don’t know, man, I’m pretty distracted and weird. Arbitrary crap drives me crazy and I can be an awfully difficult human being to live with.
Which brings me back to “cool”. If these three are going to be popular and confident people, it’ll be despite their screwball father. I think I’ll expect a lot of them, maybe too much. And, at one point or another, I’ll likely be every dad I listed at the start of this post.
And one day a friend of one of my children will be over at our house. They’ll ask me if it’s okay to do something ridiculous and unsafe and I’ll tell them No Way.
And as I walk away, I’ll hear the friend of one of my children say, “your dad is so lame.”
And I’ll probably grin. Because, yeah, that’s the stuff.