If you’re born an American male, then there is a subtle pressure for you to be funny and interesting. A famous quote by Marilyn Monroe backs this up:
“If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.”
When my wife and I randomly met in line at a taping for a concert in Nashville on October 5, 2006, I didn’t capture her attention by my looks.
Instead, I did it through my eccentric charm; which largely consists of telling off-beat real life stories, laced in deadpan humor, illustrated with dramatic hand motions which I subconsciously learned from my Italian grandfather while growing up.
Why is it that the majority of comedians and writers throughout history have been and still are men?
Because we sort of have to be both funny and interesting. I believe it’s part of survival of the fittest for men, in particular.
So now after 6 years of meeting my wife, we are raising a nearly 2 year-old son.
A son who will grow up needing to be both interesting and funny.
Needless to say, it is my role as the dad to teach him to become these things. The tricky part is making sure he’s not obnoxious instead.
A person who is too interesting is in danger of becoming nerdy and boring.
A person who is too funny is in danger of become distant and insensitive.
My son Jack has proven to me that he has the funny gene. So right now, I’m starting to be proactive in helping him direct his natural talent.
I don’t want Jack to be the little boy who thinks he’s funny just because certain people laugh when he does something they think is cute. For example, when a little boy goes up to strangers and says, “Hi!”
After the stranger replies, the boy becomes a broken record in an attempt to obtain a collection of repeat laughs: “Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!…”
That’s the worst.
The most important part of being interesting and funny is the timing and theatrics of the delivery.
I can see how even at just 23 months-old, when Jack does something funny like stick his thumb in applesauce, then look up at his Mommy and I and say, “Oh no!” like it’s some kind of tragic accident with a worried look on his face, he waits for us to laugh before he does.
It’s funny how a quirky Japanese video game about an Italian plumber who busts bricks by jumping up and hitting them with his fist ever became a phenomenal hit in American culture.
Yet, I don’t know any dad around my age who wasn’t greatly psychologically affected by this unquestionably weird game known as Super Mario Bros. for “regular” Nintendo.
In fact, I have good reason to believe that modern day fatherhood can be easily represented through this nostalgic part of our childhood; which in essence, has become part of our manhood as well.
1. We are constantly working hard to earn money. Sure, it’s more convenient when you have the ability to jump 6 stories high to collect gold coins which are magically floating in the air, but just the same: We as dads are constantly reminded about the need to provide for our family.
2. We have to be strong and not let it show to the world when we are in pain. Mario was able to smash bricks with his fist (and his head?) yet he never bled nor showed any sign of injury. Sure, it’s important we share with our wives what’s really going on inside. But for everyone else, it’s culturally important for us to not go around expressing our concerns about financially providing for our families.
3. We must commit to our decisions and responsibilities. The first Super Mario Bros. was the only one where you couldn’t move back to the previous screen; only forward. Similarly, we as men and dads are dedicated to our families; not looking back to easier days, but instead to the challenges ahead.
4. We continue learning new lessons in fatherhood, therefore passing to the next level. In the way that Mario had to jump as high as he could on the flagpole to complete the level, sometimes we gracefully pass (jumping to the top of the pole) while often we barely get by (landing at the very bottom of the pole).
5. We become accustomed to disappointments, but continue our mission. Fatherhood is full of those “Thank you Mario but our princess is in another castle!” moments. I often feel that the times I figure out how to solve the current puzzle regarding how to get my son to go to sleep or convince him to eat a certain food or something like that, he figures out that I figured him out. Then he finds a new way to challenge me.
I could really go for one of those mushrooms right now. It’s be pretty cool to truly become “Super Dad” where I actually knew what I was doing.
If nothing else, I’d love to be able to change the burned out headlight on my 2004 Honda Element without ruining the bulb. Who knew that the natural oils from your fingers can actually ruin those stupid things? I think the last time I changed a headlight was on a 1988 Ford Bronco II.
I feel like it’s pretty difficult to be in a conversation with any other parent without one of us making some kind of self-deprecating remark regarding the way we raise our kids.
While parenting is one of the most important jobs on the planet, there is no standard rating system to know how well we are doing; nor is there an official playbook for raising a kid.
To go around regularly giving unsolicited advice to other parents is often not appreciated because it can easily give the impression of being an arrogant know-it-all.
And since overall, not knowing what we’re doing as parents is the norm, it’s best to recognize and work with this.
So to play it cool and make each other feel comfortable, and not competed against, we splice in quick insults towards ourselves like, “well if I wasn’t such a horrible parent, I would…” or “guess I won’t be winning Mom of the Year for that…”.
Interestingly, we hold ourselves up against the impossible standards of “Supermom” or “Superdad” in which we inspire to be like. On the extreme, however, are “that mom” and “that dad” who dramatically overdo it, perhaps hoping to appear as the real life “Supermoms” and “Superdads” that don’t actually exist outside of black-and-white 1960′s sitcoms and modern day urban legends.
To be so openly judgmental of ourselves makes it unnatural for anyone else to be subconsciously critical of us first. The tension is eased and we allow ourselves to feel normal.
As a fun little game, start noticing this in conversations you have with other parents over the next several days. See how long it takes before the other person says something like, “Half the time I’m lucky to even get the [insert household chore here] done, much less make sure I’m wearing socks that match. But hey, that’s what it’s like when you have these rugrats keeping you busy all the time.”
If you get bored with that game, you could make things more interesting by seeing how quickly you can be the one to insult yourself first by starting the conversation like so:
“I haven’t brushed my teeth today, I gave my kid chocolate syrup and Twizzlers this morning for breakfast, and not to mention, I’m so lame I have the song ‘Don’t Bite Your Friends’ from Yo Gabba Gabba as my cell phone’s ring tone. Seriously, what happen to the cool version of me?”
Note to self:This is just a private journal entry you wrote to help you serve as your own psychiatrist. Be careful not to press the “publish” button on this one. If you accidently do somehow, delete the post immediately!
No, my cell phone ringtone isn’t “California Gurls” by Katy Perry. It’s actually the theme song to the 1980′s show, Knight Rider.
And no, I don’t secretly have an obsession with Glee. (I’d almost rather watch 16 and Pregnant, which I loathe with a passion!)
However, there are certain habits concerning my actions as a father that I will never publicly admit to; especially not here on The Dadabase. After all, I don’t want to paint myself as a lazy, dimwitted dad who doesn’t do things by the book.(I’m not sure what all-compassing book I’m referring to there, by the way.)
So without any further ado, here are five things this dad won’t publicly admit:
1. I am sometimes that stereotypical unshaven dad you see on commercials; wearing a baseball cap and a goofy t-shirt, who was sent to the grocery store by his wife, cluelessly searching for an item that apparently doesn’t exist. When he does find the item, then he becomes even more dazed and confused as he has to figure out which exact variety he’s supposed to get. (This happened to me last Sunday as it became my mission to retrieve “oven surface cleaner.”)
2. My son’s diaper bag has become my newest official fashion accessory whenever I’m out anywhere with him and my wife. As I throw the strap around my neck and over my shoulder, I actually imagine it as an electric guitar I am strapping on instead; as I am preparing to play a rockin’ performance at the cafe of Whole Foods Market.
3. I often drive the scenic route if I know my son is asleep in his car seat. There was a day last week where my wife had to work late at work. It’s amazing how it took me an hour to drive home that day when it would normally only take 35 minutes. Not any bad traffic, no rain… just a coincidence, I guess. Turns out, I got home around the same time as my wife; despite her getting home so late.
4. I keep my son in wet diapers; for like, a really long time. I learned from the movie Meet the Fockers, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” If my son isn’t going to say anything, neither am I. Diapers can get expensive, man.
5. When one of his toys falls on the floor, I don’t wipe it off before it inevitably ends up back in his mouth. On the same token, I may have pretended not to watch as he has eaten morsels of bread off the floor that he lost from when he was eating in his high chair a few minutes before.
It’s safe to say I won’t be winning “Dad of the Year.” That is, as long as no one finds this stuff out about me.
Good thing I made my very own “Dad of the Year” award anyway!
Cliche phrases annoy me. Perhaps the one I despise the most is “patience is a virtue,” which is often assumed to originate from the Bible, though it is instead taken from a poem from the 5th century entitled “Psychomachia.”
The reason it probably urks me so badly is because the people who tend to say it the most are typically people who are… too patient!
There’s a decent chance they are also the same ones prone to use other worn-out phrases on a daily basis, like, “I’m not gonna lie…” as to anticipate telling some candid revelation, which they don’t. Another one is “just sayin’,” as to excuse themselves after saying something that is passive aggressively rude.
I’m not gonna lie, I’m not a patient person. Sure, it’s probably something I should care about trying to improve. But really, I’m a parent. I have a 10 month old son. If anything is going to teach me patience, whatever that even means, then it’s going to be my dealings with him.
Yes, I know: I’ve got it easy. My kid is very laid back and loves to be around people. It’s easy for anyone to love him. I know I’m one lucky guy.
Still though, he doesn’t have a pause button. Sometimes, especially on a Sunday afternoon when I am aching for a good three hour nap, I wouldn’t mind a pause button.
I wouldn’t mind being able to carry on a meaningful conversation with my wife during dinner without him interrupting because he’s not being engaged enough as we eat and attempt to feed him in the process.
Instead, the only pausing he does is during the 11+ hours from around 7 PM to 6:30 AM each day. But by that time, most of our energy has been spent.
Thank God for my son. I love him so much. I adore him. Awesomest baby ever.