A dad may wear many hats, but he'll first and foremost be a father.
As the father of a toddler, I am many things. I cannot be defined by one or two words. Although I have a real name, it has been replaced by Daddy, Dad, Papa, and Bald Mommy, among others, yet I answer to many other monikers. I'm like a superhero with many identities:
I am the chaser of the bogeyman. I make sure my child can go to sleep in peace, knowing that the bad guys from the cartoon he was just watching are nowhere in sight.
I am the doctor. I apply bandages and kisses to boo-boos.
I am the exterminator. I kill baby spiders so tiny that they can only be seen with a microscope or the eyes of a frightened 2-year-old.
I am the clown. If my kid is scared or in pain, I will fall down, make funny faces, and talk in silly voices just to make him laugh.
I am the diaper changer. I've seen more poop and pee than a worker at the sewage treatment plant.
I am the punisher. I seem larger than life and scary when my kid has done something wrong.
I am the chauffeur. I take my son to school, the doctor's office, soccer games, the grocery store, and Elmo-on-Ice.
I am the keeper of the remote control. No one should fight me on this one. I don't care who you are. You'll lose. (And that goes for you, too, Mommy.)
I am the toy finder. I'm the one who instructs my child to look under the cat's litter box if he's somehow misplaced his Star Wars action figure for the 32nd consecutive time in one day; my child is continually amazed every time he finds out the Toy Finder is right.
I am Santa Claus. Shhh...don't tell.
I am the teacher. I show you all the important things in life. No, not the three R's. I teach truly important things, like how to play football, the names of everyone who's ever been on The Simpsons, and how to do arm farts.
I am the music expert. I explain to you the finite nuances between the genres "hard rock" and "heavy metal," and tell you why Sammy Hagar is better than David Lee Roth.
I am your maid. I constantly clean up your messes, even after telling you repeatedly that I am not your maid and that I will no longer clean up your messes.
I am the world's biggest hypocrite. Don't cuss, don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs, don't flunk out of college, don't eat junk, and don't avoid vegetables at all cost. Do as I say, not as I did.
I am your chef. I can open a can of Chef Boyardee like nobody's business and serve you your feast of spaghetti.
I am the great contradictor. I tell you to grow up and punish you for acting like a little kid, but then become greatly upset at the thought of your growing up and no longer needing me.
But most of all...
I am your father. And don't you forget it.
Excerpted from The Guy's Guide to Surviving Toddlers, Tantrums, and Separation Anxiety (Yours, Not Your Kid's!) by Michael Crider. Copyright © 2007. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the March 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.