My first son came into this world 12 years ago, and since that wonderful, terrifying moment, I’ve been a father nearly every single day
(For two weeks in 2002, I switched roles with my wife and tried to be the mother, but the breast feeding took too much of a toll physically. Also, in 2007, we sold both boys to a nice, childless couple in Delhi, but they were returned during the 30-day no-questions-asked warranty period).
In that time, I haven’t been a terrible father — never any physical abuse, merely verbal and psychological — but I certainly haven’t been the “World’s No. 1 Dad!” despite what the T-shirt from last year and the mug from 2009 might say. I can be better, and I vow to try.
I will stop setting a bad example. No more ice cream for breakfast (after today). No more smoking cigarettes in the kids room at the city library. No more public nudity, unless absolutely necessary.
If the boys want me to stop working and play badminton in the backyard, then, well, I will play badminton in the backyard. And freshen up my resume.
I will stop blatantly favoring one son over the other. You know, the one whose side I always take? Who always gets the biggest piece of cake? Who always gets to go where he wants? Who always gets the best present? Yeah, I’ll stop favoring that one.
The chicken wing that fell on the floor and got just a little cat hair on it? No, it’s not really just as good as the rest, and no, it doesn’t improve the immune system. I’ll take that one and let the boys have the clean ones.
I will stop misusing the coupon book my son gave me for my birthday. Even though it says “will wash the dishes whenever you want.” It’s not fair, and it’s barely funny, to wake a child up at 3 a.m. and ask him to scrub a frying pan.
I will not use sarcasm as a weapon, as long as they don’t use it on me first.
I will bring the kids on the next family vacation. It is just plain wrong to bolt all the doors and leave the kids in the house with a two-gallon tub of peanut butter and a case of Orange Crush while the wife and I lounge on a Caribbean beach for a week. Just wrong.
I will not write columns about my children every time they do something embarrassing. This will be hard, with the whole puberty thing on the way.
I will not embarrass the kids in public. By this, I mean I won’t pinch their cheeks and say, “Oh, he’s so cute,” or I won’t loudly proclaim, “Hey, look, you’ve got a zit on your nose!” or I won’t ask in a crowded restaurant, “Do you need to go potty in the little boys room?” It does not mean that I won’t do something to embarrass myself that will thus embarrass them by association. I have to be realistic.
Occasionally, I’ll let the kids decide what to watch on television. That means they don’t necessarily have to watch yet another episode of “Star Trek,” though it might hurt my feelings.
When we go to Disney World, we’ll go on the rides the boys want to go on, not the rides I want to go on. Unless they want to go on “It’s a Small World.” I will not step foot in that hypnotic lair of singing animatronic demons.
When something is missing from my wallet, I will blame my wife first, not the children.
When there is a smelly gaseous release somewhere in the house, I will blame the dog first, not the children.
I will apologize to the boys for their inadequate allowance and try to reach a compromise based on the federal minimum wage.
I will not chaperone a school dance and ask, “Why don’t you go dance with that girl? Or how about that one? I think that one likes you … do you want me to tell her you like her?”
I will not force the boys to root for the Boston Red Sox. That is not required to be a member of this family. It is merely required that they do not root for the New York Yankees.
I will not harp on the chores. I mean, why shouldn’t the parents do all the dishes, wash all the clothes, take out the trash, take care of the pets, make the beds …
This morning I will accept whatever Father’s Day gifts are lavished on me; next year at this time, I hope that I will have earned them.
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