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Dads, Daddies, and Fathers
Dads, Daddies and Fathers
Dr. Darryl Winer
My wife has blessed me with two children. Accordingly, I am within my rights to lay claim to being a father, or a daddy or a dad.
For those who may be unfamiliar, or blithely and blissfully ignorant, “father” conveys both rights and responsibilities. Authorities - not so much. For example, a father has a right to buy his child a new car, prom dress, orthodontia, and lots of shoes (either for a boy child as he outgrows them daily or for a girl child as she...um...well...breathes).
“Father” is a official term reserved for legal proceedings (sign here for a learner’s permit) , formal activities (the father of the bride), parentage (as the birth certificate says), key social functions (the father/daughter dance), adjudicator (go ask you father), and negotiator (when it comes to high finance or road trips).
A child rarely uses the term “father” in normal conversation. When they do, such an opening will invariably lead to something expensive. Should any dialogue actually begin with, “Father...” , you should immediately put one hand firmly on your wallet and reach for your car insurance policy.
Should any other person open a discussion with you, for example, “As this child’s father...”, reach for your homeowner’s insurance policy, or a copy of the school’s discipline policy.
“Father”, as you can see, is used interchangeably with “the Insured”.
Now, “daddy” is a tender term of endearment, or at least that’s the way we always seem to interpret it, coming as it does, accompanied by the sweetest of faces and most imploring of small voices.
The Bank of Daddy, under the same old management, is a well known facility open 24/7/365 for withdrawals. Deposits? Yeah, right.
Daddies, it seems, have big legs that provide shelter to hide behind in the face of anything threatening (unknown adults, bigger kids, the neighbors Chihuahua, an aggressive bumble bee, or a sponge ball that arrives faster than originally anticipated).
Daddies also have big, often hairy, arms particularly well suited for providing warmth along with elevation. It amazing what the panorama is from three feet higher.
When my daughter, who is a pistol, and was about ten, came to me with a question that began, “Daddy?”. Instead of just saying “Yes”, I acknowledged her with and equally quizzical, “Daughter?” We all got a chuckle from this stilted exchange. I remained quite pleased with myself over this bit of jest until later in the day when I called her by name and she looked me in the eye and deadpanned, “Daddy?”
She, to this day signs cards, email, and letters as “Daughter”.
“Dad” is a term used almost exclusively by teenagers. Why? Because after 12 years of being “daddy”, it is no longer cool enough to say in front of their discerning friends. Indeed, our status needs to be burnished and polished to meet the exacting and rigorous standards of the adolescent crowd.
Dad, the Reason of Last Resort.
Someone, sometime, somewhere, has to be the voice of reason. This is often the duty of the “dad”. As an example, my bright, rational, level-headed son, who had already distinguished himself academically at 15, came to me with a simple logical request. It seemed that it was a week before his 16th birthday and his high school swim team had a meet in ten days in a city some 80 miles away, and he thought he might take a car-load of boys to the meet. It seemed, however, that he would now need a driver’s license to accompany him on the trip. His flawless reasoning took into consideration the need for a trip - check, the need for a car (mine) - check, and the need for a license - check.
When I responded thunderstruck with, “Was that a monkey that just flew out of my ass!” Did this gifted, normally reasonable boy really think he was going to get his license one day and take a gang of boys on a road trip (in my car no less) the next? Why , yes, yes he did. I had to disabuse him of this notion in a manner that was consistent with his age, level of understanding and my incredulity at the request. So I repeated more slowly, “Was that a monkey that just flew out of my ass!” In “dad” language, that meant no.
Dad, the Overprotective Ogre.
There is one key situation where we have a unique case of selecting between “dad” and “father”. Picture this: The JV football quarterback, with testosterone running rampant, arrives at my front door with grand plans for my sixteen year old daughter. What he hasn’t counted on is that I’m not so old as to have forgotten how this game goes. Now, at 5’10” and 160 pounds he may be the big boy at high school, but here he’s still several inches shorter than I am and more than several pounds lighter than I am.
In order to successfully gain entrance, to even be in the same room as my daughter, there best be a clear display of manners and deference. His hand should be offered along with several yes sirs and no sirs. Because, you see, once I have his hand, I lean in close and he and I share a brief, quiet and pithy discussion that goes something like this: Son, this girl is my baby, and you should know I am very protective of her. I expect you to show her courtesy and proper respect. Should I find otherwise, we will be having another discussion that you will not find pleasant.
On any subsequent visit(s) a simple, “Son, do we need to have any further conversation?” is usually more than adequate.
Now, I’m not so naive as to think that teens don’t do what teens do, nor that the quarterback will not get a rush of blood back to his ego by the time they reach the car. But this admonition, if you will, provided my daughter a solid bargaining chip to use should things move beyond her comfort level. “My dad’s not gonna want to hear about this.”, will very likely get her home forthwith. Self-preservation is a pretty strong instinct.
If you happen to be a less imposing dad, perhaps a firmly intoned, “Son, I’ve been to jail. And I’m not afraid to go back.”, or “Don’t make me perform elective surgery on the first organ presenting itself.”, may have the desired effect.
Dads, daddies, and fathers come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and temperaments, but all have at least two things in common. They are blessed and have a unique opportunity to shower their love on the most precious of gifts - their children.
Father - Tanka
(five line haiku)
His duty ever so clear
For life he summoned
A man never stands so tall
Stooping to pick up his child