Fatherhood has changed my life profoundly. I realized this last Friday night as I became frustrated at my inability to simultaneously watch “20/20” and “Dateline.”
I became a Good-Bad Dad almost ten years ago and I have come to the realization that I used to poke fun at guys like me. Ten years ago, I was never going to be the guy on the couch on Friday night. That is, until I looked forward to such a weekend kick-off.
I can immediately come up with eight circumstances that were “I’ll never’s” at 28 years-old that are “absolutely’s” for me now at 38.
1. Driving a Mini-Van
Not only do I proudly drive a mini-van, I’m happy to proclaim the merits of my van’s practically to anyone still holding onto the hope that an S.U.V. is an adequate substitute. Initial embarrassment of my people-mover has been transformed to unabashed support.
2. Over usage of annoying phrases from my childhood
I have now mastered the non-committal phrases that my parents used:
“Because I said so.”
“I did not say ‘Yes’, I said ‘MAYBE’.”
“Ask your mother.”
These phrases seem to drive my kids as nuts as they did me – their timelessness is impressive.
3. “Late” now starts at 9 P.M.
My ability to parent deteriorates significantly with each minute after 8:30. Not only have my hours changed since fatherhood, I have little toleration for those who’s clocks have not.
An easy example would be my recent complaining about the NCAA championship starting too late (9 P.M. eastern time) or my disdain for local news starting at 11 P.M.
4. Out-to-Eat starts with the analysis of the Kids’ Menu, not the wine list
Eating out has forever changed – the wine list is nothing more than a drink coaster. I pine over my kids’ dinner selection twice as long as my own. Selecting a restaurant is not about ambiance. Instead, the only question about a family dinner out is whether there will be enough noise to drown out my 3 year-old’s screeches for the benefit of the adjacent table.
5. Reading receipts – no matter the amount
My family would comment that I’m notoriously cheap – they’re right and I’m becoming worse. I was probably 30 years-old before I read a receipt for anything other than calculating a tip. I now examine the slip with the skeptical eye of an I.R.S. auditor.
This is my defense mechanism for taking my mind away from the omnipresent post-dinner request for a bathroom chauffeur because we broke down and allowed the kids to order sweet tea’s with their grilled cheese.
6. I buy multiple pairs of the same shoes, jean or shirts
Whether it be running shoes or replacement of my worn out jeans, I go to stores with the intention of re-buying the exact same item. The fashion ship has sailed for me. I’ll let my kids sport the latest styles and laugh at my “so-last-year” look. Once I find comfort, I’m as loyal a customer as they come.
7. Begin considering the consequence of a hangover after beer #2
A hangover is dire for a parent. Crossing the “greater than two beers” line is a calculated decision based on tomorrow’s forecast. There are two major questions to consider:
Is there available help the next day?
Will the weather allow the kids the ability to be outside?
No next day nanny and rain in the forecast yield water as the only reasonable third drink choice.
8. Say “I’m busy” by virtue of no activities in which I’m participating
I was “busy” at 28 – with working out and climbing the corporate ladder.
At 38, I’m busy with soccer practice, dance recitals, changing diapers, wiping boogers and trips to the grocery store. The concept of busy has certainly changed.
The eight item list above could make for a great syllabus for an intermediate GBD class about fatherhood. I can imagine standing in front of a group of late 20’s fathers and providing these eight items simultaneously as a warning and as encouragement. My lecture might begin, “Yes, I’m lame but you will be too. The good news is, you’ll love it.”
In my mind, I’ll dismiss the class as the advanced class of Good-Bad Dads come in. That class would be filled with 40-something’s that will need the entire hour. These dads have real issues to solve – social media, boy (or girl) friends, prom-posals, the sky-rocketing cost of college and (gasp) puberty.
At least I’m not teaching that course – yet.
For now, I can walk out of the fictitious intermediate classroom and take solace in the thought that, while I was cooler at 28 than 38, I’m still better off than those dads in the advanced course.