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What Makes Dads So … Non-Mom?

A group of young dudes in Spokane, Washington, recently put an ad on Craigslist for a “BBQ Dad” who’d be willing to man the grill at their Father’s Day backyard burger roast. They told the local news station their own dads don’t live nearby and they aren’t up to the challenge of filling their shoes. Duties would include flipping patties while drinking beer, talking about lawnmowers, and referring to the hosts as Big Guy, Chief, Sport, and Champ. They got a few takers.

I’m learning there’s nothing quite like the bond between a boy and his dad. Moms get a lot of reverence lobbed our way, mostly because of the way people just spring to life right there between our hips. The truth is that when my kids need comfort — or, alternately, a taloned and shrieky advocate on their behalf — there’s really no substitute for mom. Also, I keep them alive by cramming the occasional wad of produce down their protesting pieholes.

However, when my sons get talking about their dad, their words reveal less a reverence than a rapport. Less a biological tenderness than an utterly rational fondness.

Our youngest, age 11, says he and his dad like the same stuff. Board games. Football. The Back to the Future trilogy. Chocolate old-fashioned donuts. Plus, Dad’s useful in a way that I’m not. “I go to Dad if there’s a giant spider on my wall or if I need help fixing something,” he says. “Or let me rephrase: if I need him to fix something.”

Dad compares favorably to comic-book fathers. “He isn’t like Calvin’s dad in Calvin and Hobbes, telling me that shoveling the walk builds character; he’s really nice,” the kid says. “I always go into his office when I get home and he’ll ask how my day was. He’s like my New York Times for our household; he tells me everything that’s going on and reminds me that I need to practice my trumpet and throw the ball for the dog.”

The child especially likes that his pop has coached him through seven years of sports of all sorts:

“He knows how to coach a team because his dad did that for him when he was a kid, and he wants to give it back. And I’ll probably be coaching my kids’ teams. I’d be lucky if I was able to coach as good as he does.”

Still, he doesn’t want to be exactly like Dad. “He curses a lot in front of his children — mostly because his archenemy is gravity. He hates it when things fall, and he always says, ‘If I put it there, why won’t it stay there?!’ He actually gets really mad, and I just laugh and he gets even more mad.”

What did he inherit from his father? “My long fingers and tight hamstrings. I do hate gravity, also, actually.”

Our older son, 18, describes his dad as patient, attentive, thoughtful, funny, fair, honest, creative, and able. (For those keeping score at home, I might net two of those, and only if I hadn’t just asked him to get his %^¢&@#$ laundry out of the dryer.)

Why’s Dad so great? “He acts like a kid. Growing up with him playing Lego Star Wars, watching SpongeBob SquarePants together, and talking about football was so fun. It made me more comfortable around adults because Dad showed me that on the inside, we’re all kids. On the other hand, it left us to do most of the adulting — like when he would fight me and my brother for who got the biggest slice of cake.”

So what do you think “being a dad” means then? “Being supportive but not overbearing. Dad was always invested in everything I was doing. When I was into drumming, he spent hours setting up our garage for band practices. When I was into CrossFit, he joined and started doing it, too. I’m excited for him to be invested in my new dream to become a male stripper.

“Love you, Dad-yo. Happy Father’s Day!”

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Published inColumnsParenting
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