Being a father is like playing golf. It's time consuming, expensive, frustrating, and has a lot of hazards. The Illinois Telephone Company reported last June that the number of calls made on Father's Day is growing faster than those on Mother's Day. The company apologized for the delay in compiling this statistic. Everything slowed down because of the extra billing associated with Father's Day – most of the calls were collect. That seems to be the way it works. First they call you Dada, then Daddy, then Dad, then they call you collect. Father actually comes from the Greek word, Fedoras – "one with deep pockets." Even Santa Clause gets in the house through Dad's wallet.
One way to be a good father is to affirm your children, but even that can be frustrating. A father of five came home with a new toy. He summoned his children and asked which one of them should be given the present. "Who is the most obedient and never talks back to mother and does everything he or she is told?" he asked. There was silence, then a chorus of voices said, "You play with it, Daddy."
Fathering is more confusing than it used to be. Things have changed on the playground. Kids talk differently. They used to boast, "My dad can beat your dad." Now they might reply, "Big deal, so can my mom." A little girl and a boy who just met were playing and the boy said, "Let's play baseball." She said, "Oh, no, I don't want to do that, baseball is a boy's game. It's not feminine to run around on a dusty vacant lot. I'm not going to play baseball." He said, "How about football?" "No, that's less feminine. You have to fall and get dirty. That's not a girl's game." He said, "OK, I have an idea. I'll race you to the corner." She said, "No, we play quiet games. We don't run and get all sweaty. Girls never race with boys." The boy scratched his head trying to think of what they could do. Finally he said, "I have it! Let's play house." She said, "Good, I'll be the Daddy."
Yes, being a father is confusing and also scary. I remember getting a card from my youngest daughter right after she got her driver's license. It said, "Dad, you taught me a lot of things over the years. But one thing I learned all by myself – your car won't go over 100 mph." That's scary.
Teenagers make fatherhood particularly tough. One father told his daughter she could date after her 16th birthday in February. It was December and she wanted to go to the Christmas prom. She said some hunk had asked her out on a date and she pleaded with her Dad, "Daddy, couldn't we just move it up a little bit? I'm almost 16." They had a long talk and finally he said, "No, you can't. You're not 16 yet and you can't go." Well you know how kids are at that age. She steamed and looked him right in the eye and said, "Daddy, do you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?" He said, "Of course I do." She said, "I'll tell you what I'm praying for. I pray that Jesus comes back before my 16th birthday and you'll have to spend the whole of eternity knowing that your daughter never had a date."
Some fathers may feel like a fool instead of cool. A college professor came home after a date with his wife. While the babysitter had been preoccupied, his son located the electric shaver and put a runway down the middle of his head. His father was livid. This well educated man was also bald, by the way, not a hair on his head. He said, "Didn't I tell you to never touch my shaver? You're going to get the spanking of your life." Just as he started to swat him, his son said, "Wait until you see sister." The man stopped and called his daughter. She appeared without a hair on her head – totally bald. He couldn't believe it. He exclaimed, "How could you do this?" In unison they said, "Dad, we just wanted to look like you."
It is more confusing when we give them good advice and set a bad example. One little kid wrecked his tricycle and came running in to his dad and said, "Dad, I've wrecked my tricycle. What's the word you say when you hit the golf ball bad?"
Let me tell you about the time that I quit smoking cigars. I was finishing my Ph.D. in psychology and feeling like Freud. I used to like to eat a big meal and smoke a cigar. We had gone to the beach to take a break. Sitting out on the porch after the big evening meal, I had a big cigar. I'd smoke the cigar and then set it down, and pick it up, etc. My wife nudged me because when I put it down Angela picked it up. She was smoking the cigar. It wasn't funny seeing a 5-year-old kid smoking a cigar. That was my last cigar. Why? Because it didn't matter what I said, it mattered what I did.
So Dads, instead of cramming things down their throats just lay it on their hearts. They'll watch you, and in about twenty-five years or so, they'll look back and that fool will be cool. On Father's Day, they might even call to tell you so – collect, of course.