Congratulations, son. I’m so proud of you and the missus. I can’t believe in a few short months I’m going to be a grandpa. That’s incredible. Brings a tear to my eye. Anyway, I brought you here because I have some advice to give.
Wait, listen. I see you rolling your eyes. This is the most important advice I can give. This has been passed down from Father to Father, Dad to Dad, Man to Man, Mano a Mano—am I using that right?—for probably as long as time has existed.
I present to YOU, son, the rules of Fatherhood.
That’s right, son. Seven sins for dads. If it was all playing catch in the yard and showing up on time to things, society would crumble. It’s sin that makes a dad great. Doing the little things that get under everyone’s skin.
Without further adieu—am I using that right?—here’s the first sin:
You may notice that I’m doing this right now, son. That’s because I’m a great father who has spent every night feverishly reading and rereading the list of Seven Dadly Sins since the day I knocked up your mom.
Do you remember back on your prom night when your girlfriend left with that guy Geoff (who spelled his name with a G like a real scumbag) and you were crying, and I launched into my trademark “now you know to wear suits that fit you instead of just buying suits from the Goodwill, maybe you should get a part time job so that in the future you can finally pop some cherries in the back seat of my 1989 Toyota Cressida” speech? Do you recall how I didn’t take even a single moment to tell you your situation sucked, or that I was sorry that Karen did that to you?
That’s parenting, right there, son. I bet you wondered why I did that. It’s because I’m a good parent. Of course I wanted to comfort you! But then I wouldn’t be following my rulebook, and without rules, what separates a dad from a dog, y’know?
Haha! Gotcha! See, these kinds of unexpected twists are why you need to be ready for fatherhood. Bet you thought you had it all figured out! WRONG!
The key to a good teaching moment is that it has to be totally unwanted. You can’t make a learning opportunity out of a request for advice, son. You just can’t! Remember when you called me and left three voicemails asking how taxes work? Did you think I just didn’t get those? Of course I got ‘em. That wasn’t a learning opportunity. A learning opportunity is where you fuck up and something bad happens to you and a dad gets to be unhelpful about it. Asking for help? Never respond to these.
It’ll be hard at first—you’ll want to help your kid with stuff, you really will. But how will they learn if you just teach them how to do stuff? Seems counterintuitive, I know, but that’s what being a dad is all about. Gotta keep ‘em guessing.
Remember how I made breakfast about once or twice a month? I’d make pancakes and proclaim loudly while everyone was still trying to sleep, “PANCAKES AU DAD! DAD-STYLE PANCAKES, COMIN’ RIGHT UP! Kids, you’re gonna love these mouth-watering dad-style pancakes!” I have a confession: I just used the recipe on the back of the BisQuick box. I just wanted you to think I was cool.
Once, your mom made pancakes using a different recipe that she said her mom had taught her, and we got into a big fight about it. I said I lot of things I shouldn’t have. It was important to me that you respected me. A man needs to be able to provide for his family. A man needs to be able to trick his family into thinking he knows how to cook better than anybody else and only cooks on special occasions because of how hard his job is.
I made a big show of loosening my tie every day when I got home and complaining about the office so you’d think I worked extra hard. The truth is, I coast on minimal effort in all tasks. I just pretend everything is hard so that my children and the women in my life will think I’m special. That’s what masculinity is, son. That’s the example you have to set.
This might come as a surprise to you, but I don’t actually know much about plumbing. I know that’s shocking, since I fixed the toilet in the basement all by myself. What you may not know is that I took weeks off work to do that, and in fact, could no longer take the time off for our vacation that year because I had burnt all my vacation and sick days fixing that toilet.
Your mother crunched the numbers on it once, and it turns out that (after factoring opportunity cost) it actually cost me six times as much money to fix that toilet using my own hands instead of another, more qualified man’s hands. Oh well!
My own dad had passed away too early to use that as a teaching moment, so I have continued to rush in totally uninformed on all sorts of important stuff. Did I tell you about the property I just bought to rent out to college kids? I’m sure being a landlord is easy.
Sometimes, when you insist on doing something yourself, it turns out to be kind of hard. Remember the unfinished basement? That basement is my albatross. That fiberglass haunts my dreams. It hurts to be a dad. It’s hard work. Sometimes you have to leave things unfinished, no matter how much it pains you to do it, just to be a good father. Which brings me to number six:
I Gotta Go.
This piece is a response to this week’s 7 DEADLY SINS writing prompt. If you’d like to be featured in The Prompt, send us a 400-700 word response to this week’s prompt and always, we’ll print the best submissions.