P.S. Daddy, I Love You
[This is the second essay posted to http://www.goodmenproject.org.]
It's June, the month of Father's Day, and so I thought I'd spend a little bit of time thinking about what fatherhood has meant to me.
Now, the first thing I know many readers will notice is that in comedy, as in everything, timeliness is everything, and by the time this essay posts, Father's Day will be well past, but I feel that it is still relevant, because if this year is true to form, this essay will still post about a week before my children get around to giving me a card and a gift which they will insist that they've had since well before the day and just kept forgetting to send me, not realizing that one of them will accidentally have left the dated receipt in the card envelope in their hurry to get it in the mail. Father's Day for me isn't so much a day, it's an afterthought. On the complaint letter of life, Father's Day is the "P.S. I love you."
What does fatherhood mean to me... well, for starters, it means a lot of diapers. A LOT of diapers. Good heavens, there are diapers. No one warns you before you have children that the stress will make you incontinent. Oh, and the kids go through a lot of diapers, too.
Diapers come to us from the massive diaper conglomerates (or "Big Poop"), which have somehow managed to train our young children to eliminate waste in whatever pattern and time schedule will make for the highest usage rate. Really, I think they put something in the water. My own son seems to have decided that it isn't proper to poop in a soiled diaper, so he will come to me and say "I need a fresh diaper", which I can plainly see because the one he's currently wearing is hanging nearly to his knees and has developed a color not unlike a golden delicious apple gone a little bit soft and squishy, and so I'll ask him "Liam, do you need to poop?" and he'll say "No, Daddy", and so I will change his diaper, and within minutes (sometimes as I am still fastening the Velcro tabs that keep the new diaper affixed) he begins straining as though he's trying to give birth to a younger sibling, and viola, Big Poop has sold another unit.
Fatherhood also means a lot of yelling, and saying things like "because I'm the Daddy, that's why", and each time these things happen, we die a little bit inside as we think back to when we were young and our fathers would say those same infuriating things to us, and we swore to ourselves when we had kids, we'd never say such things to them. I think we can all clearly remember asking a perfectly reasonable question of Daddy and having him reply "because I'm the Daddy, that's why", and thinking that was a completely unreasonable answer, but knowing that the next answer is going to be "because this is my belt, that's why", and so we walked away.
It is not until we have children of our own that we realize that it isn't the one reasonable question that sets Daddy off, it's the series of 276 of them that it immediately followed. "Daddy, why does it rain?", "Well, son, it's because water evaporates to form clouds and when those clouds get too heavy and full of water, it falls back to Earth.", "But why does water evaporate?", "Well, son, because the sun heats up the water and so little bits of it end up going up into the air.", "But why does the sun heat the water up?", "Well, son, ..", "but why?", "well", "but why?".... "BECAUSE I'M THE DADDY, THAT'S WHY!"
Still, though, it's not all yelling and trite moments of hearing our fathers speaking through our mouths, there are also moments of pure bliss, such as the second time our child successfully urinates without a diaper (the first having been the time he got us squarely in the side of the head as we, new to the changing of diapers, failed to check the pistol to make sure there wasn't a bullet in the chamber, so to speak). Or the first time (this one happened to me several months back) we're out to dinner with friends, and our son says to the people we're with "That's my Daddy. I love him." You'd be surprised how few times you need to make him repeat that phrase before he'll go and repeat it to others, verbatim.
My son Liam is a source of joy and wonder for me, and can turn a crappy day into a glorious one with such a simple act as padding into my room and asking if he can climb into bed with me for the night, or struggling with his little fingers to mimic the sign-language symbol for "I Love You" which I've just made in his direction.
Or (this is true) the time he and I and much of the rest of my family were out having dinner at a restaurant with my parents. The meal drawing to a close, I gestured to the waiter and said "Could I get a box?", intending to wrap up the remainder of my meal for lunch the next day. He asked "Just the one?", and I glanced around the table to see if anyone else would need one, and as I was just about to answer, Liam puts up his fist, index finger high and says "Just the one."
Now, I had determined that one other person at the table needed a box, so I said "I think we need two."
To which Liam replied "No, Daddy, not two, just the one." The humor of this situation does not convey properly until you get the visual. You will recall Liam had his pointer finger up, with the back of his hand towards the waiter. When I replied that we wanted two boxes, I had put up two fingers in something approximating the classic "peace" symbol, and so as Liam said "not two" he lifted up his second finger to mimic my gesture, and as he said "just the one" he put the INDEX finger back down.
Yes, my at that time not-quite-four year old son flipped off the waiter and an entire room full of patrons. This is the kind of class you can't teach.
And I haven't even touched on the joys of fathering older children, such as my 16 year old son who is now driving, and whom, when he asks to borrow my car, I admonish to be extremely careful because I worry that he'll wreck it or himself, but whom I'm secretly more afraid will turn out to be significantly more successful at picking up women than I am, forcing me to confront the fact that it is NOT the dorky Toyota Prius that I drive, but my own balding middle aged body that's hindering my social life.
Or such as my teen aged daughters, who are becoming beautiful young women, which is wonderful, but comes at a price. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has decreed that every teen aged girl must behave like a narcissistic crack addict, but with more showers. As men, we will never truly understand PMS, which is why the women in our lives get so annoyed at us when we talk about it. But as fathers of teen aged girls, we come to know PMS in a way that makes any previous experience we had with it seem trivial. The truth is that PMS was named by the father of a teen aged girl, and he originally intended it to stand for Please Make it Stop.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love my daughters. They are good girls, all three of them, and they make me happy. They also make the few remaining hairs on my head gray and the needle on my sphygmomanometer red-line. ("sphygmomanometer" is from the latin roots "sphygmo", meaning "let me inflate this tubular balloon" and "manometer" until you lose all feeling from your elbow down"). And just in case my blood pressure wasn't high enough, nature has also seen fit to make teen aged girls the most beautiful creatures on Earth, and so while half of me is crying out for them to leave the house for just a few minutes of peace and quiet, the other half knows the moment they do, some balding, fat middle aged guy will try to pick them up in a Toyota Prius.
Copyright © May 22&30, 2010 by Liam Johnson. http://humor.liamjohnson.net