I have three daughters. Besides the obvious joy that statement brings, it also means several other things: I have no hair, I’m never right, there will be three college tuitions and possibly three weddings, and consequently, I will never retire.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a few things along the way that I am happy to pass on to you younger fathers. Let’s start with the most basic thing: No matter how advanced your education, you are a guy, and therefore you know nothing. You are someone who hangs around the house, says things no one listens to, hands out money and changes light bulbs. Very little is expected of you.
It is your job as a dad not to understand, and to be a smart ass. Kind of freeing, isn’t it?
Now, here is how you use that to your advantage. Start early. At the tender age of 5, one of my girls hit me with the dreaded question, “How are baby pigs made?” I got the much-older-than-her-years stink eye when I told her, “Well, baby pigs are the by-products of the Oscar Mayer factory, and that’s why it’s so good to eat lots of bacon.”
Carry this throughout their educational years. I’m going to warn you now. They start precalculus in seventh grade. Seventh freakin’ grade! Holy crap. I don’t even remember my seventh-grade teacher’s name, let alone how to find the derivative in a differentiation formula.
So when they head toward you with that Bible-sized math book and a furrowed brow, answer their question with, “Huh? What? Uh, hang on. I’ll help you, but I have something in the garage that I have to do,” and never come back until after midnight. They have friends, they have the Internet, they have a mother—they’ll figure it out, and be better for doing it. Or spend the rest of your life trying to relearn all the math you ever learned, but in a completely different way, only to be told, “You’re doing it wrong,” and then watching them cry. Your choice.
Deflect. Always deflect. Learn from my mistakes, Grasshopper.
If your lovely wife leaves the house to have an actual well-deserved moment to herself and your daughter hits you with the dreaded bra shopping request that can’t wait five flippin’ minutes for your wife to return (and this will happen), then tell your little sweetie, “Arrange a sleepover with your best friend and ask her mom—she’s got big boobs.” I guarantee that will be the last time you field that question.
If one of your older daughters constantly wants to borrow the car to go to movies with friends, or to put more dents in the quarter panels, tell her she can’t have the keys to the car because, “I don’t feel it is safe for you to drive. It has an internal bilateral vortex server malfunction, and I’m waiting for a very expensive part from Swedenheim.”
Stop worrying. They’ll be fine. These are kids who can live entirely on a diet of Chipotle and In-N-Out. They can conduct 654 texts per hour, “date” a boy while hanging out with a bunch of other boys and they’re all fine with it, and fix all of your high-tech gadgets just by lookin’ at ’em. Their brains are firing on all cylinders. Yours? Not so much.
So don’t try to exceed expectations. You’ll only fail. Just listen to them, try not to understand them, coach their softball teams, buy them junk food, tell them to do the opposite of what you really want them to do, and hang around the house. That’s what they want.
And change the occasional lightbulb for them.