When given the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on what it means to me to be a father I found myself coming back a television show I frequented in my own youth: the Nickelodeon show Double Dare. If you’re at all familiar with this show then you will hopefully agree with me in deeming it an appropriate metaphor for the daily tasks that await you as a Dad.
You will be put on the spot and asked a lot of questions. A LOT of questions. You will have some sort of physical challenge that will most likely involve you being on all fours interpreting some sort of barnyard animal. This could either be a horsey, bucking bronco, or in my case….a cow. (It is also my hope that this unfair classification has no bearing on my physical appearance and/ or stamina of this animal. In fact I have yet to determine as to why my children found it appropriate to assign the cow as my spirit animal in the first place.) And most importantly, just as the final challenge of Double Dare undoubtedly involved the contestants going through a barrage of challenges all the while becoming more and more…messy.
Yes, fatherhood is a mess.
A mess in every sense of the word. Physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, and everything in between. It’s that mess of toothpaste that the kids seem to leave behind after they “brush their teeth.” You know the kind. The kind that has had some time to quickly harden to point of a fossil stuck in the sink. Now you are charged with the task of digging into your bag of paleontology tools and find the right chisel for the job. Wondering did any toothpaste actually make it on the brush? It’s the mess of you genuinely trying to be as gentle as possible when brushing your screaming daughter’s hair. Certain that she is mentally setting you on fire with each yank, and pull of the brush. All the while screaming “This isn’t how Mommy does it!!!”
It’s the mess of having it look like a Toys R Us just threw up what was left of their Barbie inventory in your pew at church. Not to mention the antsy, disinterested 2 year old is not very good at keeping those slippery Cheerios in her hand, and 87% of those Cheerios are now littering the floor in a manner that will ensure that you are only able to find 6% of them.
Yes, it is a mess. But it is also a beautiful, amazingly awesome mess that I would not want to change one tiny bit of it. It’s my mess, and I love it. -( At this point I should remind you that in Double Dare the contestants are not facing these challenges alone, no they are side by side slipping through the slime with their teammate. So am I. My wife Shannon, being the amazing, patient soul that she is usually finds herself not only playing the part of the game show contestant, but also the director, and more often than not the janitor that has to clean up the stage after the show has been filmed.) -It’s me being there for my kids every day in every way that I can. It’s me being their bodyguard, their psychiatrist, their coach, their personal chef, their back-up singer/ dancer, their proofreader, their audience, their Uber driver, their protector, their friend, their hero.
I am here to be all those things. (Let me clarify by saying I try to be all those things to my children, sometimes I fail miserably) Trust me, there are days when we most certainly are flipping each other off behind closed doors, but again it’s a mess. One that I find myself enjoying more and more each day the older my children become.
So for those of you just starting out in your journey of Fatherhood, or those seasoned veterans that are further along yet. Please allow me to offer my own few anecdotes or pearls of wisdom-ish that I hope helps you along in your journey.
1. Even if you can’t carry a tune you need to have a “go-to” song to sing to your child at bedtime. Any song from any genre is acceptable. (Within reason) In the severe case that you’re singing may cause a screaming baby to become more agitated humming is acceptable as well. (Later revealed to me in my adult years my own Father chose Kenny Roger’s, The Gambler, simply for the fact that this was the only song he knew all the words to.)
2. Fathers of daughters, you will have to (and this is non-negotiable) allow your daughter to paint your toe-nails at some point. Come one. It’s just your toe nails. You hide them in your socks every day. And no matter what color scheme is chosen, and how it may appear as though it was applied during an earthquake, the only acceptable reaction is, “Oh, I love them!! So pretty! ”
And 3. There is no wrong time or place for a dance party. Sorry Big Lots. Maybe next time don’t play so much Earth, Wind and Fire and we won’t have to stop traffic on aisle 6.
Fatherhood is a mess. It’s a M. Marvelous E. Exciting S. Sometimes S. Slimy , Mess. Speaking of which. If you’ll excuse me I need to find my helmet and elbow pads because the 2 year old that hasn’t pooped in a week is working up a sweat, hiding in her room denying entry to all. Which usually means we have lift off!