Saturday, February 17, 2007

What Kind of Dad Will You Be?

Pain is a great equalizer, some wise person said, as it makes children of us all. I don’t know who this wise person is, but I believe he was a sales rep for a drug company.

Returning from surgery, as all of the athletes among you will testify, is a slow, agonizing process that requires patience, hard work, and the persevernce of a salmon jumping the rapids. Recouperation from my particular procedure has given me plenty of time to think and little ability to articulate those thoughts except to complain loudly and frequently, which I understand is great preparation for becoming a parent.

As my physical therapist stretches my aching arm in a manner that makes one think of what a wall must feel like when drilled, I thought, “What would I tell my son to do, when he’s in such a spot?” The answer came back like a voice from below: “Do as your father does, and cry like a baby.”

This does not forfend a happy childhood in the Bookfraud household. Still, it makes one wonder just what kind of father one will be. Neal Pollack’s Alternadad chronicles a McSweeney’s hipster’s descent into madness following the birth of his child. That is, he is not exempt what natural selection confers upon new fathers — the need to provide material comfort and physical safety to one’s newborn that, I understand, does not include doing housework. Though if you resist, your balls get chopped off.

Haggis: it's what's for dinner

So what kind of father will one be? Though I cannot confirm any of the following sketches with the veracity of personal experience, I imagine that in the next few years I will turn into one or more of the following:

CoolDad: You look like Marilyn Manson. You act like Ozzie Nelson. You play Nine Inch Nails to put your daughter to sleep, dress her in Ramones onesies, and tint her hair the color of the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day. But then you realize that a barrista is not a career choice and if she's going to start an all-girl punk band, you'll have to shell out some bucks on guitar lessons.

Your wife just wants a good night’s sleep and not to have to worry about school districts. Before waking up in horror, you dream of the suburbs.

Over the protests of your families, you do not name your daughter “Irrisimus.” Your parents just want a bris. Your in-laws just want a christening. You just want to kill yourself.

GolfDad: After your child is born, you’ve gained about 50 pounds in two weeks, and the world of golf becomes a great substitute for the sex you’re not getting and will not get for the next 20 years. It’s a stupid, silly waste of money, but the money is better spent on links fees than something worthless, like dance lessons or diapers. The fairways are verdant, the sky is blue, and the putter is the only stiff thing you've held for months. It’s as good as it gets.


BadDad: Self-centered and blissfully ignorant of the changes that have overtaken the house. He goes about his daily routine without interruption, allowing his wife to take care of all the child-raising. He commands that his personal time is involate, and once he descends into his private lair, nothing can disturb him, even if his child has a temperature of 103 or is crying for attention.

BadDad is baaaad. He is also known as a “dedicated writer.”

InsaneDad: Honey, listen. I’ve been thinking. In the Kalahari, !Kung women carry their children with them 24/7, you should too. Those children don’t get colic. Now, I already told you about diet: a 1992 study of rural Scottish mothers who ate nothing but haggis and Guiness found that their breast milk contained antibodies twice has high as West London mothers who subsided on Shepherd’s pie and Bass ale!

Also, studies show that it's best to hang the baby upside down three hours a day. Researchers looked at families along the Mongolian steppe, and say that each yurt had straps to hang their children by the feet. It works!

And never,
never forget what I read online: unless you play the Brahms Violin Concerto, we'll never get the kid into Julliard. When you play the BeethovenViolin Concerto, it won't work! It says online — the Beethoven cadenzas are just too simple! You want this brat to be the next Joshua Bell, then listen to me, damnit! So what if I haven't slept for 72 hours!


Yurt welcome

PerfectDad: What every man aspires to but few attain. You cook. You clean. You help feed. You gladly change diapers at 3 a.m. and swear off the daily six-pack. You read to your baby, and teach him French and Mandarin. Forsaking sports on television and other activities that give you great pleasure, such as sleeping, eating, and defecating, as your little one spends all her time sleeping, eating, and defecating. Everything decision you make over the next two decades will be colored by the question, "It is good for my child?"

Since I'm already cool, like golf, and insane, that leaves BadDad and PerfectDad as my options. I'll try to be PerfectDad, as long as I get my beer. It will be the only thing to get me through the next few years.