ENID, Okla. —
Fathering a child is easy.
All you have to do is, well, you know, with a willing partner, and, boom, nine months later you are a daddy. Congratulations, sport.
Then what? Mom’s been spending the last nine months doing the heavy lifting and going through all the physical and hormonal upheaval, now it’s time for you to lend a hand.
So what does it take to be a father? After all, fatherhood is not a simple matter of simply making goo-goo eyes at your cooing, pooing bundle of joy.
Fathers have to be patient. The kid cares not a whit for your work schedule, nor for your need for a good night’s sleep. It also is impossible to believe such a little creature could make that much noise, or produce that much excrement.
Oh, and when the kid gets a little older, he or she will scratch your precious car with a tricycle or dent it with an errant baseball.
Fathers have to be strong. The kid will want to use you as a jungle gym the second you walk in the door, no matter how tough a day you’ve had.
You’ve got to give rides on your shoulders on demand and be able to toss a toddler high in the air again, and again, and again. In fact you will tire of the words “again, daddy, again.”
Fathers have to be handy. They have to be able to fix everything from a broken doll to a disabled bicycle. One thing is certain, the kid will break it, then will count on you to fix it. Just a tip, stock up on glue and duct tape.
Fathers have to be healers. You will be presented with a variety of boo-boos, from skinned knees to sunburned noses, and will be expected to “make it better, daddy.”
You’ll have to pull splinters from fingers, as well, and there will be blood. Buck up, bud. Fathers can’t be squeamish.
Fathers have to be tough guys. You will be the subject of challenges posed by your kid, of the “my dad can beat up your dad,” variety.
Just agree with your child, secure in the knowledge the other kid’s old man doesn’t want to rumble any more than you do.
And if it turns out he does, you can use the incident as an object lesson for your child, about the virtues of peaceful co-existence and turning the other cheek.
Fathers have to be geniuses. They have to know the answer to every question their child poses, like “Why is the sky blue?” “How do birds fly?” and the query that strikes fear into the heart of every father everywhere, “Where did I come from?”
Just a note, they will see right through the birds and the bees thing.
Oh, and you’ll have to help them with homework, so unless you spend your spare time diagramming sentences or solving linear equations, you might want to start boning up.
Fathers have to be stern. You will come home from work one day to find your child awaiting your return not with joyful anticipation, but with tearful trepidation, after Mom has pulled the old “Just wait until your father gets home,” dodge.
You will be expected to put the fear of God in them, to reduce them to crying, quivering, penitent masses of flesh in the face of your righteous anger.
Of course, doing so will rip your heart out, but that comes with the territory. And if you child is a girl you will be confronted by the specter of boyfriends, whom you must be able to intimidate with a scowl.
Fathers have to be athletic. You will be expected to play catch on demand, to accept a challenge of one-on-one hoops or to help practice cheerleading moves or dance steps.
Then there’s the matter of playing horsie for a rambunctious toddler. It’s not a bad idea to lay in a generous supply of ibuprofen and liniment.
Fathers have to be fun. You have to be willing to laugh at silly jokes or to drink make-believe tea seated at a tiny table with a Barbie, an Iron Man and a stuffed dinosaur. You will have to play hide-and-seek and not find your child too fast, despite the fact they always hide behind your recliner.
Fathers have to be wise, like Solomon, but with a smart phone. You must resolve disputes, settle grievances and negotiate truces like a diplomat.
Fathers have to be prepared. Be prepared for the day the kid unloads on you during a diaper change. Be prepared for the day the child goes to school for the first time.
Be prepared for the day your teenager tells you he hates you.
Be prepared for the day a young man asks you for your daughter’s hand.
Be prepared for the day you put on a monkey suit, walk her down the aisle and hand her to said young man in the sight of God and everybody.
Simply producing a child doesn’t make you a father, any more than planting a seed makes you a farmer. To be a father, you have to be all of the above, and much more.
Happy Father’s Day.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at email@example.com.