Category Archives: Fatherhood

Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Kristen Daukas compiled a list of Father’s Day gift ideas for this year – some of it on her own and some from recommendations she solicited from dads she knows, including yours truly. Here’s my favorites from her list:

Here’s one from my own experience. My better half got me the SkyRoll on Wheels for Father’s Day a couple of years ago and it has completely transformed my business travel life. Easily the best piece of luggage I’ve ever had.


The Helpful Dad Bod Flowchart

The Wonkblog has posted a very helpful dad bod flowchart, and as a well-worn dad it should surprise no one that I fall squarely in the dad bod strike zone:

Wondering what this whole dad bod thing is? Well, apparently it’s just another tool of the patriarchy.

Personally I think it’s the first positive pop-culture related thing to come along for middle aged men since, well, anything.


Suddenly me and my ilk – middle aged guys with semi-maintained middle aged bodies – are trendy, at least according to this item from The Atlantic:

Is “dadbod” a hashtag joke or a social-sexual movement? A bit of both, probably. A month ago at The Odyssey, Clemson sophomore Mackenzie Pearson explained that this “new trend” had “fraternity boys everywhere” rejoicing. “In case you haven’t noticed lately, girls are all about that dad bod,” she wrote. “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’” In the time since, #dadbod has gone viral on social media, to the cheers of Jason Segel lookalikes everywhere.

It ain’t much, but I’ll take it. #Dadbod owners of the world unite and rejoice!

What Interests Moms vs Dads

So I was invited by a friend to sign up for the Flipboard magazine “Interesting Stuff” which I appreciate because it does look interesting. As part of the sign up process you’re asked to pick areas of interest so I was scrolling through the page, clicking away on topics that interested me, when I got to the category of “Kids.” Under that category four topics were listed – Pregnancy, Fatherhood, Motherhood, Parenting Teens – and when I clicked on Fatherhood this is what appeared:


So clicking on Fatherhood added four suggested categories that included Child Support, Child Custody, Family Law and Child Psychology. As a bonus the Child Support category is accompanied by what looks like a mugshot of a man and the Child Custody category is augmented by the picture of a dead cat with blood running from what looks like its head, although the head is thankfully covered by a black box. So apparently people interested in fatherhood as a topic are assumed to be seriously effed up.

Here’s what was served up when I clicked on Motherhood:


The suggested topics are Birth Control Pill, Surrogate Mother, Stillbirth and Pregnancy Test. Doesn’t appear as bad as the Fatherhood topics, but taken in total the whole parenting thing seems kind of depressing doesn’t it?

I Agree With Dilbert-Man on This Topic

Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, recently wrote a blog post claiming he’d roughly doubled his IQ while on some meds because those meds killed his libido. From his post:

The first thing you need to understand is that when your sex drive disappears you don’t miss it. You can’t miss what you don’t want. Rather than feeling irritable about losing the core organizing principle of my life, I felt relieved. It was like crossing off half of my to-do list with no effort whatsoever. My mind was clear. I was focused. I could go deep.

Losing my sex drive felt like a superpower. I had some of the best ideas of my life that week…When you have the option of putting all of your energy into one function – in my case my brain – it makes a huge difference.

My IQ as a eunuch was sizzling. In fact, if a eunuch applied for a job with me I wouldn’t even ask any other questions. I would hire him on the spot. It would be like hiring Superman to move your furniture. I would know that guy was focused.

So I’m closing in on 50 and while I don’t feel like a eunuch just yet, I do feel like a eunuch on more occasions than I could have ever imagined a few years ago. Unfortunately since my eunuch-ness is related to age I don’t think I’m experiencing any kind of IQ boost, but just so you ladies understand where Adams (and I) are coming from let’s continue with his post:

I should pause here to explain a few things to the women reading this blog. The typical male brain is a computer that has to reboot every 30 seconds. Men can think about non-sexual topics for half-a-minute, tops. But we know we’ll die if we don’t sometimes think about food and shelter and whatnot, so we’re continuously bouncing between sex and non-sex thoughts. It never ends.

Sometimes we game the system by merging our sexual and non-sexual thoughts. During the workday it looks like this: If I get this new job, I’ll make a lot of money, and that will increase my odds of sex. On our own time, it looks like this: If I exercise hard enough, my body will look attractive and that will increase my odds of sex. 
And if you’re married it looks like this: The news says there will be a meteor shower tonight. I hope my wife doesn’t get hit by a meteor, but if she does it will increase my odds of sex.

I believe that last paragraph explains why most women have no problem with their mate’s eunuchness. Hell, I wouldn’t be shocked if most of us (married men) have been eating food laced with saltpeter since the day our wives figured out they were done having kids and our essential function for them had concluded.

Ain’t They Cute?

Let's be blunt: those of us who have survived certain stages in life find it hard not to be condescending to those who have yet to do so. Part of it is simply a function of age, but a much larger part of it is experience. A perfect case in point is children, or more specifically, having children and getting them to the point of launching them into the world.

When our kids were very young I used to HATE the condescending "You just wait" comments from parents of older children. Now that I'm on the other side I totally get where they were coming from although I try not to be condescending in the same way to my friends/coworkers/family members with younger children. I'm not always successful, but I do try.

What prompted this is a piece in Vogue written by a man who was considering the implications of the development of a male version of The Pill. Here's an excerpt:

Later at dinner, she brought it up again. The initial flush of panic had cleared. The idea wasn’t threatening, just amusing. She suggested that putting the male in charge of contraception would just embolden him to have sex with random women, and riskier sex at that; unlike a condom, the pill would do nothing to prevent disease. Could be, I said, but I was lost in thought. Not about that. I was thinking about the strange spot we’re in. We’ve been married a little over a year. She’s 28, and I’m 31. I run a small soccer magazine and she’s a grade-school teacher. We’re paying off her loans from grad school. In other words, this phase of our life together will end when we have a baby—it’s what we’re working up to, the fact that underlies every move we make, what jobs we take, what city we live in, what house we rent. I mean, she recently ordered prenatal vitamins because her sister-in-law said it’s healthy to start a regimen at least a year in advance. That was a surprising trip to the mailbox!

The goal, eventually, is to have a baby, and yet having a baby before we’re ready seems like it would totally derail the plans we’ve laid to achieve the goal. That’s pretty weird. Other thoughts crept in. Hey! Yo, dude! Have you packed for your trip on Thursday? What day is today, anyway?

“Excuse me, darling,” I said. “What day is it?”

She gave me a look. You’ve seen one just like it. Her eyebrows posed the question before she did: “And you want to be in charge of the birth control?”

When I finished the article my reaction was bemusement. Why? Because I wanted to find this guy's number call him up and tell him, "You'll never be 'ready' for kids. It's an impossibility in the same way that you'll never be 'ready' for a tornado. You can prepare – drawing your little life maps and to-do lists – but when the reality of Hurricane Kid reaches your shores you'll be laid bare like every other parent before you."

Yes he and his wife should do everything they can to try and put off the inevitable until they think they're ready, but my advice is for them to not sweat too much about it because no matter how hard they try they'll never be truly ready. 

Oh, and that part about who's best to take control of contraception? Sometimes it doesn't matter because you could defy the odds like yours truly and his significant other and conceive children on two different occassions while she's on the pill. 99% efficacy is great unless you're not in it; believe me that's not the 1% you want to be in.

As a middle-aged dad entering the territory of overtime (kids in college, destined to move back for a while) I merely want to say, "You're so cute with your little worries? You ain't seen nothing yet."

Damnit, it's just impossible not to be a condescening ass in these situations.

A Guide to Man Training

It's interesting to be the father of a young woman who is in college and dating. What's interesting is not the act of dating – I really don't want to think about the whole thing – but the realization that she's saying things about her boyfriend that her mother (and the unfortunate ladies I dated before meeting her) likely said about me. I get to hear them because I'm usually in the vicinity when she's talking to her mom about this stuff, and I get the call when her mom isn't available for some reason. Any port in a storm, right?

What that means is that I'm in the enviable position where I get to observe that confounding species, the dating woman, from a safe perspective. Kind of like watching a lion from a blind. Anyway, it occurred to me that while the advice she's getting from her mom is invaluable there's a certain perspective that only a dad can provide and it might be helpful to share. Without further ado here's some dating advice from a wizened, middle-aged dad who doesn't want to see anyone get hurt:

  1. Some guys just aren't domesticable so you need to figure out where your line is and when he crosses it you MUST be prepared to cut and run. 
  2. Prioritize. You can't have it all so figure out what's important to you and look for that in whoever you're dating.
  3. If he's an ass to people he thinks aren't important, like waiters and desk clerks, then he'll probably be an ass to you some day.  This really applies to everyone, not just guys you're dating.
  4. This one's important – if a guy treats you like crap when he's been drinking, even once, then you absolutely must dump his butt. If a guy lays a hand on you in any way without you wanting him to then you must not only dump him but get the authorities involved. Also, don't tell your dad until after the jerk has been locked up so your dad doesn't do something to get himself locked up.
  5. If a guy says he can't stand your friends then dump him immediately. One caveat: if he doesn't like one of your friends and that friend is kind of high maintenance then he might be doing you a favor. In all other cases he's likely an insecure, jealous jerk who wants you all to himself and that's not healthy for anyone.
  6. Don't think you can change his fundamental character. If he's not "nice"when you first meet him then he's not going to magically become nice just because you've cast your pretty eyes on him and granted him the favor of your company. Ain't gonna happen.
  7. Don't forget that you really are unreasonable sometimes and that your expectations can be out of whack.  You're human, not perfect, and you shouldn't take it out on him when he points it out (at least the first time).
  8. Don't ask your dad for dating advice. Secretly he wants you single so he'll likely give you some really bad advice like, "Break up with him and enter a convent." Reserve dad for the important events like threatening to castrate your ex if he doesn't leave you alone.
  9. Listen to your mom or another older woman in your life if your mom isn't available. They've been training men for a long time so you might as well take advantage of their experience. 
  10. Remember that whatever redeeming qualities your father might have it took the women in his life (mother, wife, sisters, aunts) a very long time to beat them into him. Unless you're dating a far older man – something I most definitely don't recommend since older, available men are usually that way for a reason – you'll have to live with the fact that you're in the man-training business for the rest of your life. Men don't come ready-made and we should all have "much assembly required" tattooed on our foreheads.
  11. Last point and it's the most important: your heart will be broken. Whether it's from a break up or from his insenstivity your heart WILL be broken. That's what happens when you open yourself completely to another human being. And that's okay because you'll recover and when you do you'll be far stronger and more prepared for running the marathon that is life. 
  12. I lied. There's one more point: ice cream helps recover from heart break. Alot.
  13. I double-lied: Calling your mom helps too, and in a pinch you might be able to talk to dad AND he might be able to resist giving you advice for once.

In Retrospect

Over at Letters of Note is a great letter written in 1974 by an WWII veteran and pilot on his deathbed to his grandson:

But, in spite of what I've said, there is much, in life to enjoy – to relish. There is also much that can be done to make life worth while and living worth the "candle." There is a rich heritage of literature and music that awaits your investigation – it's there for the taking – in the libraries of the country and in the archives of the museums. There is poetry and prose – enough to fill all the hours you can spare to listen to them and more knowledge, on every conceivable subject, than you can assimilate in a lifetime. It's all there just waiting for you to ask for it or to seek it out. Don't overlook it or pass it up for less important or less meaningful pastimes.

Most important of all is ability to savor life, to taste of it in as many variances as you can – while you can. Life never looks so short as when you look back on it. Unfortunately you cannot do this until it has passed you by. So, as you go through life, don't overlook the "Lily in the Field," the newborn puppy, the fledgling bird – for they are as much (or more) of life as the tall buildings, the shiny automobiles and the possessions we tend to place so much importance upon. If you can do just this much – life will be more meaningful for you…

And my favorite paragraph, one that I would echo for my own children:

If I could package (with ribbon) those gifts that I would most like to give you, I would. But how do you package integrity, how do you wrap honesty, what kind of paper for a sense of humor, what ribbon for inquisitiveness?

Does the World Need a Dadzine?

Ever noticed the seemingly endless – and often mind-numbing – number of magazines dedicated to mothers? Well, there's a new entry into the relatively unexplored "dad-zine" field:

Kindling Quarterly is an exploration of fatherhood. Through essays, interviews, editorials, art, and photography we highlight creatie individuals whose work and lives are inseparable from their role as a parent. There is no shortage of familiar portrayals of dads in media yet we aim to present a thoughtful dialogue about fatherhood that is missing from our cultural landscape. Men who are active caregivers are not a novelty and we do not depict them as such. While the subjects of our stories are fathers, each issue appeals to anyone interested in art, creativity, and community. Kindling Quarterly playfully assesses and celebrates a multitude of experiences that form contemporary fatherhood.

It's a mistake to judge a magazine by its cover before you even see the cover, but this sounds like it will appeal to roughly .5% of the fathers in America. Another mistake is to engage in gross generalizations, but what's life if nothing but a series of mistakes interrupted by occassional success? So here are some general descriptions of dads that would argue against the vast majority having any interest in a magazine focused on "art, creativity and community":

  • Approximately 99% of dads don't read anything they aren't paid to read. In other words most of them feel that reading is something only a fool would do outside of work requirements.
  • There's a reason those portrayals of dads in the media are so familiar – they're largely accurate and approximately 99% of dads will gladly own up to that fact.
  • If "art" does not include scantily clad women of some variety then 99% of dads would agree it's not really art. (Anyone familiar with what happens to men when their personal lives are assaulted by fatherhood would surely understand this phenomenon).
  • Most dads love their kids, but the last thing they want to do is think about what it means to be a dad. Their wives (or baby-mamas) force them to engage in those "meaning of fatherhood and marriage" discussions ad nauseum so why would they spend their precious free time reading about it?

Hopefully the folks at Kindling will find enough dads who don't fit the mold described above to make their venture a success, but based on the description above there's reason to be concerned for its viability. It appears they're aiming for an elite crowd, which of course precludes this dad from being a suitable target, so perhaps these points are moot. Hopefully so and here's hoping that the folks at Kindling enjoy great success.