Ten years ago, when I first came to the United States, I had no plans to be a dad. Ever. For me, children were like politicians they made a lot of noise, never cleaned up their messes, and were best kept at a distance.
Ten years later I am now the father of four: one boy and three girls. I've learned a great deal about being a dad. I know now for certain that children are like politicians (in fact, they are often better politicians than poltiicians are), but I no longer keep them at a distance. Since this Sunday is Father's Day, I would like to share, in no particular order, a few lessons I've learned about being a dad. So far.
1. There is a gene in children that requires them to jump into every puddle they come across, the muddier the better. Doesn't matter how many times you tell them not to. The lure of the puddle is greater than the threat of time out.
2. Find a black marker. Open the dictionary to the letter 'S.' Find the word 'spontaneous.' Mark it out. You will never have a reason to use it again.
3. As per #2, you need to retool your idea of a "quick getaway." Instead of just picking up, tossing yourself in the car, and heading out on the open road, as you did during your misspent youth, you will learn to plan like you're Eisenhower coordinating D-Day.
I've developed "Regan's Uncertainty Principle" to help fathers calculate the exact amount of time you'll need. The amount of time you'll need is inversely proportional to the ages of your children. So if your child is 1 or less, you'll need a week. Multiply it by the number of children still potty-training, and add the number of favorite toys each child MUST have when he or she leaves the house. Multiple this number by the number of times you'll need to go in and out of the house to pack the car. Then add an extra half hour, just because.
Thus, you easily arrive at five weeks of preparation to go buy milk.
4. For some reason, people believe that fathers are incapable of child care. Two years ago, my wife spent six weeks overseas doing research, while I cared for the kids. Determined not to just plant the kids in front of the tube, I went to museums, the zoo, the beach, etc. But every time I appeared in public with the kids, people looked at me as if I had just climbed Mount Everest backwards, in high heels, during an avalanche. I always felt like saying, "Hey, you ought to see me when I'm really busy."
5. You'll come to cringe at the phrase: "We can make a craft with that," which will be used to justify the collecting of every piece of garbage your children find during the course of a day.
6. After four children, I can now change a diaper with one hand tied behind my back, blindfolded, while surfing the Web. In the dark. While hanging upside down. Fast asleep.
7. Dads get lots of hugs. This is good.
8. I now think of getting up at 5:30 each morning as "sleeping in." This is bad.
9. Children have no volume control. This is the only flaw in an otherwise perfect design.
10. Anyone who believes that TV doesn't influence children needs to be in a house after any show involving martial arts is viewed.
11. No professional football player ever says "Hi dad!" to the cameras after scoring a game-winning touchdown.
12. You'll learn to enjoy reading "Go, Dog, Go" every night for six months. In exactly the same tone of voice each time. Or else. You will also see the movie "Bambi" so many times, you'll spot the mistakes. And there are several, believe me.
13. The only way you'll get to watch movies of your favorite Hollywood stars, like Mel Gibson, or Cameron Diaz, or Billy Crystal, are when they do voiceovers for animated movies.
14. Thank goodness for Harry Potter!
15. The term "boys' night out" will no longer mean a wild evening on the town with college buddies, but a trip to McDonald's with your son's soccer team.
16. When your children tell you they need to go to the bathroom, believe them. Always.
17. The first day you let your children watch MTV, it's all over. This is when you also realize that Britney Spears is an agent of The Axis of Evil.
18. Hearing somebody call you "Daddy" is a lot cooler than you ever thought it could be.
19. I read an article in USA Today titled " 'Father' means more than household master." Apparently a Canadian company, Environics Research Group asked people in the US, Canada and Europe whether they agreed with the statement: "The father of the family should be the master in his own home." While the percentage of Canadian who agreed with this fell from 42 percent in 1983 to 17 percent in 2000, it went up in the US, from 42 percent in 1992, to 48 percent in 2000.
Well, I guess I'm way more Canadian on this issue than I am American. (I have dual citizenship.) If I walked into my house and stood before my family and said "I am the master," I don't know who would laugh harder, my wife, my kids ... or me. One of the most important lessons I've learned about being a dad is that you're at your best when you're in a partnership, not a dictatorship.
And if the truth be told, I sort of like it when one of my kids takes a fall, and they are just as likely to run to me for a hug as they are to their mom.
20. More to come ....