When I was a little kid, I'd get my dad ties for Father's Day. (Really.) My mother would take me to the mall and I'd get to pick one out. The excitement on his face when he opened his gift ... priceless. Like he won the lottery. Of the Shirley Jackson variety.
As I got older, I started getting him all manner of golf paraphernalia, from gloves to funny tees to exploding golf balls. Eventually, I ran out of golf things to buy him. He never used any of it, I'm sure.
Today, I'm a father, and I'm hoping my wife has the good sense to not spend dime one on some useless piece of trash found in some online “Father's Day Gift Guide!!!!' I don't want anything, not even the thing with the hammock and a hardcover book laid ever-so-gently on my white-sweatered chest while a golden retriever sits by my side and I smile contentedly.
In fact, I'm flipping the script this Father's Day. Instead of closing my eyes and opening up some useless tschoke I have to pretend to like, I'm going to open my eyes and publicly, in this very space, list the ways I plan on being a better father in the days, months and years to come. I've got a 4-year-old boy, a 2-year-old girl and there's rumors of a third kid around the bend. I've got a crap-ton of fathering to do, and, quite frankly, I could be doing a much better job of it. So here it is. My 10-step plan to be a better father from this moment forward.
1) I will stop referring to my children as “those kids.'
2) I will stop threatening to give them away to a family of otters when they misbehave.
3) I will stop telling them otters are “child-eating monsters who live in the basement you want to see them right now because so help me.'
4) I will love and cherish them every moment I have with them, as no one knows what tomorrow will bring.
5) Well that escalated fast, eh? But it's true. It's my plan. I will love and cherish every moment. Even when the moments -- and the children -- are not particularly cherish-worthy. What I mean is ...
6) It's very easy to get very angry with those kids -- er, I mean my children - and I've raged more times than I care to admit. My wife has instructed me (repeatedly) to be “the adult,' but it's hard to be “the adult' when my son gives me a right cross, on purpose, smack dab in the Johnny B. Goodes. Which is exactly what he did the other day while waiting on line for a merry-go-round. I mean, he nailed me. I crumbled. My gut reaction was to physically rip him out of line and scream at him. Instead, I got down to his level (I was there anyway, cringing) and explained to him he can't do that. We did get out of line, and he did not get to go on the ride, but I managed to not attempt to dislodge him from this world, making me a better man (and father) for it.
My point being this: They're kids. They're going to infuriate me. And it's also up to me to keep myself in check, up to me to make things right, up to me to make sure they don't grow up thinking it's OK to yell and scream and burst your O-rings.
And so yes, it's true: No one knows what tomorrow brings, and I want to give them, at every opportunity, the best picture of their father. I want them to know I love them no matter what. It's really all I can do.
7) Ice cream for dinner once a year. Seems reasonable.
8) Each night, after my wife and I finally manage to get them to lie down and go to sleep, I will stop running down the stairs as fast as humanly possible in order to pour myself three fingers of bourbon in an effort to calm myself down from the stresses of a day's worth of parenting. Instead, I will walk calmly down the stairs like a proper gentleman.
9) While I want my children to grow up to be professional athletes who spend their offseason pursuing degrees in brain surgery while solving world hunger, I will settle out of court right now for the following: Having them grow up to be happy and well-adjusted. Everything after that is gravy.
And finally, and in kind of a grand summing up moment ...
10) Their needs > my needs. I should get that tattooed on my eyeballs.
Jeff Edelstein can be reached at facebook.com/jeffreyedelstein and on Twitter @jeffedelstein.