When it comes to dads, there are primary roles, and then there are secondary roles.
Dads are likely on the minds of many this morning, as it is Father’s Day. I’m sure there are more than a few folks out there who plan to spend time with their dad today. Cards and gifts will doubtless be passed along, food will probably be grilled, and patriarchs will be celebrated.
And much of that celebration will center on the primary roles dads play in our lives. Fathers offer support and discipline, love and wisdom, compassion and leadership. A father will hold you accountable when you need it, and offer forgiveness when you’ve made a mistake. I feel like these are some of the foremost traits of a good dad.
But there also the many small, secondary roles that fathers take on. All the practices and activities that could best be described simply as “dad stuff.”
For instance, dads are always at the ready to vanquish any leftover or otherwise ignored pizza crusts. OK, maybe that’s just me. But when we get takeout or delivery pizza, I always know that I’m going to have a few slices — plus at least three crusts left uneaten by my daughter. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “The true man wants two things: danger and play.” What he meant to say was, “The true man wants three things: danger, play and those pizza crusts, if you’re not going to eat them.”
Dads are also required, by a law that is unwritten but long understood, to help when the kids get a ball stuck in a tree. Now, as you know, the first step in extracting such a ball is to shake the lower limbs of the tree, in hopes of jostling the tree just enough that it releases the snared sphere. This almost never works. The next step is, of course, to get another ball and throw it at the first ball to knock it loose. The most probable result is that you will miss badly, but what’s nearly as likely is that the second ball will then also get stuck in the tree. That’s why any decent dad knows that the best way to get a ball unstuck from a tree is to throw a Wiffle bat at it. It has good surface length, is skinny enough to not get caught in the branches and won’t kill any of the kids if (when?) it falls back down and hits them on the head.
And dads are always available for lots of other secondary duties. Like knocking down wasp nests, haggling with ticket scalpers, changing the air filters in pushmowers, playing “King of the Float” at the pool, wearing cargo shorts, tipping barbers after a haircut, spreading mulch, telling jokes, spending $40 at a carnival game to win a $2 teddy bear, and insisting ballplayers from their era were superior to those in all other eras.
Dads will watch the thermostat like a hawk, keep up with gasoline prices with the fervor of a Wall Street day trader playing the stock market, call in to sports talk radio shows, stockpile batteries, read John Grisham books, quote Ric Flair, tie the fuses of multiple bottle rockets together when shooting fireworks on the Fourth of July, and say “Boy, we got here right on time” when a big crowd shows up at the restaurant after you’ve already sat down and placed your order.
Today’s a day when we celebrate fathers for all the important things they do. But the small stuff is pretty fun, too.
Maybe I’ll snag a few extra pizza crusts today.