Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad the Dinosaur

The following essay has been floating around the Internet for ten years or so. I thought that it was appropriate for Father's Day. My mother and father divorced when I was five. I think that single parent families are not a good way to raise children. My mother did double duty as Mother and Father. She did a good job, but there are some things that you have to learn from a man. Thankfully, I had a grandfather and several uncles who covered most of the "guy" stuff mentioned below.

Guys my age and older appear to be dinosaurs. We are a fading breed. I still open doors for women and can fix the door if it breaks. I mow the grass, cook, do my own laundry, keep the cars running, fix the plumbing, keep the house working and answer questions about almost anything. Several years ago, I won a tee shirt in a Popular Mechanics magazine contest. In big letters on the front was written, "Ask Me Anything". I don't wear that shirt anymore, but that doesn't stop people from asking. When I die, they will need to hire three people to take my place.

Yes, I am Dad the Dinosaur!! (and proud of it)

To my sons, Walter and William, thanks for everything!! I love you.

I Can't Do One-Quarter of the Things My Father Can

Or: It's not a competition, but you're losing

A highly speculative and unscientifically conducted survey indicates that most American males between the ages of 18 and 25 seem to be incapable of performing many of the chores and duties commonly fulfilled by their fathers.
The activities in questions would not initially appear to be directly related to having a child, though the presence of one may thereafter necessitate their constant use and development.

As young men in this age group approach their thirties, it is increasingly less likely that their fathers will be in a position to pass on their knowledge, leaving the next generation of fathers hopelessly at the mercy of more qualified personnel.

Taking Care of Things

Fathers born in the 1940s or 50s--and please bear in mind that this will not apply to all of them--seem to demonstrate with much greater frequency the ability to 'Take Care of Things'.

Being in possession of this blanket set of skills crucial for the operational fluency of daily life, they become indispensable to the family unit, developing auras of respect and--notably--competence.

They include, but are not limited to:
•Plunger Operation
•Toy Repair
•A knowledge of adhesives

With general practical knowledge of:

And the ability to speak in a commanding tone of voice to:
•The Phone Company
•The Cable Company
•The Electric Company
•The Gas Company
•Other Adults

In Comparison:
Many of the fathers of current 18-25 year olds became so during that stage of their own lives; several years younger than is typically seen today. But an examination of the skill set of current members of that demographic reveals a startling discrepancy; we can't do one-quarter of the things our fathers can.

We are generally capable of:
•Mac and Cheese preparation
•Ramen preparation
•Alcohol consumption

With general practical knowledge of:
•Video Game Platforms
•Twenty-four hour delis

And the ability to speak in a commanding tone of voice to:
•Other children

Skills within the group vary, of course, and some in this age group can take care of many more things than others. Nonetheless, preliminary studies suggest that at the same age, we are much less able to Take Care of Things than our fathers.

How Did This Happen?

Obviously, it is theorized that the environment in which current 18-25 year olds grew up was vastly different than that of their parents. The 1960s, according to most media sources, was a very turbulent decade that changed the course of parenting and the common perception of appropriate responsibility. Young men who worked in their teens, saw their own fathers go to war and faced the horrors of Vietnam naturally developed the ability to Take Care of Things at an earlier age.

That's as may be. However, it still does not really explain why so many young men cannot operate a drill press, band saw, or angle grinder, and are absolutely stuck when the air conditioner breaks down or toilet backs up. The phone company and car mechanics can charge willy-nilly with little or no resistance, and the house can crumble around our ankles while we wait for the landlord or contractor to do something about it.

Many an older father would not and did not stand for such things, whereas many people now at the same age stand for practically everything. It is by no means common knowledge what it costs to install a dishwasher. Yet somehow, Fathers seem to have an almost innate sense of when they're getting ripped off. How do they know? When did they learn?

More grant money will be required to further research the phenomenon.

What Becomes of Us?

Certainly, times are different; things come a few years later than they were once wont to do. But in what context now can these skills be learned? Shelves still need building, the basic principles of miniature golf and astrophysics need explaining, the light switch still has to be rewired. The additional time taken between college and family seems not to be providing these lessons, and we are at, past, or fast approaching the ages at which our Fathers had us.

And all things being equal where Taking Care of Things is concerned, we still persist in deferring to the authority of our Fathers, who, if nothing else, can at the very least lie convincingly about what they know, and make a good show of trying.


The few things that seem to travel in the blood-an unflagging faith in duct tape, the ability to make a sandwich out of virtually anything--are insufficient.

The many young men out there both twenty-five and fifteen at once must take action. Attend training seminars, tinker with electrical sockets. Learn the ins and outs of the fuse box, build a table or spice rack. Clean out the gutters, buy a studfinder.

We cannot have our eighty year old Fathers up on the roof every time the TV Antenna goes on the fritz.

Take care of things.


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