by ASHER RUBIN
Fathers are smug. They think they know it all. They think that inhaling and exhaling for many years entitles them to membership in Mensa. They think their kids should listen raptly to their sage advice and heed their every suggestion. The premise is that a kid is incapable of rational thought and that one out of every three decisions he makes is basically stupid. This does not change as the kid gets older. In the father’s view, as the kid gets older, he gets dumber. (The father does not pause to consider what this says about genetics.) As the kid copes with the complexities of life (mainly, pimples and a low car battery) he needs more advice, not less. The father concentrates on molding the child.
One of the earliest chores for a dad is to explain the birds and the bees to his child. This is obviously a delicate subject. The origin of the expression “birds and the bees” is unclear. It has nothing to recommend it except alliteration. First, bees and birds use eggs; they don’t have Caesarean sections. Second, birds and bees don’t connect with each other in any sexual way. (Oh, they might have a conversation now and then, but it never goes any farther than that.) Third, your kid will develop a neurosis if he believes that his mother sat on a nest of twigs until he hatched from an egg. Maybe the best thing is to tell your son or daughter, “Birds do it. Bees do it. And if you do it, be careful.” Or, before you try to explain the origin of babies, maybe you should do a little pedagogical research on the Internet. Search under “stork.” If the rambunctious kid does ask that old question, “Where do babies come from?”, you should answer something like, “Idaho.”
The fact is that dads do teach their children, but too often they forget they can learn something from their kids too. As Father’s Day approaches we should shift our focus from appropriate gifts for dad to an examination of the contribution made by children to the family equation. But first, let’s get the gift thing out of the way. Making dad happy is a lot easier than satisfying mom. If a child gets mom the wrong perfume on Mother’s Day, she will refuse to continue paying the youngster’s tuition. With dad there is less worry. Take a forgotten tie of dad’s out of the back closet, put it in a Sak’s box and get him a cute card. (On the front panel there is a bunch of cows. On the inside, it says, “If there’s a better dad, we haven’t herd about it.”) Or get him a subscription to a foreign publication like the Jerusalem Post or Le Monde; get him an annual supply of pink grapefruits from Harry and David, the mail-order firm; a certificate for a dozen bagels each month in perpetuity from Noah’s Bagels; rent a billboard visible from the freeway, plaster dad’s photo on it and add the caption, “Dad, you’re larger than life.” Or go grand: Buy dad (accompanied by mom) a trip to Antarctica and put the voucher in a large box with a new swimsuit. But enough of gifts.
In our view, Father’s Day should be a time not only of celebration but of contemplation. The father should consider what he can learn from his children. From the mouths of babes comes much garbage but also, on occasion, an occasional nugget. Kids, after all, propitiate cultural change and fathers would be wise to pay attention. When your college youngster says, “By the beard of Zeus!”, it would be a mistake to conclude he is a master of the classics. The expression comes from a character played by actor Will Farrell in a movie called “Anchorman.” In that movie the character, Ron Burgundy, converses with his dog, Baxter, popularizing another phrase among college kids, “You’re so wise, Baxter.”
College kids borrow from rappers, the movies and MTV, then incorporate snippets into their daily conversation. When your son reacts to his ringing cell phone (better known as his “chip flip”) he is liable to exclaim, “Oops, I’m blowing up.” What he previously called “awesome” or “cool” is now “off the chain.” He may ask for a few bucks so he can “hook up” with a “fine” or “hot” young lady. And ask you to “keep it on the d.l.” (the down low, meaning confidential.). He may say he met her through the Facebook, a nationwide compendium of profiles of college students. He may say she’s a “Tucker Max 5-star.” Tucker Max, a Yale Law graduate, has a Web site where he sets forth his rating system and offers chauvinistic accounts of his exploits. Very popular with the college crowd. Guaranteed to offend. Fo sheezy (for sure). As Snoop Dogg, the rapper, would say, “Shizzle my nizzle.” (Research, including reference to the Rosetta Stone, fails to disclose the meaning of that term.) All of the above, incidentally, will be obsolete by next month.
If they want a window into what’s happening, dads should become acquainted with their children’s online habits. They should understand the phenomenon of IM (instant messaging). Kids develop Buddy Lists and click on friends’ names and type messages back and forth. The screen might reflect conversations with five different youngsters. This, of course, requires abbreviations in communicating. Here are a few that are current: “lol” (laugh out loud); “nbb” (no big deal); “ttyl” (talk to you later); “brb” (be right back). You can help your kid by suggesting additional useful abbreviations for instant messaging such as “Igifb” (I’m going in for Botox); “Ihamt” (I hate the alternative minimum tax); “Insc” (I need some Chardonnay); “ntmt” (not tonight, maybe tomorrow).
You can also learn from your children the latest trends in music. This music is not exactly early Renaissance—it’s more like early Asinine. But to bond with your child you should purchase recordings by such rappers such as 50-Cent and The Game and buy mainstream rock groups like Beck and Red Hot Chili Peppers. You can then progress to such underground groups as Atmosphere, Hieroglyphics, Aesop Rock, Interpol, and the Decemberists. Be careful, however, when you try to discuss content with your son or daughter. The lyrics—unburdened by melody—have yet to be decoded by the CIA and are understood only by individuals who have been transported by the ingestion of certain kinds of mushrooms.
Finally, dads can study their kids to learn how to dress. The Brioni suit, the Turnbull & Asser shirt and the Armani tie are passé. Dad should go casual, even to important corporate meetings. Clothes maketh the man and baggy pants, baseball cap turned sideways, shirttail hanging out, and an earring in one ear maketh a statement and showeth that dad has bridged the generations. The layered look is popular, particularly if each layer has a little bit showing. And everything should be too big or too long, the idea being to maintain the privacy of one’s anatomical configuration. C’mon, dad, get with it. •
Asher and his wife, Diane, have two model children. For Father’s Day Asher expects something lavish from his son, like an invoice from Columbia University. His daughter is likely to give him a DVD which he will have three days to watch before it is due back at Blockbuster.