For this Dad, his colleague’s low-key life looks tempting, until he thinks about missing his “Dadderdays.”
A few Dadderdays1 ago I went to to the video store to rent the recent animated film version of The Boxcar Children (2014). Full disclosure, I haven’t ever read the book, The Boxcar Children, because I’m not from the olden days. We have Twitter now people. That’s like reading a million tiny books at once. But we do have a video store … so I am kind of living in the olden days.
Every time I go in the old-timey video store, nostalgia washes through me like a hot breath into a Nintendo cartridge; sometimes I ask the 17-year-old clerk if I can use the racecar shaped VHS rewinding machine or rent a Sega Genesis console. They look at me blankly as if I had just asked why they click this button to save a Microsoft Word file.
I’d brought both kids (ages 3 and 1) with me to rent The Boxcar Children, so I didn’t have the wherewithal to spare on amusing myself with mild generational differences. As soon as I came in the store I pushed my way to the family movie section with my two kids climbing on me, scurrying with the limber ferocity of ferrets or mongooses,2 or some kind of wiry long-bodied rodents.
I found The Boxcar Children while my two kids unintentionally attempted to depants me and pulled random DVDs from the shelves and placed them on the floor. I cleaned the DVDs from the floor as best I could until it started to feel like that I Love Lucy conveyor belt episode.
I left the remaining DVDs on the floor3 and headed for the checkout carrying a movie and both children sack-of potato style when I noticed one of my colleagues carrying a movie to the other open register. We both teach at Oklahoma State University while working towards a PhD in English. She looked completely professional and put together. If my kids and I, on the other hand, had been in a cartoon we would have had flies circling us and maybe even a stink line or two. All in one motion she said Hi to me, paid the cashier, and breezed out the door with her movie.
I was stunned and wondered if everything in her life was that easy. She didn’t have to re-shelve any DVDs, carry any potatoes, calculate mess-making to cleaning-speed ratios. She didn’t wrestle anyone, kids or otherwise. And I’ll bet she even had time to watch that movie when she went home.
As I compared her video store visit to my visit I realized that, professionally, we do essentially the same thing. I suppose I always knew that other PhD students don’t have to wrestle kids when they do homework or grade papers, but it was at this point that I understood that fact. I thought, if I didn’t have kids, I could easily do two or three PhDs at once.
We went home and watched The Boxcar Children. Here is the thing, on a regular day, I spend the best hours of the day with my kids before their bedtime. They are excited to see Dad, and we play wildly from the time I get home till they fall asleep.4 But on Dadderday, I’m there all day. I am their emotional tone setter. I am supposed to even out the constant wild swinging moods that bounce from a kind of existential bliss that adults are not even capable of experiencing5 to a tragic knowledge that the world is broken and it will never be whole again6and back three or four times a minute. I experience the wonder they feel when they ask how water gets to our faucet, and I’m the one who stays up all night helping them sleep.
When my wife leaves on Friday night, I’m a flannel and boot wearing tough guy. But by the time she gets home on Saturday night, I get emotional at my kids’ drawings and I cry my way through the straight-to-DVD B-movie that looks like it might have been animated on a Nintendo 64 .
A few days later I’m telling Kristin about how jealous I am of the ease with which my colleague must work. And I realize, that even though I would have a lot more time to get ahead at work, to advance my research and get top-level publications, the reason I do all those things now is because I have a family that I want to support and to make proud. If I didn’t have a family, rather than doing two or three PhDs, I would probably just be playing video games in a blanket of Cheetos dust and watching entire live action movies in a single sitting. And not everyone wants kids, and that’s great. But I’m glad I have mine.
So if you’re looking for a fun, low-quality version of a classic story that still works for today’s hip, texting, twadlers7 and which also might bring you to existential crisis and eventually enlightenment, I recommend renting any movie from an actual video store after sleeping less than 4 hours and watching it with the people you love the most piled on top of you.
Dad + Saturday + my wife working a 24 hour shift = Dadderday
Sorry Hasting’s employees
Kristin loves when I get them all riled up before bed.
“I have candy.”
“I dropped my candy in the dirt.”
A mix between a tween and a toddler. I’m coining the term here for this desirable a new target demographic. So when they start marketing cell phones and diet pills to 4-year-olds this will be ground zero and I’ll scoop up some sweet ad revenue.
Originally Published at CandyHouseBlog.com
What is a 21st century hero? Being an engaged and present dad. And we love to show how great dads are. Want more like this? Sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter here.