Rules for a Dad

Mar 20, 2022

I recognize that parenthood has only been on my resume for six short years and that I am far less experienced than the many who have come before me, but that shouldn’t suggest that I haven’t learned a few basic rules along the way…


1. Never laugh at their jokes

Kids can be funny, there’s no denying that.  They may act a certain way, say something quirky or take a run at a knock-knock joke that tickles your funny bone and that’s all well and good, but if you commit to laughing out loud at one of their antics, then you’ve also committed the next 3-days of your life to a non-stop barrage of the same line, look or completely non-sensical anecdote.  They’ll interpret  your quiet giggle or slight smirk as a sign that they’re the next Gilda Radner, Whoopi Goldberg or Tina Fey and they will be relentless in their pursuit of simulating that experience by spewing forth the identical joke ad nauseam.  Instead, if you absolutely must laugh, then politely excuse yourself into another room and giggle to your heart’s content; as long as they don’t see it, it never happened.  Unfortunately there’s no advice I can provide and there’s no helping if you’ve opted to take a video of their antics; I’m afraid you’re on your own.


2. Do not lead them to believe you possess magical powers.

Found a quarter behind their ear?  A gummy worm in the planter box? Nope.  No you didn’t.  Put that quarter back in your pocket you silly, silly man.  This a slippery slope my friends; because of my magical prowess I’ve had to “reappear” everything from missing socks and hair elastics to fresh milk for the morning cereal on far too many occasions.  Let me tell you: magically manifesting one of those tiny Polly Pocket shoes is no easy task and if they think, even for.a second that you can do it, then to do anything else is only setting the table for disaster.  Simply put: magic does not exist for you.


3. One and Done

You’ll save yourself plenty of headaches if you inform them right away that songs can only be played once before they disappear forever, never to be heard again.  Where do they go?  To the same place all animated movies do.  No one ever hears or sees them again; it’s life’s greatest mystery and the only sure-fire way you’ll actually never have to talk about Bruno again.


4. Don’t trust the quiet

The Collatz conjecture is a math problem famous for being impossible to prove or solve, yet it doesn’t hold a candle to the impossible complexities and nuances of “peace and quiet” for a parent.  It’s the one thing we want more than anything else in the world, yet it’s the one thing that terrifies us most.  You’ve found yourself with 15-minutes of serenity before it dawns on you that, well, you’ve found yourself 15-minutes of serenity.  Nothing good ever comes from the silence of kids and with that in mind, keep the following items out of reach until they are of an age when they can operate a mop and bathe on their own

  • Printer toner
  • Olive oil
  • Shaving cream
  • Hair gel
  • Honey
  • You know what, it’s easier just to say anything liquid and/or sticky.


5. All candy tastes like black liquorice 

At least that what you tell them. Let it be the first “treat” you present them, and if your child happens to actually like black jelly beans, well, that’s a win for you.  Let them focus on and devour those demon candies while you get to enjoy all of the other parts of that delicious flavour rainbow.


6. Clean up before you go to bed

It is perfectly natural to lie to your kids and tell them you don’t eat junk food; that veggies are the best snack while watching a movie and that raisins taste better than Skittles; that level of hypocrisy is what being a parent is all about. But unless you want them to catch you in the lie you’ve previously told them about the jelly beans, put away your potato chip bags, candy bags, popcorn bags and chocolate bar wrappers before you hit the hay.  Children are vultures and can pick up the scent of sugar and salt from a mile away.  The will wake up before you, especially on weekends, and they will want to know what it is you’ve been snacking on.


7. On the subject of technology:

  • The moment your child is born, You Tube should be dead to you
  • Remove the following buttons/functions from your remotes and devices:  pause, rewind, slow motion, repeat and any voice recognition programs
    • Side note: also remove the following words from your vocabulary:  “piggyback”, “Disney”, “again”, “treat”, “Katy Perry” and “go ask your mother” (that last one sits on the fence between Rules for a Dad and Rules for a Husband but it is solid advice either way).
  • Inform them that every time you say “Alexa” a fairy loses its wings.
  • Let them know your iPhone activity is monitored by Santa


8. Never go to a toy store

If you’ve already done so, there’s no helping you.  You can stop reading now.


9.  Never announce your departure

Headed to the grocery store, gas station, work or just checking the mail?  Do not make a big deal out of it, simply put on your shoes and walk out the door.  To draw attention to such expeditions is to delay your departure by another 20-30 minutes while you attempt to explain why they can’t come with you.  This matter is only made worse if you’ve broken rule number 8, especially if they know where your destination sits in relation to Big Al’s Toy Emporium.  And trust me: they know.


10. The Truth

Most importantly, under no circumstances and at all costs, never, and I mean never, listen to anything I’ve said to this point.  Except for the section about not ignoring the quiet…that one’s legit;  toner = everywhere.


Our kids are friggin’ hilarious and I let them know it.  We have so many inside jokes that it borders on obscene.  Funny voices, silly nicknames, a tickle trunk, nonsense words and a made up language, you name it and we’ve got it covered.  Our household is proudly full of comedy of all styles and ranges.  Humour is a gateway to so many wonderful things in life and we celebrate laughter, especially at ourselves, each and every day.

I revel in the notion that they believe I can conjure up magic. Turn the volume up in the car without touching the dial?  Done!  Transform a fork into a spoon?  You got it!  Move a pencil across the table with my mind?  Please, give me something challenging!  I love magic and I’m getting them in on it too; teaching them the ways of The Force as we go along.  Kids are meant to be full of wonder and curiosity, pushing their brains to discover the answers and question the unknown.  In the interest of developing their desire to learn, I will always make time to find treasures in the most ridiculous of places.

I LOVE Encanto.  I’ve seen it more times than I can recall.  Frozen? Amazing film.  Turning Red, Luca, Lion King, Princess and the Frog and the Toy Story Saga are all modern classics.  The same can be said for way too many movies in my childhood.  I also love the soundtrack to pretty much every Disney movie out there and I often listen to them solo on my way to work in the morning; those song-writers are genius and I dare you not to sing and dance along to Under the Sea or anything off the Moana soundtrack.

On the subject of music: we listen to anything in any genre in celebration of their own unique importance.  I proudly know and can belt out the lyrics to Firework, Swish Swish or Roar any day of the week.  Katy Perry has my vote and I’ll take California Gurls over Baby Shark any day of the week. All musical genres play their role and I am so proud of them for diversifying their playlists.  We will dance eagerly to Shakira, Glenn Miller, The Strumbellas, Foo Fighters and Harry Belafonte immediately after relaxing with a meditation soundtrack or the soothing sounds of Chopin.   (I have to brag here that Alison brought Nora home the other day wearing a Beatles T-shirt and my heart simply melted away).


Candy, treats and sweets?  Of course we enjoy them, the same way we do everything else: in moderation.  Eat nothing but carrots and you will literally turn your skin orange; that seems far more concerning to me than popping a few gummy bears now and again.  So, yes, I love candy and our kids do too, but they’ll just as soon eat a bowl of peppers and cucumbers because we haven’t vilified food groups, we instead speak to the importance of balance.

Technology is tough but we treat it the same and we do those gummy bears:  with moderation.  That stands true for ourselves as well; I can’t tell my kids never to watch TV when they know full-well that I do it myself.  Instead, we approach it as one event in our day, not our entire existence.   Besides, some of todays kids programming is downright hilarious and if you haven’t watched Bluey yet then you’re missing out

Toy stores are tricky.  Yes, it’s a chore to go, but it is also a lesson to be learned.  We’ll go and take a look around, pen and paper in hand, as they write down what they want and how much it will cost.  We then compare that list to what’s in their piggy bank and determine how they want to spend their money.  For sure we walk out sometimes with an impulse buy, which is more often than not something in my shopping cart vs. theirs.  Again – hypocrisy is a perk of parenthood.

So, in closing: heed these words, or don’t, it’s entirely your call.  I believe in having boundaries and setting ground rules in place, for sure, but we are not so rigid that we take the life out of living.  We enjoy having fun, being silly, discovering new things and exploring our pallets.  We do what works for our household and you need to do the same for your situation and within your dynamics.  Whatever you decide to implement or path you choose to take, just make sure to enjoy your kids because they notice it when you do.


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