As Father’s Day approaches, the mailbox has been filling with magazines paying homage to dads. I look at that stack of periodicals and I’m struck by the different spin they each put on fatherhood, based on the audience they’re targeting. I realize that I know some of these different types of dads, and in the interest of finding out where you might fall on the dad spectrum, I’ve compiled this handy test.
I think the ideas in Outside magazine resonate with me more than the reality. Our son is a Boy Scout, and I like to live vicariously through his merit badges and knowledge of the wilderness.
But then I look at a friend who is an actual Outdoors Dad, and I realize my commitment pales in comparison. My friend has gear for whitewater kayaking (hard shell and inflatable, dry suits, helmets, paddles, dry bags, etc.), windsurfing (boards, sails, wet suits, etc.), skiing (skis and snowboards), cycling … I could go on but you get the idea. Not only does he have all this equipment, but he actually uses it!
To my credit I’ve been out on a couple of kayak trips with him. He took our son windsurfing, and we accompanied their family on the ski trip where I broke my leg (it’s not his fault, I tripped over a Manly Dad stabbing a polar bear with a toothpick), but I can only claim the role of enthusiastic amateur.
I follow a number of sports, but when it comes to the traditional American pastimes I have a hard time generating enthusiasm. Fortunately, soccer is growing in popularity, but bicycle racing is still a little too continental for sharing with the crowd at the corner bar. Fencing is right out.
I admit it, I’m not the kind of dad who knows that if you play soccer in the fall you sign up for it in the spring. We do have a neighbor, however, who has three boys, and he embodies for me the idea of the Sporty Dad. During Little League season I see the boys loading into the Suburban and the eldest looks like Alex Rodriguez with his gear bag and his Oakleys. It’s a little intimidating.
But knowing that children need fresh air and sunshine, I make sure our son gets out riding his unicycle around the neighborhood. He may not have the look of a future Hall-of-Famer but I take secret pleasure in the sometimes jealous glances he gets from kids playing organized sports, and I wonder if they’re thinking of what it would be like to run away and join the circus.
Something in Wired magazine’s Father’s Day article resonated with me. Perhaps it was the deep soul searching I had done to figure out the best order to show Star Wars to my kids, or immersing them in comic books because I had once been obsessed with comics. While I like to consider myself an eclectic father, having been president of the astronomy club, a science fiction fan, and a comic book nerd, I think there’s no question that one type rises to the top for me.
The Geek Dad can encompass a wide range of behaviors like building Rube Goldberg devices, tree houses, go karts, model cars, or dressing up like a super hero and taking your kid to Comic-Con. Ultimately I think the Geek Dad is synonymous with Fun Dad because a Geek Dad is still in touch with what he enjoyed in his youth and he’s happy to share that with his kids.
When the latest issue of Esquire magazine showed up, I cowered at the banner headline “HOW TO BE A MAN – The Fatherhood Edition” floating over Bruce Willis’ manly bald head. The issue is dripping with stories about Manly Men beating mountain lions off their children with a pocket knife.
Yes, that’s really in there, along with the father who chased down an armed bank robber and beat the daylights out of him because he threatened the man’s son – and it doesn’t stop there. There’s advice on how to drink with your grown up daughter and tidbits on teaching your kids the basics of gambling, or how to sharpen their own knives.
I see that whatever kind of dad I am, I need to reconnect with who I was when I was my kids’ ages. I need to find the things I enjoyed as a child and share those experiences. In part to help them grow, in part to pass along the way I see the world, but mostly just to spend time with them and have fun.