Dad, the Monday Morning Quarterback

November 10, 2009

Don't ask me where I heard it. But it's one of those statements that says quite a lot, in only a few words.

Most of us spend at least 12 years earning an education - four more for a degree. We use that document, and all of our training in the classroom, to try to convince someone to hire us for a job. Quite often, even all of that isn't enough.

In most states, you cannot apply for a license to drive a car by yourself until you turn 16-years-old. The process to attain one is a lengthy one, usually involving a driver's education class at the local high school, the application for a learner's permit, many hair-raising driving tests with mom or dad, and then eventually a driving instructor. Your driver's license can be taken away if you prove that you are not good at it.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) can be a life-saving technique. The certification process is not that long, but (at least in Pennsylvania) needs to be repeated every year to keep that certification valid.

Every time you board an airplane, you can expect a 5-10 minute primer on what to do in the event of a crash - oxygen masks, seats and flotation devices, where the emergency exit hatch is located, etc.

Companies that make blinders for car windows (to keep the interior from heating up during the summer) feel the need to remind consumers to "refrain from driving while the blinder is placed over the windshield." We had one for our station wagon when I was a child. I thought the removal thing was obvious.

There are instruction manuals for the simplest of appliances, like coffee makers and toaster ovens. The chair I am sitting on right now (at my desk at the station) has an instruction manual several pages long.

Our society feels the need to prepare us for life's dangers, and instruct us when performing tasks to prevent life's dangers from ever occurring.

And yet, when it comes to being responsible for a new life, 24 hours a day seven days a week - a life that cannot feed him/herself, properly relieve him/herself, dress himself/herself - a being that cries more often than not because he/she cannot properly communicate and is vulnerable to just about every possible danger, large and small, seen and unseen - well, us dads undergo no certification process whatsoever. Moms too!

You want to become a dad? You know what to do. Provided you've found a willing partner, there is not much stopping you.

I am not a psychologist, human behavior expert, pediatrician, newborn nutritionist, and I have little in common with Dr. Phil (and Dr. Spock - remember him? No, not the Vulcan).

But hey, man, I've got two kids! Whether or not I have been raising them the right way is not the point. The point is, I've learned a lot along the way. A LOT. And like you, I've made a lot of mistakes too.

Raising two beautiful, selfish, lovable, incorrigible, generous, devilish, enthusiastic, lethargic, smiling, whining, crying children who owe it to me and my wife for putting them on this Earth has been a joy.

And a major learning process.

Do I have regrets? Of course I do. Here are a few things I would have done differently, knowing what I know now:

  • I would have never purchased any pieces of furniture that have corners - only round edges.
  • I would have insisted on getting carpets with a darker hue (my wife agrees with me now, but she insisted on white!).
  • I would have let the baby cry, cry, cry until he/she fell asleep - the FIRST time.
  • I would have never allowed my children to be introduced to a certain square-shaped character that lives underwater.
  • I would have tightened the top to the baby powder - the one that we kept in my son's room - the one that he opened in anger the day that we grounded him for the first time - the one that he emptied all over the place, turning his room into a winter wonderland, and turning himself and his clothes ghostly pale.
  • I would have said no a few more times, and yes a few more times.
There is of course a lot more, but you get the idea.

Write up your own list of regrets, and then ask yourself: would you have made these mistakes if you didn't have children?

Of course not. And that it just the point.

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