Yes Dads Can: Dads Are Still Cool

It’s been about a week since Father’s Day. The dad jokes aren’t getting the laughs they deserve. Your quirky dad-isms aren’t as endearing as they were on Sunday. The texts from fellow dads have fallen off and suddenly, we’re back to grinding out a week of work, balancing work and life, and in many ways, being just a little more lonely.

If you’re a parent of school-age kids, you have a daily reminder of how cool summers used to be. About now, most kids are off for about two months. Two months of what are essentially endless Saturdays. And it’s cool for a little while, but then inevitably will come the complaint – “I’m bored.” So now, between your daily responsibilities at work and home, now there’s this feeling that you have to keep the kids busy. Sometimes, summer camps and programs are a good way to get the kids out of the house. Sometimes, it’s a series of carefully-planned outings or play-dates, or whatever. In most cases, anyway, it ends up being just another thing, something you have to do, an opportunity to fail, a test of your parenting.

But I’m here to tell you that some of that is pressure we put on ourselves. I recently was rewatching Ted Lasso, and love or hate it, you have to admit there are some gems in there. Roy Kent, the gruff, hyper-masculine former soccer (er, football) star, in particular, strings pearls of wisdom on a strand of profanity in a way that is very satisfying. In Season 2, Episode 3, he counsels Rebecca on how to connect with an older child in her care.

“Look, most adults think kids need to be constantly entertained. It’s bullsh*t… Truth is they just wanna feel like they’re part of our lives. Little idiots.”

Roy Kent

As if to prove the point, he then asks Phoebe, his niece and frequent companion, if she wants to go to his podiatrist appointment, to which she replies enthusiastically, “Yes!”

I catch myself falling into this trap a lot. It feels like the only way I can connect with my kids is to take them out to some event or activity, and in the process, burn a couple hours and/or a hundred dollars, just to convince them that I’m worth spending time with. But Roy’s right – kids just want to be a part of our lives. He loops little Phoebe into his day in a way that looks like he is callous to her needs, but really he’s giving her exactly what she needs. Believe it or not, even after Fathers Day is over, dads (and uncles!) are still cool.

Dad reading with his daughter
Remember, it was Roy who was assigned to read A Wrinkle in Time, not Phoebe.

I remember being interested in everything my dad did. And to be clear, my dad was (true story) a software engineer for a multinational medical gases distributor and anesthesia machine manufacturer. It didn’t matter. My dad did it, and so it was cool. He didn’t have to take me to the harbor or upstate or to a theme park or out to lunch for me to admire him. I already did.

So invite your kids to your next errand run and let them pick the music for the car ride. Pull them alongside you when you have to patch a hole in a wall or do the dishes. Ask a teenager their opinion on something and listen, really listen to what they have to say. It might be crazy, and that’s OK. Sometimes it’s even better.

When I was young, all I wanted was to get older. Now that I’m grown, I miss the freedom and carelessness of my youth. As a dad, I’m lucky that I get to meet my kids halfway, if I take the time and have the courage to do it.

And so are you.

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