Advice for Father's Day

This Father’s Day, let’s remember the best of all parental admonitions: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Sure, that sounds hypocritical (especially to smart-aleck kids who think they know everything), but it’s really the only way for dads to approach parenting.

Fathers are deluged with advice about setting good examples for our children. We’re told that we’re role models, that we should have no bad habits, or at least should keep them carefully concealed. Otherwise, the children will grow up to be just as messed up as we are.

This puts a lot of pressure on guys. Good behavior goes against our nature. If you don’t believe me, check out any group of guys watching the Super Bowl together. Men quickly devolve into hooting primitives when they’re not observed by those who might disapprove, particularly if violent sports, beer and/or cheerleaders are involved.

This bad behavior can be overlooked when men are young, single and free-spirited. The very word “bachelor” comes from the Latin root for “keg party.” Which explains the origin of the “bachelor’s degree” on college campuses.

But once we become dads, we’re expected to chuck all our bad habits and behave. Especially if the kids are watching. And they’re ALWAYS watching, even when you think they’re asleep.

Let’s say, for example, that you smoke cigarettes. Your children will hold this against you. They will nag you to stop, complain about the smell and leave you newspaper clippings about the health hazards. Even if you only smoke outside when the children are asleep in a location miles away, they’ll still nail you. They will wear you down until you quit smoking, even if it takes years.

As soon as you’ve adjusted to the idea that you’re no longer a smoker, the kids will take up the habit. Guaranteed.

Why? Because you were their role model and you misbehaved. Plus, they know it’ll drive you crazy.

No matter that you told them all along that they shouldn’t smoke. No matter that you said all the right things. They’ll do as you do, not as you say, because it’s the shortest route to the Asylum for Insane Parents.

The whole say/do conundrum is even worse for fathers like me, who work at home. For more than a decade, I was the one who spent the most time with our two sons, ferrying them to school and overseeing homework, while my wife brought home the bacon. If our sons had a role model, I was it, which explains a lot about how they turned out.

No matter what I say to our teens, they call my bluff because they’ve seen how I’ve behaved over the years.

I’ve told them they should get jobs and dress nicer and think about careers. But how can I expect them to take me seriously when, for most of their lives, they’ve seen me working at home in my pajamas?

Why should they have a regular job, the argument goes, when dad doesn’t have one? Why should they go the suit-and-tie route when their barefoot father takes great pride in the fact he hasn’t worn a necktie in a dozen years? And a boss, what’s that about?

I’ve set a bad example. If only the boys had listened to me instead of watching me. As it is, they’re in danger of becoming work-at-home types themselves. Which translates to “poor.” Who will look after me in my old age?

On the other hand, no one will give me a necktie for Father’s Day. How can I be sure? Because I said so.

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