Sunday, June 18, 2006

Things to know about fatherhood

A few selections from the long list in Esquire Magazine (© Tom & Dee Ann McCarthy/Corbis) in honor of Father's Day:

1. Don't worry, your dad didn't know what he was doing, either.

2. No, no--not that Spock!

3. Second thought, maybe you should worry.

6. Do not name your baby after cities, geographical points of interest, features of the solar system, seasons, plants, animals, or current television stars.

7. Your child, at birth, already has a deeply complicated relationship with his mother, and, for the first year, you are only a curiosity. For a couple of years after that, an amusement-park ride. Then, a referee. And finally, a bank.

12. You know how they say you'll get used to diapers? You won't. Unless you wear them a lot.

13. Forcing children to use toilets will make them dislike toilets. Children begin using toilets when they tire of that not-so-fresh feeling. Of course, this is long, way long, after you tire of it.

16. Reason boys are better: They cannot get pregnant.

17. Reason girls are better: They're less likely to get arrested.

18. The threat of an unknown punishment is always more effective than a stated one.

20. Teach by example.

21. Your kids can develop an independent sense of good taste only if they're allowed to make their own mistakes in judgment.

22. Relax: Lots of little boys want a Barbie and a dollhouse.

23. The first time you change your son's diaper and he pees all over you is not an accident. It's foreshadowing.

24. Children of too-strict parents are more likely to develop tics.

25. Let them take reasonable risks: A few scrapes in the long run are nothing compared with the scars left by hovering parents. Or tics. In preparation for risks: a Red Cross first-aid course.

30. Never disclose to other parents that you have found a good baby-sitter.

34. At a certain point, your child will appear to survive exclusively on peanut butter, french fries, Cheerios, and hot dogs.

38. Children's hobbies to nip quickly in the bud: drums, archery, matchbook collecting.

39. Beware your child's uncles, who will teach your kid dirty words, introduce him to liquor, and give him gifts of drums, archery sets, and possibly matches.

40. It is, of course, your natural right to exert the above negative influences on your siblings' offspring.

41. You are under no obligation to tell children the truth. Lying to children is, in fact, half the fun: "Oh, that tree? That's a yellow-spotted spickle-gruber, of course." On the other hand, they do remember everything.

47. Unfortunately, those books that say motherhood makes women desire more sex are referring to women who are not your wife.

51. If the real response to his question is no, try this instead: "Go ask your mom."

55. The twos aren't always terrible. Even if they are, take heart, as kids aged three to six generally believe their parents are the most amazing beings alive and wish to be exactly like them. How scary is that?

58. It's never too early to begin reading to children.

59. Let them read what they enjoy.

61. Acceptable reading material: Dr. Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Curious George, and any of the following by Roald Dahl -- James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Danny the Champion of the World. Neither of the following by Roald Dahl: Kiss, kiss or Switch Bitch.

62. Know that by the time your kids are teens, those enormous baggy pants will be long gone, as will tattoos, piercing, and Marilyn Manson. Of course, by 2015, kids might very well sever arms and legs as fashion statements.

63. Some parents walk around naked in front of their children. These parents should stop it.

64. Nearly all psychological problems result from feelings of worthlessness, which is to say, every now and then make sure that you tell your kid he's pretty great.

65. And never raise a hand to him. But being a good guy, you probably knew that.

66. The harder they play, the earlier they sleep.

67. Never turn down an invitation to play.

68. No toys that require batteries.

69. They never really outgrow the claw. "No, Dad, no! Not the claw!" means "Apply the claw, please."

70. All in all, fatherhood is pretty terrific -- filled with joy and triumph, promise and miracles -- particularly other people's fatherhood.

71. You might think you know a lot about fatherhood, but not as much as you will when you're a grandfather.

72. If you're thinking that fatherhood means the end of life as you've known it, you, sir, are, of course, absolutely correct.

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