Let’s face it: Being a father isn’t easy. For one thing, we don’t always get the respect we deserve. You have only to look at television commercials where dad is usually the affable but inept boob whose mistakes are corrected by his tolerant spouse and their slightly embarrassed kids while a kindly black couple and an Asian salesclerk look on with bemusement.
Which makes me wonder: If dad is so dumb, how did he manage to acquire a nice house, a manicured lawn, a new car and, in one TV ad, a swimming pool? I must remember to ask the politically-correct twits who create those commercials and who must have hated their own fathers.
Both my children were grown and out of the house before I realized how hard being a good father is and how unqualified I was for the job. For that, I blame my own father. He made it look easy. Right was right. Wrong was wrong. You ate all the food on your plate and stayed at the dinner table until you did. You said “Yes ma’am” and “No sir” to adults. My father never raised his voice or laid a hand on me. He didn’t have to. I had the organization chart. His name was at the top. He made the rules. I followed them. Very simple.
I have often wondered how my dad would cope with the current state of affairs where parents work hard at being their children’s BFF. (Look it up.) He wasn’t my chum. He was my father and a man I loved and respected and still do to this day. I would like to think he wouldn’t have changed a thing.
My own efforts at being a father pale in comparison, but nobody can say I didn’t make the effort. I was full of wisdom and not afraid to share it. It was only years later I heard a rumor that my two kids found my homilies so predictable they numbered them. For example, there was my lecture on their need to be grateful they were being driven to school: “In my day, I walked 10 miles to school in the snow and it was uphill both ways. You kids today have it easy.” That was No. 7.
There was my frustration that on occasion they didn’t seem to properly appreciate the modern conveniences that had not been available to my generation: “Air-conditioning? In my day, we didn’t know what air-conditioning was. We slept on a block of ice from June to September when the temperature would reach 490 degrees. You kids today have it easy,” That one climbed the charts to No. 11.
Then, there was my oration on financial responsibilities: “Do you know how much this is costing me? Do you think I am made of money? When I was your age, I had 12 jobs. I worked 20 hours a day, made 12 cents and bought my first tricycle when I was three. You kids today have it easy.” I think that one remained unrated. Go figure.
Somehow, my kids turned out just fine. I suspect their momma had something to do with that. My son is a school teacher and the proud grandfather of HRH Cameron Charles Yarbrough. My daughter, an environmentalist and a community volunteer, is married to a school teacher as well. Both children have been wed more than 25 years. Maybe that is because I warned them each that if they ever considered divorce, I was keeping the in-law.
In turn, I suspect they may have told their respective spouses that if they did end up in my house, they would be subjected to a bunch of eye-glaze lectures about walking to school in the snow, sleeping on blocks of ice and how I bought my first tricycle at the age of three.
But my kids have gotten even. Now I am the one getting the lectures. It gives me great satisfaction to report that theirs are so predictable, I have numbered them:
Stay off the ladder lest you fall and hurt yourself. (No. 4.)
Remember, you don’t drive as well at night as you used to. (No. 3.)
Don’t pick up anything heavy. (No. 2.)
Don’t touch the washing machine/light switch/disposal/leaky faucet/doorknob, etc. until I can get there and fix it. You might mess it up. (Nos. 1 and 1-A.)
Don’t let them know I said this, but I enjoy their lectures. It says my kids love me and care about me and have survived the pontifications of a know-it-all who really didn’t know it all but thought he did. You can have no better Father’s Day gift than that.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb