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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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But Baby, Someone Has To Tickle The Kids

By Leonard Pitts, Jr. Knight-Ridder

Today, we will discuss Why Dads Act Like That.

I have no idea.

Next we will discuss Why Moms Hate It When Dads Act Like That.

But wait. Perhaps you have no idea what I mean by Dads who Act Like That.

OK, consider this: a couple and their son board a train. Dad suggests they take the backward-facing seats. “That way,” he says, “when we crash, we won’t see it coming.”

You can almost hear the mother roll her eyes while the son is doubtless thinking, “Really? Cool.” It was, after all, a very dad thing to say.

Surely you’re familiar with Dad Things. As in booger jokes, air guitar, and a certain memorable grossout that begins with the phrase, “Pull my finger.”

My friend John once spent an evening teaching his kid and mine to pitch pennies - an irresponsible act that could lead to delinquency, gambling, even politics. So the kids loved it.

My buddy Bobby got into a running Nerf battle with a total stranger one Christmas at Toys R Us. His wife thought he’d lost his mind. Me, I was jealous.

Remember the opening scenes of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” where Robin Williams trashes the house in a freewheeling birthday party for one of the kids? That was a Dad Thing. Goofy, giddy, and of the moment.

Why DO dads act Like That?

Just the other day, I was telling my daughter a story about how I was raised in the days of slavery, shortly after the dinosaurs became extinct, and walked to school through snowdrifts 8 feet high. In Los Angeles. In the summertime.

I haven’t a clue why I did that, any more than I understand why the sudden urge to croon the theme from “The Beverly Hillbillies” sometimes overtakes me at the dinner table. I’ll tell you this much, though, it’s not the kind of thing that wins you cheers of acclamation from your spouse.

If you’re a doer of Dad Things, you probably know what I’m talking about. The kids think you’re cool, but mom thinks this loon she married is a few Coco Puffs short of a full bowl.

Why DO dads act Like That?

By now, some mom is doubtless screaming the obvious answer at her newspaper: “Newsflash, Einstein! Women are grownups, men are overgrown kids! While they’re administering tickle torture in the middle of the living room floor, “someone” has to fix the meals, pay the bills, clean the house, do the shopping and make sure the kids get their homework done!”

To which I would reply, upon serious and thoughtful reflection: nonny nonny boo boo.

No, not really.

I know that “some dads” wimp out of the hard work of handing out punishments, enforcing rules and making unpopular decisions. They don’t know life is not all nonny nonny boo boo.

But by the same token, some of it is.

And just maybe, this is the lesson Dads Who Act Like That can teach Moms Who Don’t.

As they push us to become more “nurturing,” perhaps we can get them to see that sometimes it’s OK to lighten up. That play is good. Even vital.

And that play, too, is parenting.

Because if parenting is the business of building functioning human beings, it’s also the business of building a storehouse of memories. Some of the fondest and most vivid recollections I have of my own father are of the outlandish tales he told, the times he had us going, the ways he made us laugh.

I want the same for my children. Want them to remember me as the guy who helped make good men and women out of them, but also as the one who sang funny songs, did strange voices and told great jokes.

The laughter of children is music.

THAT’S why dads act Like That.


Wordcount: 642
Tags: column, parenting

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