Celebrating What Makes a Father a "Dad"
Celebrating What Makes a Father a "Dad"

Celebrating the Little Things That Make a Father a Dad

In celebration of Father’s Day, a list of the weird things dads do that we can’t stop loving them for.

In Praise of All Things Dad

In celebration of Father’s Day, a list of the weird things dads do that we can’t stop loving them for.

By Olivia Buzzacco, Bowling Green State University

Dads are magnificent creatures.

From their jean shorts to their poor jokes, the things that make a dad a “dad” are almost as necessary to fatherhood as having children in the first place.

Dads being dads

And, since Father’s Day is in the air, while my siblings and I scrambled to find something to get our old man, I thought what better way than to celebrate by paying tribute to all the “dad” things that fathers do for their family.

So Happy Father’s Day, Dad! This one’s for you.

1. Trying to Keep Up with Social Media/Technology

Some dads are pros at social media and technology, while other dads refuse to have anything to do with smartphones, laptops and tablets.

After about a decade of prepaid cell phones, my family was finally able to wean my dad off of his Tracfone (or his “jitterbug” as he liked to call the microscopic piece of technology) and convince him to let us have smartphones. When my sister was debating getting an Instagram account, my father looked at her and said, “And how much does the Instagram cost? I’m not paying for any more minutes for it.”

A year has passed since my dad purchased our smartphones, and I try to keep him on track with the apps and special features his Android came with. In October, I wrote him a manual on how to use Instagram when he accidentally downloaded the app thinking it was Snapchat. When I visited during Thanksgiving, my brother and I set him up with the correct Snapchat app after we convinced him Snapchat would be a fun way to stay in touch. Now, he snaps all the time.

2. Staying Old School

Of course, there are instances in which dads prefer to do things the way they’ve always done them, because dads have lived through times that would be unimaginable to today’s generation. They will call instead of text, hit laptop keys too hard because of the typewriters they grew up using, and they’ll mail you directions that may/may not arrive on time when they could have just sent them via email. Sometimes, you just have to let dads be.

Over Christmas, my dad purchased some 2-liter bottles of pop. Upon opening one, the bottle fizzed up and exploded. All I could hear from the kitchen was, “That’s it. I’m writing a letter to Canada Dry.”

3. Renaming Your Friends

Dads suddenly can’t remember someone’s name? That’s fine, he’ll just find something else to call the forgotten one: Skippy, Pal, Red, Hairy, Fool, Sport.

Perhaps a dad’s choice of nicknames stem from growing up as a baby boomer, but their choice of nicknames still have me shaking my head and trying to look the other way.

My dad asked me last winter if he could sit in on the writing class I taught as part of my graduate work. I told him he could, and he showed up to my class with donuts for all my students. He decided to pass them out himself, going up to each student and saying, “Here ya go, champ. Which one do ya want?”

4. Planning Family Vacations

The maps. The fanny packs. Reading book after book about their chosen vacation spot to see what time is best to do what. Creating schedules. Wearing matching shirts with the family. Walking a football field ahead of his family because they need to stay on schedule.

Dads love their vacation maps. They’ll walk around with a map in their hand and another in their back pocket. Fathers don’t have time to get lost on vacation—every minute must be spent doing something, so they are virtually running from place to place.

My friends often ask me why I walk so fast, and I tell them it’s because my dad had us practically sprinting when he took us to Disney World for the first time. Moreover, he had the family do “matching days” when going to the different Disney parks.

One day everyone wore their Disney shirts. Another day, everyone wore their matching shirts from our church back home. He even got us all matching ponchos with smiling bananas on them (I wish I were making this up). It rained for at least half an hour every day in Florida, and I dreaded the idea of being a smiling banana in public. I remember several families look at us, saying they liked our ponchos.

5. Finding Odd Ways of Fixing Problems

Some people have all the unusual solutions for the daily problems in life, and dads are right up there with them. And of course, dads have no shame in their quick fixes. My friend’s father had parts of a lamp he wanted to use, but no base for the lamp to sit on. He ended up taking an old trombone and forming a lamp out of it.

When my family arrived to our condo at Colonial Williamsburg, Dad went to post our dinner menu on the fridge, but quickly found there were no magnets. His solution? Use a band-aid instead. During a family trip to the county fair, it started raining unexpectedly and none of us had brought an umbrella. Dad picked up a cardboard box and held it over his head for the rest of the day.

Dads can even find the quick fixes when it comes to health ailments. A friend from college told me that her father’s solution to anything health related is a quick slab of Vick’s.

6. The Clothes

The white New Balance shoes. The jorts. Those weird leather sandals (“Jerusalem Cruisers,” as one of my past instructors called these shoes). The tucked in shirts.

Commonly found in the Dad Store, along with white crew socks and cell phone clips, these articles of clothing make a dad the ultimate dad. All dads have definitely donned this look at least once in their lifetime.

Praise and glory to my siblings who once joked about the typical clothes dads wear, pressuring my dad into raiding his closet and throwing out all of his jean shorts. Now, whenever I’m out shopping with my family, my dad will have me stay by his side while he tries on shoes, constantly asking me what kind of shorts are in during the summer.

7. The Dad Jokes

Ah, yes. Everyone knows the “Dad jokes,” the sensation that has taken the internet by storm in the past, and continues to do so. From the common “Dad, I’m hungry,” “Hi hungry, I’m Dad!” to the wild “Did you hear about the movie Constipation? It hasn’t come out yet!” Dad jokes are so dreadful they sometimes have you cracking up or letting out the biggest sigh you can manage. Perhaps telling dad jokes is a dad’s way of embracing his inner child.

Oddly enough, my dad isn’t the one usually telling this type of joke in our family (it’s actually my mom), but occasionally he’ll crack a good one. For instance, when he went back to school for his Master’s degree, he looked at us and said, “When my diploma comes, you have to call me master.”

Sometimes his humor goes beyond this. I once saw a picture of a girl who looked like me, so I went to show Dad.

Me: Look at this girl on Instagram. Doesn’t she look like me?

Dad: Yeah, but she’s actually pretty.

8. Keeping Up with the Lingo

What better way for a parent to stay connected with their children than to stay hip with the lingo, right? Perhaps one of the best resources to see dads in full lingo swing is through a site like parentsshouldnttext.com, which has had me cracking up more than once.

My parents decided to hold a garage sale a couple summers ago, and my dad couldn’t be there because he had to work. So I decided to keep him updated on how everything was going. At one point, when ten people were buzzing about our sale, I texted him, “The garage sale is bumping!” to which he responded, “Is ‘bumping’ a good thing?”

He’s learning, as most dads do over time, but sometimes he isn’t isn’t terribly successful when applying the language to his own.

When I was outside watching our dog, he suddenly said to me, “Heh…Angry Birds. That was so…five years ago. Right? Isn’t that what you kids say?”

9. “When I Was a Kid” Stories

You know, just a father’s daily reminder that life in the past was not as simple as it is today. When his kids are sitting around on their phones, a dad will usually say, “When I was a kid, we didn’t have no phones. We played with sticks and rocks.”

Sometimes, however, the stories can go a little overboard. Once, I took Dad to an amusement park, and he had something to say about every ride we went on:

“When I was a kid, there were no lap bars. You’d start in one seat and end up in another.”

“When I was a kid, a man stood at the top of the hill and pulled the train up with a rope.”

“When I was a kid, there were three trains that raced. One day the third train ran off the track. We never saw it again.”

10. His Obsessive Interests

The typical obsessions: Grills, sports teams, cars, fishing, carpentry, etc.

The answers I received when I polled my friends on Facebook: their children’s debt, Rob Thomas, old television commercials, the car not being parked even on both sides of the parking lines, vacuum cleaners, birds, Fox News, Ebay.

My dad got on a “Gilligan’s Island” kick a couple months ago, and binge-watched all three seasons. Last month, he reported to the family the Skipper’s birthday was May 5th, and went out of his way to find a website dedicated to the Skipper. When he found it, he wished the Skipper a happy birthday. The page creator responded and said, “Thank you, but my birthday isn’t until February.”

Dad immediately looked up the episode where the show mentioned the Skipper’s birthday and responded back, “Season 1, Episode 28. The Skipper says that Cinco de Mayo is his birthday.” To which the page creator said, “You’re right—I thought you meant my birthday. You are a true fan.” It’s the little victories.

11. A Passion for Hardware

As a kid, I can remember seeing the bumper sticker on my uncle’s truck that read, “My toy store is The Home Depot.” The sticker bothered me because after countless trips to the store with my dad, I knew how boring Home Depot was. I usually go with my dad anywhere when he asks me to come along (mostly because there’s a solid chance he’ll stop and get us some food along the way), but I often try to avoid the trips to Lowe’s and The Home Depot. No thanks, Dad.

When my dad came to visit me at college last month, we walked downtown and he quickly stopped in front of the ACE Hardware.

I asked him if he wanted to go inside, and he said, “No, dads just have to stop and look for a second,” and he went along his merry way.

 12. The Dad Mystique

 At times, there are inexplicable things that Dads do or have the power to do. For example, my sister’s boyfriend’s father seems to have an internal alarm clock whenever a sports game is coming on. In the midst of the Warriors and Cavaliers smack down, he will fall asleep in front of the television long before the first quarter kicks off, and the minute it hits game time, he suddenly wakes up and says, “Game’s on,” and turns on the television while his family stares at him incredulously.

When I was in middle school, my dad had to pick me up from school early so I could go to my orthodontist appointment. He rolled up to the school in a leather jacket, driving his yellow Mustang, and half of my class flocked to the main entrance of the school in utter awe of the “cool dad” before them.

I asked some friends about their dad’s mystique, and my friend Phil told me his father used to wear a straw hat when they would go to an amusement park and would, “always lose it on a water ride at the beginning of the day. He did this every year for a good chunk of my childhood. Is that normal?” It’s all part of the mystique, Phil.

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