16 June 2011

Father's Day

When I was in high school, everybody called me by my last name, rather than my first. To the point where I’m not sure most people even knew my first name or that I had one. This trend faded a bit as I got older, my college friends called me by my first name, I’ve mostly been called by my first name in my professional life (though lately usage of my last name has started creeping back into fashion among my colleagues—I just have that sort of name). Recently, I was at the wedding of one of those high school friends and was asked what most people tend to call me these days. And I realized, again, that people mostly call me by my first name. And then it hit me. There’s another name I am called almost as frequently as my first name.


It’s almost equal. The word is on a constant rotation within the Doozer’s ever-expanding vocabulary. At any given time, it is only he, plus the wife and me, in a room together, so we always know who he’s talking to, it’s not as though there could be some real question. But he still peppers “Dada” and “Mama” into all conversations, questions, declarations, and even (perhaps especially) rants. “Umm, Dada?” he will usually start.

(Side note: It’s pretty shameful how often our son uses the word/sound “umm.” It means that we use it that regularly. We’re both highly educated, articulate individuals and yet we do this all the time. Great example we’re setting. Good parenting, guys.)

“Umm, Dada? Dada, I need to tell you something. Dada. Dada. Dada. I need to tell you something.” He says need as though there is the utmost sense of urgency around this particular utterance, as though his very life depends on sharing these words with me. I focus. “Dada. You haven’t eaten your meatballs yet.”

Oh, thank you. I would’ve forgotten if you weren’t here. This was vital.

Anyway, the proliferation of the word “Dada” in my house is a constant reminder of who I am now. Dada. This is me. This word has come to define my existence. There is this small human in my house, constantly looking up at me (to me?) as though I have the answers, as though I am in control of any given situation, as though I am the guy with the plan. As though I have it all figured out.

There’s a lot of pressure in those expectant, expressive eyes.

Of course, it’s not all love and adoration all the time. There are times when I come home to a greeting of “Don’t say hi to me.” Ladies and gentlemen, my son. 2 ½ going on 16 ½. Delightful. I figure he’s just doing his part to keep me in check, to remind me that I am human and fallible and imperfect even in his eyes. Lest I get too puffed up about this whole dad thing and start to think I really am a master of the universe—or even my own living room.

As my third Father’s Day approaches (soon followed by the Doozer’s third birthday—already?), there is still a disconnect between my reality and my perception of that reality. I wasn’t always somebody’s Dada, but now I always will be. That’s a seriously big deal. This is who I am now. And sure, I have a miniature reminder of this fact on a daily basis, running rampant in my house, screaming, giggling, crying, talking, questioning, exploring, being ridiculously sweet and adorable when not cranky and insane, constantly referring to me as “Dada” and yet, it’s still a difficult concept to entirely adjust to, to accept, to identify with.

When my wife asked me recently what I wanted to do for Father’s Day, I immediately thought of making plans with my dad (never mind the fact that he is on vacation and won’t be in town for Father’s Day this year). He loves to go out to breakfast and that’s the first thing that popped into my head. And then I realized what the question actually was: What did I want to do? Me.

Holy crap. She’s talking about me. This day is actually about me now. That’s weird. And I have no idea what I want to do. Being a dad is still a crazy notion that throws me off sometimes. Celebrating the fact that I’m a dad? This holiday that I spent years and years celebrating with someone else entirely is now suddenly being held in my honor? How did that happen?

Of course, every day is really Father’s Day when you think about it. Because, after all, this is who you are now. Dada. This word defines your existence. It’s so much more than a name, it’s an identity and a feeling and a huge responsibility and an entire character arc. It’s kind of extraordinary and special and wonderful and terrifying and amazing all at the same time.

Who knew two simple syllables could express so much?

Happy father’s day.


  1. Great post, HOEY. Yep. I may always call you that. Have a great Father's Day!