The Byford Files

Father’s Day Number One

Sunday was an interesting day…my first Father’s Day. Is that singular possessive or plural possessive? Like your Father’s Day or all Fathers’ Day? I got best wishes all day and I guess this one is kinda the freebie. I mean, I didn’t do anything really. I see guys lugging around a little baby, a baby bag, a stroller, a dirty diaper in one hand and car keys in the other. That’s a real dad. I’ll be there soon. Got a couple of cards from family members. Definitely sweet. My lovely wife got me a little outfit for Ellison that reads “Daddy’s Little Girl” or something of the like, a travel mug for my coffee and a blessing to go out and upgrade our video camera. She controls the money around here. She even beat me up. That is, she beat me out of bed. That’s tough for a pregnant woman to do. She’ll tell you that’s tough for anyone to do.

I find myself watching television programming that pretty much no one else watches or admits to watching. Without ABC or CBS and never really watching NBC unless the news is on, I’m unable to hold conversations regarding television at work. People wanna talk “Survivor” or “Lost.” They wanna rehash what happened on “24.” I’ve never watched an episode. I know the lead character’s name is Jack and is played by Keifer Sutherland and he’s trying to save the world, but that’s all I know. Instead, I’m watching “American Jail” and “Wife Swap.” I’m sitting here watching the shlockiest of the shlock. No one watches these shows on deep cable. They probably carry a rating that doesn’t even eclipse CSPAN on recess. I suppose I’m hooked on mindless television, however, I don’t watch it mindlessly.

Speaking specifically about “Wife Swap,” where the network arranges for two dynamically different family sets to swap mothers/wives. The homes they a tossed into are normally run by a dominating father figure (not the kind George Michael was singing about). He’s usually a polarizing personality type. He’s almost a parody or an exaggeration. They’re never normal because, well, normal doesn’t sell advertising. It’s the history of network programming. Not only are they not normal, but one might watch and question whether or not there’s some mental illness or a nasty head injury in the past. They’re either like Michael Douglas in Falling Down or a clown named “Binky.” One dad’s teaching his kids how to throw a live bottle rocket and another doesn’t let his girls wear makeup or listen to music because it’s how the devil gets into the home.

Your typical WS STRICT DAD is one who has a hangup on something. Sometimes it’s a religious belief or personal preference. Sometimes it’s a political agenda. Sometimes it’s dietary. Like this cat who holds his family under strict rules of only eating raw food (and apparently dresses up his daughter like Nellie on “Little House on the Prairie.”

That breakdown is more than gas. That’s someone who can’t stand losing control of a situation. That’s a man who can’t cope with change. Forget his rules for a second. A grown man having a breakdown like this on network television is alarming. His rules are so stringent and his expectations have no room for variance or grey area. Because of this and the fact that everyone has played along with his silly rules for so long without questioning him, he believes he’s absolutely right in everything he believes and all it took was one barbecue dinner to double him over like a George Foreman punch below the belt. This is a monumental fail.

Then, you have the WS CRAZY DAD. Not to be confused with that of another breed, the CRAZY DAD is just plain nuts. He’s the kinda guy who wear camo for his episode. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he comes hawd. He doesn’t have any self-sensor. He’s gonna speak his mind and dare you to question him. If there’s any saving grace, it’s that you always know where he stands. It might make for a fun night at the PTA meeting, but in the long term, such exposure and public displays make for  a lousy upbringing. They usually don’t have an inside voice and typically hover somewhere between a holler and a banshee scream. They hang out at Wal-Mart, usually don’t shave for five days at a time (the one thing that we might have in common) and think that they’re Nascar all-over-print tee is acceptable for Sunday church. On “Wife Swap,” they can normally be seen degrading the visiting wife in front of their child making comments like, “a woman’s place is in the kitchen” or “don’t talk to me like that, woman.” And sometimes he can be seen permitting his kids to drink in the house so long as it’s “under my roof.” The truth about CRAZY DAD is his wires aren’t crossed, he just simply never grew up. He’s plagued by episodes of laziness, never wants to take accountability and, at any time, might dissolve into freakish tirades where he lashes out at everyone around him with reckless abandon, but in the end, he’s just doing it for show. In fact, mostly everything he does is an exhibition. He does things deliberately to embarrass others and to create awkward tension. I have other names for people like CRAZY DAD, but we’ll leave it at what it is.

Then, there’s the WS GHOST DAD. He needs very little explanation. He’s the dad that’s not there. He’s absent. Eerily silent in confrontation. He wants no accountability. In fact, most times you see him, it’s like he has the words “I NEVER WANTED THIS” written with a Sharpie across his forehead. He just shut down somewhere along the line. Sometimes it’s not that extreme and their solitude is a little more subtle, but the root of it is that they’re not engaged. Completely disinterested in parenthood. Normally, during the course of the episode, one of the kids will break down into some sort of “I just wish he wanted to spend time with me” tantrum. It’s sad, really.

The overcorrection of GHOST DAD is the equally unfortunate WS DRILL SERGEANT DAD. The tricky thing is that DRILL SERGEANT DAD doesn’t always come with military experience yet he expects military-like discipline of his children. He’s the one they show getting up at the butt-crack of dawn with everything but the bugle having his kids do calisthenics and windsprints. All his kids do all day is work. The discipline is refreshing at first, but then you notice it’s bordering on abusive. It’s no way for kids to spend their early childhood. I want just like anyone to have some help in the yard or help doing the dishes, but kids aren’t slaves. Relax and do it yourself like a big boy. He’s a taskmaster and void of any fantastically emotional depth. He doesn’t cry, he barks. And when he doesn’t bark, he stares people into submission.

There are others, but the above are the four key classifications of the “Wife Swap” dad. They’re never normal. In fact, no one on that show is normal. That’s what has always led me to believe that it’s completely staffed with actors. Who would go onto national television, make a total ass of themselves and their family and own it. But regardless, it’s the characters that ABC wants portrayed. Whether the situations are real or just exaggerations being carried out by amateur actors, they’re wanting to portray situations for zombies like me who are watching wondering what sort of dad I’m going to be.

My lovely wife asked me last night, if I were on “Wife Swap,” what would be lesson to be learned. I wasn’t totally sure. Not that I’m not the perfect dad nor will I be, what would be my “Wife Swap” lesson. I work too hard? I’m emotionally fatigued? I’m neglectful? I’m too frugal? Hard to say. I wonder what kinda dad I’ll be, though. Would I be the “cool dad” who Ellison adores and wants to spend every waking moment with? Is the “cool dad” an appropriate relationship? How about “football dad” who measures their child on their success in sports or the competitive arena? I guess you take a little from everyone. My lovely wife said that “moderation” is the key to anything. You never work on extremes. Same would go for parenthood. My lovely wife is smart like that. Glad she is because I’m as dumb as a brick.

One Father’s Day down. This is the easy one.

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One thought on “Father’s Day Number One

  1. Violet Bishop says:

    I loved it. You will be a special Dad, loving and kind, and over protective. Look at my little boy. He was an extra special Dad thAT NUTURED FOUR OF YOU. and Jeff that was not an easy parenting job with four teenagers. New Dads normally don’t study the books like you. Not any set rules on raining Baby girls or boys, but if there would be, you’d have learned them cause I think you are an exception of all new FATHERS. Cause I love you, G’Ma

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