A number of my friends are having children so I have been thinking a lot about fatherhood lately. The relationship with a father, especially as another male, is probably the most complicated concept I can imagine. Our society attempts to remove the primal element from it but it is too perfect in nature to ever be completely tamed. Sometimes I think about how stars are born until I get a headache but, whenever I think about dads, I usually go straight into a vicious nose bleed and just pass out. Consider most other mammals on the planet. Male bears go hunting for cubs simply so the female will restart their reproductive cycle and they can get laid. It doesn’t even matter of it’s their cub or not, they don’t care. They just want to maul it to death to get some more of that sweet ursa action. Mammalian evolution is set up so that males are expected to invest more in mating than in parenting. It’s only recently that some mammals have even begun to recognize their own offspring, let alone consider the benefits of participating in their development.
I’ve conducted some pretty in depth investigations into it over the last half of my weekend and, if you’re not a father already, allow me to help you understand what it must be like: Imagine that you had a roommate who kept begging you to buy a robot with them until you finally caved in and did it. You didn’t really want it but your roommate was pretty insistent, so now you and your friend own one. Before you know it, they want to have all of the accessories for it too but it turns out they are all really expensive so you have to take a different job. Eventually you’ll get a letter from the manufacturer explaining that it is going to take several years for most of the robot’s functions to come online and that you’re going to have to program all of it manually, even though you don’t know anything about programming robots. Meanwhile, everyone else you know is offering programming advice despite never having programmed (or even owned) a robot. And, if you mess up, there’s a chance that you won’t even be able to fix it and it might go on a killing spree. But you need to be able to fix it because it showed up to your house sort of broken and without a warranty anyway. It will turn on and off at random, occasionally make massive calculating errors, roam around breaking things or making messes and emit this long piercing sound specifically designed to irritate you.
I don’t know about you, but I would immediately throw that robot into the garbage– and that’s exactly what having a child is like. It is like owning something broken that you legally can’t throw away. It’s the most intensive and expensive self-sabotaging do-it-yourself project the mind can fathom, and dads everywhere commute to life force evaporating jobs everyday to get fat and hear awful things from already dead inside co-workers that they are slowly turning into, just so that this thing can have money for college.
I have always sort of been wary of having kids because I knew I’d make a pretty crazy father. It has always seemed to me that the life of a dad is constantly seesawing between utter selflessness and suppressing the urge to rip the arms off the ungrateful monsters that grew from your seed. It’s a scary prospect further enhanced by a lack of useful aids and information. Have you ever tried to look up advice on “father and son relationships” online? I have and it usually turns up some pretty visually distinct pornography with some fairly upsetting subject matter. It took me a solid hour to sift through some of the creepiest online personal ads I’ve ever encountered before I found anything even resembling advice and the advice wasn’t even particularly useful. Without proper guidance what is to keep me from converting my home into a sort of twisted funhouse where I make the children compete in a series of bizarre daily events for my favor and affection? The level of psychological abuse, which I will call “mental strengthening” in court, will be previously unheard of.
I am told that the rewards of being a father far outweigh the trauma, but I remain skeptical. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Any lifestyle that inevitably results in the acceptance of wearing a sunhat and khaki shorts all summer long has clearly done some serious emotional damage.
Working a serious job sort of forces you to assimilate into that culture and, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be just awful. Attempt to fathom working eight hours, or more, at a place you loathe simply so you can fund the existence of a baby that keeps you from getting a full nights rest and distracts your spouse from wanting to have sex with you. That’s why dads are sort of paradoxical heroes. Moms, even working ones, seem to be hardwired to love their children forever while dads have to resist their primal instincts to drown them in a river any time they act out. I could always tell when I was about to get beat, because my father would bite his tongue and shake because I had done something stupid enough to cause a physiological response. Every chemical in his body was urging him to crush my windpipe and he was doing his best to fight against them. Once the beatings finally came, my dad usually settled down enough to explain to me why I was getting it and usually convinced me to voluntarily agree to them.
All I know is that, being a dad is some pretty powerful and mysterious stuff. It is a true metamorphosis into a new creature trying to learn an art form that is universally known and yet impossible to master. Maybe that’s why we spend a lifetime trying to gain the approval of our fathers, because we subconsciously understand it’s not an easy gig. We take lessons wherever we can get them and, despite my desire to experiment, if I ever have a child, I’m going to try to raise them much in the same way my father raised me.