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SALT LAKE CITY — I haven't always been the best father, and I am not proud to admit it. The name of this weekly column indicates that I have wasted time and resources on, well, something other than family.
But I must admit that today, with all my experience (and a pill or two), I am a mighty fine dad. If we were voting, I would probably abstain because I am too close to me to be objective. But I would paint a cool "vote for Davison" sign and sing a wordy but clever campaign song.
There are some things that, as a dad, I simply like to do. For one, I like to help my kids with science projects — especially ones where volcanoes or rubber bands are involved.
I also like to coach my daughter's softball games, regardless of the score (or the no score as the case may be). I pretend that I know what I'm doing and say motivational things like "keep your eye on the ball" and "there is no ‘K' in team."
I like to go to choir concerts and tell those around me that the girl with the florescent green fuzzy socks eating a quesadilla from dinner she snuck on stage is my daughter.
I also like the serious talks, which, frankly, I can't pull off without giggling or snorting. Sometimes my chortle or "best not described other" negates the serious nature — which ends up not being a bad thing.
My son Ihoma and I have had the personal hygiene talk. To help remind him in a positive fashion (something my wife told me was important) we all celebrated what we then called the Chinese year of the body-wash.
I needn't have worried, though. The problem actually solved itself when he got a girlfriend.
We have had the "wear a white shirt and dark socks to church, but no ankle socks" talk as well. For an activity during that discussion, I taught him how to tie a tie — like it made a difference. He still asks me to tie it for him every week.
We have had the father and son "please don't play Xbox in your boxers" talk, and the "don't use words you hear while lifting weights with the guys unless you're really sure you know what they mean" talk.
Fortunately/unfortunately (even at 40-or-so-ish), I know what most of these words mean. If I should happen to come up blank, I have my son use said word in a sentence, and then I can pretty much nail it.
My son and I have already had the talk about drugs, and I feel that I got through well — at my cousin Meryl's expense, however. The talk went like this. "Remember Meryl?" That was all that needed to be said.
My dissertation on the subject of alcohol went as well as I could expect. Later, the tobacco discussion was smashing because Ihoma had already seen (smelled) family members who smoke and had decided that smoking was a no for him.
Delivering 'the mother of all talks'
All of these conversations have led up to the mother of all talks. I have given him parts of the talk before, spreading it out so that he could listen while pretending to turn me off completely.
Recently, it became necessary to put all the pieces together with extreme clarity — and a few diagrams.
The talk went as planned for the most part. I made his favorite dinner and arranged for the girls to be gone. I recited what I learned from Wikipedia the night before because I wanted to have references if needed — which was good because he asked if I was making stuff up. I assured him that no one in his right mind would invent this.
I recited what I learned from Wikipedia the night before because I wanted to have references if needed — which was good because he asked if I was making stuff up. I assured him that no one in his right mind would invent this.
He just ate faster.
I understand that as the discussant (a word I got from Wikipedia), I tend to romanticize my ability as a speaker. I imagine that everything I say is gold. I have been influenced by those films in my youth where adults are respected, revered, wear their pants too high and say things like "Yes, son. The human reproductive system is a marvelous thing."
Ihoma had none of the sincere questions like the boys in the film strip had for their dad, nor did he look at me without artifice or an agenda. There were no sentences that begin, "Say father, when you were my age, a young Idaho boy growing up at the turn of the century, did you ever …?"
Not even. When I was through, my son responded with a monosyllabic grunt.
I asked him if he had any questions, and he responded "nope," and then moved to put his ear buds back in his ears.
"But wait," I said. "Put your iPod away! This is monumental. This is supposed to be one of those things we remember for the rest of our lives! At least let's take a picture?"
He stared at me.
"You barely glanced at the chart," I said. "I studied, so ask me about something. Anything!"
He furrowed his eyebrows, a sure sign of his deep thought. "Can I borrow your Nike shirt. It makes my pecs look good."
Yes, Ihoma, my son. You can wear my neato Nike shirt. Next week I will have a talk with you about wearing spandex outside of the gym.
Main image: "Why, yes, father. I would love to speak to you about anything. Anything at all!" (Source: thegospelcoalition.org)
*About the Author: Davison Cheney --------------------------------
*Davison Cheney writes "The Prodigal Dad" series every week on ksl.com. See his other writings at davisoncheneymegadad.blogspot.com.**