Op-Ed: For Father’s Day—Men Wanted

NOTE: A global e-mail some years ago, author unknown, disguised a whimsical description of motherhood as a classified employment notice. I’ve borrowed (okay, swiped) the concept and some of the language to give fathers equal time, and to briefly acknowledge the blessing to our family of my beloved son-in-law. With thanks and apologies to the original writer …

WANTED: David D. Leopold wannabees. Team players are needed for challenging, long-term work in a frequently chaotic milieu. Candidates must be willing to work flexible shifts including evenings and weekends; those requiring eight hours of sleep on a regular basis need not apply. Some travel is required, such as trips to theme parks or sporting events, or overnights to primitive campsites at which you will compile and ignite the cooking fire and raise the tents. A gift for math is important, for you must depart these places with the exact number of unruly youngsters you came with – no more, and certainly no fewer.

Culinary talent is desirable, and diapering skills are welcome. Trash removal comes with your position, as do heavy lifting, painting, household repairs and landscape maintenance. You’ll need a driver’s license and a child-friendly vehicle, as chauffeuring to various activities will be necessary from time to time. At some point you may be asked to coach Little League baseball or Pop Warner football, thus to withstand vituperative abuse from other parents. If you have daughters, find the most direct route to the mall and keep your credit cards current. Learn to waltz and memorize the words to “Daddy’s Little Girl,” for on some future occasion you will take the floor at a costly extravaganza attended by friends, neighbors and relatives of recent discovery. Toward this end, you might want to invest in a tux that fits.

This is a lifetime assignment, whether or not you continue to reside with your team partner. Romantic interludes may often be interrupted, especially in the early years, and you might have to share your bed occasionally with wee folk who have been wakened by scary dreams or have wet their own little cots. Practice anger management, for raised voices frighten small children. Master pain-free splinter removal, study the Heimlich maneuver, and learn how to correctly apply bandages and tourniquets and to temporarily stabilize a broken bone. Put the pediatrician’s phone number on your speed-dial, put his/her office or the ER on your GPS, and keep that SUV gassed up.

Your partner will tackle small mechanical tasks around the domicile, but it will be your job to assemble bicycles and other large items and to install and light the Christmas tree, the roof display and the inflatable lawn snowman. You must judge when the time comes to take the training wheels off the bicycles, and perhaps you’ll want to secretly steady them on the first few wobbly solos. If you are putting together a backyard play structure, schedule the work after their bedtime so that unacceptable language doesn’t fall upon innocent ears.

Piggy-back rides in the first few years and arm-wrestling later on are part of your job, so it’s wise to stay in good physical shape. You may be assigned driver training after 15 or 16 years’ tenure, so grace under terrifying pressure is a plus. Around this time you will be expected to explain the human reproductive system to the males in your care, without calling into play any arcane scientific terms. Just tell it like it is, remind them to respect – nay, revere – their female acquaintances, and avoid fondly reminiscing about your own hormone-driven youth. Develop a preference for cold showers, for at this stage you will daily find yourself last in line for the family bathroom and whatever few drops of hot water might remain in the pipes.

Career advancement will have to come from your day job. You may achieve patriarch status if your progeny should marry and multiply, giving you the opportunity to call another man’s child “Son” or “Daughter” and to brush up on those piggy-back rides and other long-forgotten circus tricks. This re-enactment of the toddler days will earn you a new title: Granddad, Gramps, Pop-Pop, Bumpy, or whatever mangled moniker those tiny little tongues can wrap themselves around.

Experience is not required; actually, it is quite unavailable, and you will have to play your hand as you go along. If you are growing your own versus adopting, you might be invited to attend the births and even help with the breathing exercises. If so, don’t forget to fetch along the videocam – and try to stay on your feet at showtime.

As for the pay package, well … oddly enough, you pay them. The funding of the household will likely fall mainly to you, so a lucrative career calling is advisable. Budget carefully, for a balloon payment is due when they reach college age, on the purely theoretical notion that advanced education will speed them on their way to financial independence. Early retirement is not in the picture, for you may be tapped again when they want to buy a house or a luxury car, marry at a posh affair, start a business or bop around overseas for awhile before settling down. When you die, you give them whatever is left and hope they won’t fight over it.

Likewise, health or life insurance, pension benefits, stock options, paid holidays or vacations are not part of this gig. You might obtain these perks from your other employer, and perhaps include your housemates in the company’s medical plan. Otherwise, the rewards in this reverse-salary scheme are essentially psychic. If all goes well, after many years of devotion and sacrifice you will have earned the respect and affection of those you have sent forth to conquer the world, as well as the chance to at last drive a two-seater ragtop; fold yourself into a state-of-the-art Barcalounger, hoist a few cold ones, and assume sole control of the TV clicker. Good luck!