Dadhood is nature's way of keeping men from becoming the insufferable pigs that feminists have accused us of being for decades now. Show me a dad who hasn't gone to church at least once in his life with unidentifiable stains on his tie, and I'll show you a dad who takes himself way too seriously.
True story: Back in the days when ties were required at work (this was during my so-called "starter marriage") I was sitting at my desk hacking away at my computer. One of my coworkers wandered by and commented, "Strained peas?" I was so intent on my uncooperative program that I must have stared at her like she had just come from the mother ship. "Beg pardon?" was my confused enjoinder. "Strained peas," she insisted. "You must have fed the baby strained peas recently, because you have a spot on your tie." She was chuckling, but she was right. I just hadn't noticed. I smiled and assured her that they were delicious, as my son would never have willingly eaten them without a fight.
Not taking myself too seriously allows me to enjoy my family at different levels. One of the best things a non-serious dad can do is take his kids very seriously. Acting as if their little problems or conundrums are worthy of Daddy's full attention makes them feel important. I almost drew the line at being Barbie's fashion advisor once, but in the end I relented and offered my opinion. "But, Daaaaad!" she accused. "That doesn't match her shoes!" I wasn't ready to capitulate. "So change the shoes!" I shot back. "But, Daaaaaaaaaad!" came the last straw. "She has to wear the boots so she can cook the dinner!"
I must state, for the record, that she had never once in her short life witnessed either her mother or, for that matter, her father ever cook while wearing boots. I have no clue where that idea came from, and I'm certain I don't want to know. Secretly, I believe that these kids are more sophisticated than we give them credit for, and they come up with this nonsense just to watch Daddy get exasperated. I think it gives them an adrenalin rush.
Thus I spend my days alternately wearing that long-suffering look that my own Dad perfected, or the immensely smug and proud look of a Dad whose kids are already way smarter than he is. It's an interesting combination, and the "conflict" (if one may indeed call it that) fuels my sardonic sense of humor.
Of course there are things that I take very seriously. I also let my children know that parts of life are and need to be very serious. I also let them know, on the other hand, that it's okay to have fun with life. Especially when they're kids.
I hope I never forget that lesson.