Father’s Day – My New Orleans
Celebrating dads in a mom’s world
Did you notice a few decades ago when all the sitcom fathers suddenly became idiots? Stumbling and stumbling through life waiting for Mom to get them out of the deadlock.
Mom keeps the housework together, keeps the kids clean and fed and on time for school, juggles work at home while dad swallows beer in the garden on the grill, burning the burgers while talking about the Put with his equally stupid neighbor over the fence.
Father certainly doesn’t know any better.
On TV and in glossy ads, moms are interested in kittens, clean counters, scent linens, and yard maintenance. Dads love beer, pizza, and Doritos. And, at Christmas, redemption comes with a perfect snow-covered house. With a perfect snowy driveway and a perfect luxury sedan wrapped in a red bow. For Mom.
Yes, that’s what we fathers do every year in December. It’s on TV every year, so that must be true, right? The rest of the time, we are mostly content with a smooth, shiny and without animal hair, with a hot bath, scented candles and a glass of Chablis for mom at the end of a hard day’s work, during that dad is still in the garage trying to figure out how to change the spark plugs on the lawn mower.
No worries, mom will take care of it in the morning. Moms are sold foundations, fragrances and soft shades of color, flattering underwear, soft linens, stylish training gear, and pet food. Men are sold light beers, nose hair clippers, testosterone pills, and remedies for erectile dysfunction and muscle loss.
It’s June now. What’s one of the first things that comes to your mind? Fathers Day? Not likely. While in May, Mother’s Day is a must. We just had May. It’s a whole month to celebrate super moms. She sweeps, she wipes, she scrubs, she struggles, she takes the children to the pool and to the doctor, treats the cows, scratches the cats, takes the children for snowballs, (change the candles), fixes the problems the laptop, calls the repairman when needed, and usually looms high above the home and over the house.
Dad? He cuts the grass (sometimes), hangs his belly over the grill on Sunday evenings, but above all he cuts. And he’s not a very good tailor. It’s June.
In May, there are two aisles full of Mother’s Day cards at Walgreen. In June, there’s a meager arrangement of a dozen Father’s Day cards that say things like, “You are the best dad” or “You are a great dad and thank you for that.”
Have you ever seen a Hallmark movie about Amazing Dads? Case in point. Advertisements for Bounty and timeless diamonds abound. (As opposed to temporary diamonds?) Is there a timeless tie?
I play in a baseball league on Sunday mornings. But no match was scheduled for Mother’s Day this year. Because… Mother’s Day. And probably so that we can serve them breakfast in bed for all the toil in the world they go through. On the occasion of Father’s Day, our match is scheduled as usual this season.
We have no respect. I love breakfast in bed as much as the guy next door. Fathers of the world, unite.
Do i look bitter? Do not mistake yourself. I love moms as much as Kay Jewelers. But we should also be recognized – especially here in New Orleans – for the little-known feats and challenges we face that aren’t necessarily universal to all American fathers.
In New Orleans, being a dad means coaching your children’s sports teams, even if you don’t know all the rules of the game in particular, just so no one else does.
In New Orleans, being a father means teaching your kids to drive a car at 14, before someone else does.
In New Orleans, being a dad means taking your 14-year-old to the neighborhood bar and offering him his first drink – before someone else does.
In New Orleans, being a father is trying to convince your kids that accordions are cool. Being a dad in New Orleans is telling your kids that, no, these aren’t real pirates walking around the French Quarter all day and night. They are actors. It’s their job, to dress like chimney sweeps with top hats and canes telling fables to tourists. No, there are no ghosts in this window. It is a reflection. These pirates, they play a role and fill a niche. It’s an industry here. People come here from all over the world to be lied to.
Maybe one day, my son, you can become a pirate! Not a lot of openings in Arizona, but a lot here at home.
Being a dad in New Orleans means stocking up a cooler full of beer for your child’s second birthday party. If not, who will come?
Being a dad in New Orleans is learning how to change a child’s diaper in a Port-O-Let while bottle-feeding another. And then come home and tell mom it’s been okay. No cuts, no bruises. No harm, no fault.
In New Orleans, being a father means explaining to your children why you have more dresses in your closet than costumes. A red dress for the Red Dress Run, outfits for the Moms Ball, masked golf tournaments and for the occasional Mardi Gras where you didn’t prepare a suitable costume in time.
It’s just what it is. Men in dresses. New Orleans. It’s like cheese and beef gravy on a fried shrimp po-boy. It’s just what we do.
If in doubt, just put on a dress. In New Orleans, being a dad is buying your son his first boa at eight years old. Before someone else does.
The best we can do is de-stigmatize it. Explain how every self-respecting man in New Orleans has at least one dress in his closet, often several. And maybe some glittery sneakers.
Explain this to Tulsa.
Weird hats and weird masks that the children of Des Moines don’t find in their fathers’ closets. They find boots. Camouflage. Hunting rifles. No high heels at all.
And the scales. Dads buy the scales, personalize the scales. Carry the ladders to the car. Load the scales. Unload the scales. Secure the ladders for the parades. Spend five hours protecting your children’s faces from pearls and winged balls, recharge the scales, bring the scales home and put the scales away until next year and cross your fingers that they are soon too big or too old to plant their Moon Pie butts on a rocky death machine.
In New Orleans, many families have more scales than your typical Tru-Value Hardware store in Kansas City.
Every now and then, new products and technologies appear to help with contemporary fatherhood. Cup holders on strollers to hold your beer. Great call! Those weird kid backpack things that keep your hands free when you take the kid for a walk and your hands free to hold your beer.
Being a father is a difficult landscape to deal with no matter where you are raising children. From New Haven to Salt Lake City. Being a dad is the best of all worlds, the hardest of all worlds. New Orleans, however, presents unique opportunities and challenges.
In other places, the rule of thumb of parents is to tell your children not to talk to strangers. Good luck with that in New Orleans. Where no one is a stranger. Everyone is just strange. And so we send our kids out into the world and they talk too much and laugh too loudly and live too big and make people panic in general.
That’s all they know.
Being a black dad in New Orleans means having The Talk with your kids. About cops, security guards and clerks. About certain neighborhoods to avoid. On both sides of the color line. And about some people. Be careful there. No one ever said parenthood was an equal opportunity experience.
My theory on parenting has always been that children are like dogs: one is not enough, three is too much. Of course, I had three.
You hold these precious jewels in your big, soft 21st century high-tech daddy’s hands, reveling in the wonders of life. Born of your kidneys. (Sort of.) And you look into this darling kid’s eyes and he or she looks at you with relative disinterest and you can say what they’re thinking: you smell bad. And you realize yourself: I’m screwed. Where is the guide?
What about the pandemic, climate change, racism, white supremacy, voting rights, terrorism, street riots, volcanoes (volcanoes?), Corruption, Wall Street, the 1 percent, the remaining 99%, and where have all the butterflies gone?
What good is childhood without butterflies?
Where have all the butterflies gone?
So your child is running on the sidewalk. She falls and scratches her knee and howls like a wounded animal. “Is she broken,” dad asks worriedly. “Is she okay?” Mom comes to get her, gives her a kiss on the cheek, a slap on the buttocks and says, “Go play now.” And then comes the side eye. Dude, relax. They don’t break that easily. You don’t have a mower blade to sharpen, she says?
And then: Oh wait, I already did this last week, she said.
Dads are becoming obsolete, because of drones, artificial intelligence, Amazon, Grub Hub and… moms. They do everything we do, faster and better. And they generally look better to do it.
We spill stuff. We’re breaking stuff. We rearrange the dresses in our wardrobe. We explain to our children that the color yellow is actually gold. Then we sit down for a meal of light beer and Doritos with our buddies to watch the Mets game and greet the five and greet and toast us for being the rulers of our perches.
Life is Beautiful. And if the shit breaks down, Mom’s there to take care of it. That’s why she’s good.