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John Eggers: Standards for dad: How are you doing?

Someone once said, “The greatest gift I ever had came from God; I call him Dad.” Whoever said that was a wise person. I wish I’d thought of it.

Since God made all dads, the standards to be a dad are high. What do you think they might be? I have ten for your consideration.

• Standard 1. You have to love soap-on-a-rope.

Bill Cosby said, “Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.”

How many presents have you been given that were in the soap-on-a-rope category? I am waiting for the first soap-on-a-rope store for dads. It will make a fortune. Think of a store that contains all of those things advertised on TV. Kids couldn’t stay away from it.

I gave my dad a soap-on-a-rope gift one time. It was a picture of a lake with a light bulb in the back, which, of course, lit up. Remember the old Hamm’s Beer signs? It was similar but not that good and without the advertisement and the rippling waters. I wonder whatever happened to it? I know it hung in our basement for at least a year.

Whatever dads receive as gifts, you have to treat them as if they were from God himself.

• Standard 2. Be careful, someone might call your dad.

“Nelson Mandela was so upset over the invasion of Iraq, he called Bush’s dad. How embarrassing, when world leaders start calling your father.” (Jay Leno)

Dads raise their kids pretty much on how their dad’s raised them.

One sure way of knowing you are in trouble is when someone calls your dad and complains about how you are raising your kids. Do you know what WWDD means? It stands for “What would dad do?” Faced with a decision about parenting? Remember WWDD. It might save you from an embarrassing call from your dad.

• Standard 3. Can you be patient enough to be a good dad?

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” (Mark Twain)

Here’s what I think. If you do the best you can do to be a dad, you can’t do any better. Be patient, act responsibly and your kids will eventually come around. It takes a long time for kids to grow up. Remember when you were in their shoes?

• Standard 4. Can you be satisfied with just being a survivor?

“Forget about surviving 40 years in the music business. Just surviving 27 years of Nicole Richie has been a struggle-and-a-half. I stand here as a survivor, I want you to know, for all the parents out there.”(Lionel Richie, father of Nicole Richie)

It’s tough being a dad. Kids grow up too, too fast. Sometimes we throw up our hands and say, “I don’t know what more I can do.” We all have said that. Still, you have to be a survivor when it comes to being a dad. You have to stick it out. You can never give up. Being a dad is a life long job.

• Standard 5. Can you be satisfied with low expectations?

“If the new American father feels bewildered and even defeated, let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any fathering situation has a 50 percent chance of being right.” (Bill Cosby)

As a father you have done many fine things. It’s good to think of the good things you have done from time to time after you have made, let’s say, not a good decision. We all make mistakes being a dad. I guess the important thing is not to repeat them.

• Standard 6. Can you disagree with your wife and still be friends?

“My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, ‘You’re tearing up the grass.’  ‘We’re not raising grass,’ Dad would reply. ‘We’re raising boys.’”  (Harmon Killebrew)

Dads and moms don’t always think alike. This is confusing for kids. Kids are confused enough without parents making things worse. It’s a good idea to have a family meeting now and then to clear the air. As one wise counselor advised parents, “keep talking.” That’s pretty good advice.

• Standard 7. Can you be satisfied with an empty wallet?

“A father carries pictures where his money used to be.” (Anonymous)

Gosh, how much does it cost to raise a child these days? I could check on the Internet, but I don’t want to spoil my day. Dads do what they have to do to raise a family.

When I visit my father, he still insists on paying for part of my gas. I stopped arguing a long time ago because I knew it gave him pleasure to do it. I guess that’s the answer. We spend the money on our kids because it gives us pleasure and we would rather look at photos of our kids in our wallets then pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

• Standard 8. Can you live with being confused?

“And then there was the 16-year old daughter that came home at 3:00 in the morning carrying a Gideon Bible.” (Anonymous)

For dad’s there will be many moments when we are completely confused, dumbfounded, perplexed. What do we do? Sometimes there is just no good answer. In those situations maybe the best thing to say is, “Well, I hope you didn’t do anything stupid and we’ll talk more tomorrow.”

• Standard 9. Can you say “no” to your child?

“When I was a kid, I said to my father one afternoon, ‘Daddy, will you take me to the zoo?’ He answered, ‘If the zoo wants you, let them come and get you.’” (Jerry Lewis)

Saying “no” to your kids is one of the toughest things dads have to do. I am still not very good at it. As hard as it is, you have to set limits and keep them. The “quick fix” is an easy solution but will it be a long-term solution?

• Standard 10. Can you put together a Sears Swing Set?

Unless you can put together a Sears Swing Set, you may be lacking some serious dad skills. You have to use your cognitive skills to be able to read those complicated directions. You have to use your psychomotor skills for actually putting this perplexing piece of machinery together. And, you have to use your affective skills, which have to do with holding your temper while your son and daughter keep asking, “Is it ready yet? Is it ready yet?”

If you are a new dad and you haven’t really thought about “Dad Standards,” you might begin with the Sears Swing Set first. If you can master that, you can master anything. Happy Father’s Day.

JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.