7 Reasons To Be A Father
This piece is entitled 7 Reasons to be a Father. It is not 7 Reasons You Fathered a Child, we all have our own reasons for that, often involving a combination of beer and lust or – for the less fortunate – calendars, timetables, fatigue and oh God, it’s bloody sex again. This is a plea to bring back into popular usage the title Father. It’s important that women read this too, as it’s mostly from them that children learn how to address their fathers. I’m printing this piece out and posting it all around the house when I’ve finished it for my wife to see because I, more than almost anything else, also wish to be addressed as Father. Here’s why.
1. Fathers Have A Day. Dads and daddies don’t have a day, but fathers do. It’s called Father’s Day, and it’s a whole day devoted to the celebration of fathers. Less formally titled male parents have nothing similar to Father’s Day. The nearest thing they have is Daddy Day Care, which is a film starring Eddie Murphy from 2003, made a mere eighteen years after he ceased to be funny.* If you want to be celebrated, you have to be a father.
2. It’s Not Mentioned In The Phrase “Who’s The Daddy”. I have an irrational hatred of the phrase “who’s the daddy” that borders on the pathological. I don’t know why people ever need to say this (actually, it’s usually bellowed, boorishly) but they do. I dislike this phrase so much that my (fortunately resistible) desire on hearing it is to beat the sayer around the head with the nearest sturdy but moveable objects to hand – which today, would be a large beige parasol and a teacup** – while saying “who’s the father“. This is problematic as the best known user of this phrase is Ray Winstone (in the film Scum), and in terms of people you’d be ill-advised to assault with a beige parasol and a teacup, he’s right up there with Sebastien Chabal and the hairy-armed woman from my local branch of Superdrug. If more people used the word father, I’d be in less danger.
3. It’s Your Duty. While my son and I were playing our version of peek-a-boo that bears the catchy name, Where’s Father? My visiting mother-in-law looked at me aghast. “He can’t call you Father” she said, “that sounds horrible. Fathers are remote and distant”. While I agreed with the first part of what she said (he can’t call me Father. He’s a baby. He usually refers to me as Agoo-Agoo), I wholly disagree with the latter part. Fathers are not remote and distant; bad parents are. Father is just a name associated with another age when the social norm was for parents (especially male ones) to be more distant from their children. Were all fathers cold and distant? No. Were all of these men bad parents? No. But they’ve been tainted by the modern distaste for the word father. Don’t we owe it to people who will be forever associated with the word father to reclaim the name, to show that being addressed as father and being a good parent are not exclusive? Yes. I think we do. Being addressed as Father, rather than as Daddy could be seen as performing a civic duty. A very untaxing one at that, which is by far the best sort.
4. The Name Father Lends Itself To Formality. If you ever ask a child what their dad has been up to, the answer is never good. It’s usually, “Daddy drank too much and fell asleep on the kitchen floor.” Enquire after a father, however, and surely you’ll get something more formal and considered: “Father imbibed injudiciously and was importuned adjacent to the pantry” or “Father’s club won a tournament of association football and, on his return to the familial abode, he was so awash with joy and hubris that he swooned in the scullery”. The more formal account of your character and your recent occurrences will give everyone a much better impression of you.***
5. Father Is Right For Our Era. It’s been a trend in recent years for children to be named more traditionally and formally and Britain is now teeming with Samuels, Lilys, Lottys and Benjamins. With superb irony, there was even a flood of Noahs two years ago. What better fit for the era then, than to be known as Father? Can you imagine any conversation beginning “Hephzibah.” “Yes, Dad”? No of course you can’t. Gary has a dad. Jeremiah requires a father.
6. The Word Father Is Synonymous With Excitement And Adventure. The word father is redolent of suitably-attired men drinking port in their oak-panelled libraries; of men that had rounded the horn six times afore the mast when they were scarcely twenty; of men that invented telephones and telegrams and multitudinous things that don’t begin with tele; of men that built vast industries where once there had been nothing; of men that – with scant regard for the peril they placed themselves in – explored and charted the world that was their plaything; of unreconstructed men that sallied forth to ride atop elephants and take pot-shots at tigers whilst clad in crisp linen; of men that reposed languidly – though impeccably – in the leather armchairs of their clubs and in the saloons of well-appointed hotels; of men that wore a panoply of hats – tall and short, soft and hard, cloth and silk – for every occasion, but never indoors; of men that marched long in shambling, hobnailed ranks to their capital when their families fell hungry; of bewhiskered men that shrank their world, bringing far-flung and wondrous exotica and ephemera to and from all the ends of the earth; of men that unsealed newly-received missives at their breakfast tables with a silver letter opener and a flourish; of good men whose reliability, indomitability, solidity and sheer bloody ability went unremarked upon though thoroughly remarkable; of men for whom adventure, discovery, conquest, knowledge, power, expansion, great works, boundlessness and greatness were commonplace. Those men were fathers. And dad? Dad drives to B&Q on a Saturday morning in his people carrier, puts up shelves in the afternoon, drinks crap lager while watching Britain’s Got Talent in the evening and then falls asleep at night during Match of the Day. And Saturday is the highlight of his week. Being a father is so much more exciting.
7. It’s Rare. There just aren’t many Fathers out there so you’ll stand out. This has other benefits too. Should you find yourself in a beer garden populated by the balding, the pudgy, the badly-attired and the bloodshot of eye, observe what happens when a child calls out “Dad”. Everyone stops what they are doing and looks around, certain that their progeny is in urgent need of their attention, only to discover that it’s the child of someone else who then announces to the assembled company that they have done a big plop. If your child calls out “Father”, you’re likely to be the only person that looks around so it’s not just more individual, it’s more sociable too, as no one else has their conversation about how much of Match of the Day they missed last night when they dozed off disrupted, and no one gets to hear about the big plop. Except you.
So, who’s the daddy? Who cares? Who’s the father? It’s me. Indubitably.
*Oh God. I’m old enough to remember when Eddie Murphy was funny. This is a truly horrific watershed moment.
**Note to self: Sit near more manly objects when writing.
***This may be fanciful. Learning to crawl up the stairs would be more efficacious.