W. Bruce Cameron: Parenting Teens Makes You Appreciate Your Dad
W. Bruce Cameron is the bestselling author of A Dog's Purpose and 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. In his latest work, A Dad's Purpose: One Man's Search for the Reason Nobody is Listening to Him, Cameron focuses on his favorite role: Dad. For this Father's Day, Goodreads asked Cameron to share his thoughts on being a son, father, and imagining the good life of someday being a grandfather:
When I was a teenaged boy, I asked my father if there was anything he wished he had inherited from his parents. He replied, "infertility."
At the time I wasn't precisely sure what he meant, but that was because I couldn't smell myself. I also felt I had won the last debate we'd had, which was something like, "Resolved: I'm sixteen and deserve to drive a sports car." I was confident I'd won all of my debates with him.
"Resolved: Grades are not that important because your generation has ruined the planet anyway."
"Resolved: I shouldn't have a curfew because I'm no longer a baby, I am an adult and I need my allowance money now."
"Resolved: The second I turn eighteen I am getting my own apartment and moving out of here."
(Oddly, when it came to this last debate, I actually did win, with my father telling me he "couldn't wait for the day." Though when I actually turned eighteen I didn't move anywhere.)
It wasn't until my own son entered the painful, venomous period known as puberty that I fully grasped what my father had been trying to tell me.
"You don't realize," my son seethed at me, "that my generation has it worse than any generation in the history of the world because your generation has ruined the planet."
"Oh my God," I cried in realization, "I was such a jerk to my father!"
Never mind the paradoxical point that by the time you're having conversations with your son about such things as "body spray is no substitute for a shower especially after six days" it's a little late to be wishing for a case of infertility. I'm simply saying that I promise you there isn't a parent in the world who hasn't at some point wistfully wondered what it would be like to be childless.
When there are babies in the house, the lack of sleep makes your eyes feel like they've spent the night rolling in a beach in New Jersey. Remember the movie Contagion, where there's a scene that has hundreds of people lying sick on cots in a high school gymnasium? I saw that part and thought, "they are so lucky, they get to sleep."
Of course, having children in school means you are living a contagion. You'll catch every virus and flu and worse, but will you get to sleep until you feel better? Of course not! Your kids are sick! Get out of bed, one of them just threw up on your face.
Just about the time they start sleeping through the night on a regular basis, they'll get their driver's licenses. And you thought you were having insomnia before. Or your daughters will start dating, which they used to call "courting," as in, "my daughter is courting danger." You think serial killers never went to prom? Of course they did! Your daughter is probably dating a serial killer right now.
This is what it is like to be a dad—you know exactly what is going on, but no one will listen to you except maybe the dog. Certainly your own parents will be no help.
Me: "I left my kids a list of chores to do this weekend while I went to work, and they didn't do a single thing on the list!"
My Dad: [helpless laughter]
My Mom: "What do they want for Christmas?"
Me: "I told them they're grounded, and they all yelled at me and went to their rooms and slammed the door and called their friends to say I'm the meanest man in the world."
My Mom: "They are so cute."
My Dad: [helpless laughter]
A few days later, when I call again, my dad is still laughing.
"All of this," I advise my dog, "is them trying to drive me insane so they can have me committed and then trade in my car for a Jeep."
My dog regards me with wonderfully sympathetic eyes. He seems to understand everything I am saying. Is that crazy? Yes! This is my point. Having kids will make you crazy. In fact, in certain languages, "father" translates to "crazy person." This must be true because my dog says that it is.
So yes, there are times when I suppose I would agree with my father that a little infertility here and there wouldn't have hurt too much. Although, I guess I have to concede that infertility isn't exactly an inheritable trait. Plus, eventually your fertility will show up in your own children. Then they'll be the ones operating on no sleep and two quarts of cold medicine. They'll be the ones who can't get their kids to do chores.
In certain languages, "grandchild" translates to "justice."
W. Bruce Cameron's A Dad's Purpose: One Man's Search for the Reason Nobody is Listening to Him is out now. Add it to your Want to Read shelf here.
Have some great literary father's day advice? Share it in the comments!
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