Here is one of my dad tales for you to enjoy from a few years ago. Happy Skeptical Father’s Day!
A lot of being a parent is repeating yourself. Pick up your clothes. Wash your hands. WE DO NOT BITE EACH OTHER (just had to restate that one). And these repetitive statements aren’t just about mundane things. A few weeks ago my ten-year-old daughter told me, “My friend says God is real.” I saw it was time once again to bring up The elephant under my hat.
For those of you who have been following my exploits (misadventures?) here on Laughing in Disbelief, you may have seen some of my memes. As you can see, the recent ones are selfies which were taken at the local coffee shop while I’ve been in the grip of caffeinated bliss. From doing these pics, I’ve noticed that using the Jardine filter (black and white) really does bring out my naturally pale non-cancerous glow that I have even in the middle of summer.
My point is that I wear my Strand Bookstore baseball cap quite a bit. No, I’m not bald. A lot of people think that because a middle aged guy is wearing a baseball cap that means he’s bald. Not true. I wear the hat because my blue eyes are super sensitive to light. I was squinting in most of the family pictures from back in the day, vainly trying to keep the tears back from the onslaught of solar rays. Good times.
I suppose that was digression #2.
Being a parent means using the materials at hand to explain stuff. They are props to be used in the service of not raising idiots. The elephant under my hat uses, well, that old cap that is so old it has faded from black to charcoal-green. (Don’t judge me, I love that thing.)
“Look,” I peered at my daughter, “if I said I had an elephant under my cap, would you believe me?”
“No,” she replied.
“What would you ask me to do?”
“Take your hat off!” she said.
I took the cap off. No elephant.
“The thing is whenever someone makes a statement like, I have an elephant under my hat, or God is real, then its the person who is making that statement has to give evidence to support his or her point. If you say you have an elephant under your hat, then you have to support that assertion. It isn’t someone else’s job to prove it isn’t true.”
At that moment she seemed to understand what I was saying, but when you’re a parent, you don’t really know if all this repeating is getting you anywhere. In some ways the patron saint of parents (religious or otherwise) is Sisyphus. Sisyphus is that poor fellow in Greek mythology who is spending eternity rolling a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again. Dad and Mom can spend a good deal of work rolling that stone up the hill. (*Now, this Swiss Army knife is not a toy. Be responsible!.) Only to have it roll down again. (*Oh my fictitious God! Why did you cut your hair with the Swiss Army knife!).
However, there are times when there is a light at the end of that tunnel, and it isn’t an oncoming train. A few days ago my daughter and I were hanging out at the house. She told me that she had been playing with two other girls. One was my daughter’s age and the other a few years younger. For the sake of protecting the guilty and innocent, I’ll call the older girl Mary, and the younger one Sally.
“Mary told Sally that there was a killer going around the neighborhood at night,” my daughter offered. “She also said that the killer was going to come to Sally’s house tonight!”
“Oh, well, what did you say?”
“I asked her how she knew that, and she said ‘I just know it.’ And I told her that saying ‘I just know it’ isn’t proof.”
“Well, you’re f*cking right about that.” (Surprisingly my kids haven’t adopted my penchant for colorful language. I know, I’m working on curbing that colorful language.)
I sat there basking in the skeptical afterglow. But those moments, while it’s important to enjoy them, should not get in the way of business that needs to get done.
“How’s Sally doing? Did she believe you or Mary? Is she scared?”
“She’s OK,” my budding skeptic said.
“That’s good, but if Mary goes around saying more mean things like that to young kids, then you have to tell her it’s mean and not OK.”
“What if she does it anyway?” My daughter is no fool. She knows there are times that people, regardless of how old they are, will only stop doing bad things when force is applied.
“You tell me, and I’ll talk to her parents. That will take care of things.”
Thankfully Mary came around and stopped scaring little kids about make-believe monsters.
If only adults were so easy to convince.
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