- Bull Garlington is a dad and an award-winning author and columnist. His recent books include Death by Children and The Full English. Read more about Bull at bullgarlington.com
I want to talk to the fathers today. Especially the new guys. Hi. Welcome. I'm not a new guy. I'm an old guy. I come from a generation who saw the installation of colored teevees. Our morning cartoons were interrupted by Watergate. We're grizzled and haggard and worn and we're here to tell you something: you're doing it wrong.
You are gentle and firm and worthy of admiration and I appreciate your positive advocating, I do, but in your overhauling of the good dad toolbox, you've discarded a tool you really, really need. You need a Dadface.
That thing you see in the mirror? That may be the face of a dad, but it is not a Dadface. You know the Dadface. Your dad had one–remember? There you are on your skateboard half-pipe using his $300 seven-iron for ramp jousting. He comes out of the garage and doesn't say a word. He just stares. Like Magneto with a three day beard, he uses only the power of his splenetic visage, bending you to his will, causing you to carry that seven-iron over to him in perfect silence, your pancreas twisting in his gaze. He didn't need to yell.
You've tried it. Your kid races into the playground fountain with his shoes and socks on and you think, "This is it. I'm using the stare," then shine your grim countenance on your child who promptly falls into a slump of giggling oh-my-gods because you look like you just pooped your shorts and here, here my friend, is where you've failed.
It isn't about the way the Dad's face appears. It's not about facial expression. There is no facial expression. It's about what's in your heart and I'm telling you, newbie, for a proper Dadface, you have to fill your heart with a dark inflexible vengeance. You have to suffuse your soul with a murderous spirit. You have to truly believe, while watching your progeny pee in the front yard on a Sunday: I will kill him.
Don't tell me that emotion hasn't fluttered through the dark recesses of your dome like a bat. I know. My son once ripped his pull-ups off in front of my friends, wagged his butt around like a microscopic Magic Mike, and sang "Looook at mmmyyyy buuuutttt!" I felt instant overwhelming dude pride. Fraternity. Bonhomie. I high-fived everybody. Later that day, he mooned my in-laws and I thought: this wouldn't happen if I were childless. That was my Dadface being born.
You'll know when you've got it right. You'll catch your kid running out the back door with a roll of duct tape, an ice cream scoop, and a bowling ball and you'll catch his eye and he'll freeze. You don't know what he's doing. You just know it's going to end with 911 and a bill. Suddenly, though your face belies nothing at all, a Stygian wind will blow through your heart and your kid will feel it. You will witness a miracle:
"Wow! How did these get here? I will put these away so no one gets hurt."