Fatherhood – The Unbirth of Cool

By Jason Menard

All it took was one look at my daughter’s face Friday night to hammer home the final nail in the coffin that housed the last vestiges of one belief I held dear – that I was a cool dad.

Well, it was the look combined with the words, “Oh, please no dad. Please no!”

You see, my daughter’s still at that age where we, as parents, are still revered. She’s nine and looks up to my wife and me as holders of wisdom, people who are fun to hang out with, and adults surprisingly connected to her interests and current popular culture.

But we’re just not cool.

I’m only 37, so I don’t consider myself that old. And, other than the odd lack of understanding about when 1973 actually falls in the timeline of human development (somewhere just after the dinosaurs but prior to computers), my daughter realizes that we grew up in a world not altogether different from what she’s experiencing.

And I’ve firmly embraced the whole Goofy Dad mantle when it suits my purposes — threats of joining her on stage during her dance performances only garner a shake of the head and an “Oh, daddy…”

However, on Friday there was true horror in her eyes. An unabashed, oh-my-goodness-people-will-know-I’m-related-to-this-guy fear. And it’s all because I got my Zumba on in public.

On Friday, at a community event in Westminster Park designed to encourage families to get more active and eat better food, one of the presenters on stage was a Zumba instructor from a local gym. She encouraged the attendees to get up and follow along with the moves.

My daughter and her friend went right up to the front of the stage and, because any excuse to dance is good enough, she was excited to follow along. That is, until she realized that she wasn’t alone.

I’ll be honest — my hips don’t lie. When the opportunity to shake my tail feather is presented, I’m not going to say no. Plus, I figured it was a great opportunity to have a little fun with my daughter.

And then I saw her face. It was a mixture of happiness and horror. It seems I crossed the Acceptable Dad Behaviour line. I can dance with her at home. I can shake my moneymaker in the privacy of our home. I can even play Wii games like Just Dance and the like with her, and she’s happy to encourage my efforts.

But only when nobody else is watching.

We all get to that point, don’t we? It’s just another stage in our children’s development where we go from being the be-all-and-end-all to the I-hope-my-friends-don’t-see-me. Holding hands at the mall eventually devolves to “Can you just drop me off and pick me up in a couple of hours?” We go from being Cool Dad and Super Mom to redefining the meaning of stay-at-home parenting.

At some point we all turn into Uncle Ralph. You know the one… the goofy uncle who breaks out the YMCA at family weddings. In our heads, we’re reliving our youthful glory on the dance floor. Our views of ourselves are filtered through the prism of idealism. We see ourselves as graceful, funk-filled dancing machines, when in reality we’re about 30 seconds behind the beat.

At some point in our lives, we stop dancing to the beat and appear to be dancing to the words. For our kids, that point happens far sooner.

In the end, it all comes back around. We start as our kids’ idols, progress to embarrassments, then return to our place of honour. Inside they may always be a Daddy’s Little Girl, but part of their self-identification process means that they have to separate themselves from our image in the creation of their own.

There’s no point in being sad about it. It’s part of life. But what she – and other kids like her – don’t realize is that this is a time of life that we love. The pressure of being Perfect Dad is gone; now we can revel in the joys of being Goofy Dad.

The embarrassment is just beginning. And I’m going to love every minute of it!

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