virtual children by Scott Warnock

Dumb dad

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Dads are dumb. I’m a dad, so therefore I’m dumb. If you’re a dad, logic dictates that you too are dumb. Dads are blithering, detached, bumblers. They’re oblivious. Easy to fool. That’s what the world is telling our kids.

Here’s a commercial you’ve seen recently (or something quite close to it): The kids are in the treehouse rocking it out after drinking lots of sugar-filled beverages. They’re dancing. Playing video games. The editing is quick; the camera lingers nowhere more than a second. In comes dumb dad. He makes a lot of noise. If he has to climb a ladder he falls once or twice. By time he arrives, the kids now are all reading books or playing violins or building supercomputers. Dumb dad puts on that stupid grin of his, the kids wink at each other over their books and Strads. Dumb dad ambles out.

The party begins again.

Dumb dad is everywhere in our culture. He is never on the ball. He’s never up to speed. He’s never with it. He sits in front of a plate, in a stupor, wondering wide-eyed what the food could be.

Then he eats it anyway.

He “babysits” his own children. He doesn’t know what they are up to anyway. He may be curious for a moment, but, hey, sports are on TV! And is that a beer ad?! He goes back to that.

Ah, beer. Dumb dad loves his beer. He’ll do anything for beer. Even though there are a googolplex of beer options in the local bar alone, he will do anything for the one particular can of beer in front of him. He will stare at it, even if something awful is about to happen, like he will be hit by a (non-beer-toting) truck. If there’s a fire in the house, he’ll rush in to save that beer.

Then he’ll return to get his children.

He can’t talk about anything important with the kids. He says, “Go see your mother.” If it’s something about a daughter, like about a boyfriend or, good forbid, something about her growth into a woman, he plugs his ears and yells “Gahhh!’

He can’t deal with it.

The kids have it all over him, because they know all this stuff about dumb dad. The wool can be pulled over his eyes. The seemingly obvious can be made impenetrable to dumb dad.

Maybe, dumb dads, our time will come. Maybe we’re already making headway, as CNN points out. But I’m doubtful. Sure, we’ll evolve. We’ll grow. Some day we’ll be slobbering over a cake, pants on backward, trying to read the words in icing script: Happy birthday, Dumb Grandpop.

Will our life flash before our eyes? Will we suffer ego despair? No, it’ll be okay. The kids will tell us it’s yummy beercake. We’ll happily chomp away, noticing not the vanilla flavor — or their knowing winks to one another.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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10 Responses to “Dumb dad”

  1. So very accurate. But Dad has to be dumb so Mom can be nothing but a sexy beer waitress because who would want a smart, capable woman for a wife or mother?

  2. Guilty

  3. On target! My husband and I look at TV commercials with disgust in the way they portray men generally and fathers particularly. Dumb dad, indeed!

  4. But, amazingly, as the kiddies progress through college, they begin to discover that you might have learned something. In their mid-twenties, they might even ask for advice. Of course then the long slide toward slobber-land begins.

  5. This has always been a major pet peeve of mine… and it’s not just in television commercials… Disney is famous for bumbling (or more often ABSENT) fathers. And even in children’s books… I wouldn’t let my girls read the Berenstain Bears growing up because I was so irked at the way the father was portrayed.

    Lastly, I once heard a comedian rant about this very topic. He made mention of a commercial for some user-friendly computer that touted, “It’s so easy even Dad can use it.” The comedian then said, “Yeah, you know Dad… the one who BOUGHT you the F***ING computer!” I can’t think of this topic without remembering that one-liner of his! lol

  6. This is something my father-in-law has been complaining about for years!

  7. Scott, you write with an inner knowledge of the experience of the humiliation a father must have in front of his kids…while a dumb-dad commercial comes on TV. Unfortunately, I, childless (except, as Mr. Chips pointed out, for hundreds or even thousands of students), will never experience this so directly. But doesn’t this archetype I MEAN stereotype grow out of those lovable sweet family sitcoms of the ‘sixties? Maybe Father Knew Best and Ward always had the last, wise word, but Dick Van Dyke was always tripping down his own split-level stairs when coming home from work, and I forget all the other examples I was going to adduce. Well, maybe Seth Rogen is the new Robert Young…

  8. Scotty, as usual spot on. I can’t watch ten minutes of TV with my kids (Disney, Teen Nick), without the stereotypical “idiot” father being put on display.


  9. Scott, as a grandparent now, I am actually scared about the repercussions of what my two granddaughters (age 10 and 7) watch on what is suppose to be “family friendly” TV such as NICK and Disney Channel. There is so much of disrespectfulness shown by children actors of their parents….all just to be funny and cool in the shows.Sadly, I think taking prayer out of schools, and disregarding the ten commandments “thou shall
    honor thy mother and father” has everything to do with
    “dumb Dads”scenario. Keep writing:)

  10. They can portray us however they want. For those of us who have been the kid pulling up that wool, we already are schooled in what to look for. Nice try kid, but I taught my friends that little trick 30 years ago.
    Better luck trying it out on Mom, she doesn’t even like beer.

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