Did You Hear the One About the Dad?

by Bob Turner on June 18, 2024

“What do you call a bear with no teeth?” 

“A gummy bear.”

“What’s the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?”

“An alligator will see you later, while a crocodile will see you after while.”

Ba Dum Tss

These are some of the zingers told at White Station’s third annual Dad Joke Rodeo, a moment just before the sermon on Father’s Day where dads can come up to the open mic and regale their kids with their lamest attempts at humor.

Mom braces herself, hoping he doesn’t say something embarrassing. The kids roll their eyes. As early as the 1500’s people knew, “He who laughs last, laughs best.” Of course, it was a He. He always thinks he’s so funny. 

Dad deserves some laughs once in a while. It can be rough out there for men.

Women perform better in high school and outnumber men on college campuses. Two-thirds of the bottom end of any high school graduating class will have a Y chromosome. Men overwhelm prisons.  In America, men account for 75% of suicides. Some of this disparity must be attributed to the lack of a father at home, which could affect boys more than girls. Nearly 25% of children in the U.S. are raised in home without a father. About 90% of runaway children do not have a father at home. Missing a father's presence is bad for girls; it can be crippling for boys.

Conservatives will insist that radical feminism, equity-based culture, and other social values have left the men behind. Often their complaints drift far right faster than a Harrison Butker field goal try. In response, liberals blame systemic mass incarceration, toxic masculinity, a declining minimum wage, and greedy tax policy. Interestingly, one group is often unpersuaded by these systemic arguments: men.

It is misguided to put too much blame for the struggles of men and dads on modern policies or American culture wars. Anyone who has read Genesis knows that the problems of boys aren’t new. Men have been reckless (Noah), abusive (Lot), aloof (Isaac), and preferential (Jacob) since the beginning. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do better.

Some men have tried to be a better father than what they experienced as a child. There’s a good intention here, but it can often result in a very ungenerous evaluation of our own father. 

When we judge our fathers against the norms of our times, we can inadvertently make him out to be a Philistine who worked too much, never showed affection, insisted the music of his childhood was better, and told us to stop talking while he watched TV. This critique of dad might not tell the full truth about him or us, and it often makes us the Nelson Mandela who was raised by Homer Simpson.  

Yes, he struggled to show emotion, and said “I love you” as frequently as he ordered a kale salad. No question many fathers spent too much time at work (but we rarely complained about his long hours when he was paying our college tuition). But there is no pride  in being chronologically-superior to our old man. Was he old-fashioned? Sure. But that’s because he was literally fashioned in an older time. God engineered it so that we always have our genesis in different eras than our parents. This is why we call them generations. 

On Father’s Day I called my dad to tell him I love him. I grew up hearing him say that to me, so it’s nothing new for us. He was affectionate and firm, a rare combination. I called from the front steps of my workplace in the middle of a busy moment and interrupted our conversation to say, “Hey Dad, I need to go, the Marco’s Pizza guy is pulling up.” Yeesh. I could hear Harry Chapin singing in my head instantly (ok, dad was right about the music). Sometimes we get caught up chasing something in the moment and forgetting to keep our lives in perspective. So as we evaluate our dads, we probably need to extend a bit of grace.

The truth is simple: if we have the time to reflect upon our childhood, and the health to be alive to do it, the interest to do better, and the confidence to think we can—then we are probably doing pretty well as a person. Pops would be proud. He deserves some credit. In nearly every circumstance, an imperfect dad is better than an absentee father. 

Maybe the best thing we can do is to laugh about our own experiences with our dad and mourn with those who didn’t get those same experiences. Feeling sorry for ourselves won’t make us feel better and it won’t make him do better. But having some levity about life could offer everyone some joy.

Relating to our dad isn’t always easy. But neither is raising kids. 

No joke.


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