Joe Rogers: Fathers, yay! Fatherhood, no.
It’s a safe bet that next Sunday somebody will wish me a happy Father’s Day, an occurrence that always leaves me at a bit of a loss for how to respond.
Thanks? You, too?
I can’t claim any personal ownership of the day, because I’m not a father. Thank goodness.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely pro-father. My own has been gone for 12 years now, but he was and still is my hero. And I’m happy for all the many fathers who delight in their role and in their children.
It’s just that I’ve never had any desire to join the club.
My best friend, Tommy Furby, and I used to discuss this. He knew back in college that he wanted a son someday; even had names picked out: William Travis, after a hero of the Alamo.
I told him I wasn’t sure how well William Travis went with Furby.
“Hoss,” he said, “nothing goes with Furby.”
As it happened he had two sons, Travis (without the William) and Joshua. He doted on both boys and tried to convince me that I would do the same with my children, should there be any.
It wasn’t a proposition I cared to put to the test.
That’s the thing, there’s really no middle ground when it comes to having kids. They’re not offered on a trial basis. My understanding is that hospitals have a pretty strict no-return policy.
Nor are they available for rent, which, all things considered, is probably a good idea.
But that’s one of the problems with fatherhood. Some men who aren’t really cut out for it end up being fathers anyway, to no one’s benefit.
Daddy was prepared. His mother once told me he said as a youngster that when he grew up he was going to have a boy and name him Joe. Daddy’s name was Lewis, by the way. His daddy’s name was Joe. His daddy’s name was Lewis. His daddy’s name was Joe. You get the picture.
I was never tempted to continue the pattern.
My wife – and anyone else who knows me – will tell you I am not the most patient person in the world. Especially with humans not yet fully formed.
Once, decades ago, I baby-sat a friend’s 5-year-old daughter for an evening. She was adorable. I took her to Chuck E. Cheese’s for supper, my first experience with that helter-skelter dynamic. By leaving time, I was pretty much ready to hand her off to any willing stranger.
Apparently I’m an outlier. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, more than 90 percent of adults said they either had children already, or wanted to. Only 5 percent said they had no interest in parenthood, up from 4 percent in 1990 but still a distinct minority.
I should note that, my views on fatherhood aside, I do enjoy being an uncle. My brothers have provided seven nieces and nephews among them, my wife’s sisters three more. Not once have I considered giving any of them away.
Then again, I’ve never baby-sat any of them, either.
Uncle’s Day, by the way, is July 27. Spread the word.
Joe Rogers worked for The Clarion-Ledger, The Tennessean and The New York Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jrogink.