Name two things that Dads are good for?


There was a time when a Dad was the shining light in their son’s eyes. He was someone to emulate, learn from, imitate, and admire. He was their source of knowledge, comfort, and entertainment. As the first and foremost male role model in their lives, a Dad held a special place in their son’s life.


At least that is what other fathers have told me! If you were to ask my four sons what my primary role was in their life, you would probably get a diverse set of responses; someone to play catch with, early wrestling partner, tickle-machine and family clown.


Those aren’t horrible labels, lord knows I’ve heard worse, but they don’t fall into the pantheon of hallowed parental roles. And I can live with that. It is the transitional role of the father, as our kids move from childhood to adolescence, that I have always struggled with.




Dads basically become two things when the boys hit mid-teens – a set of car keys and a wallet. Mom’s are still there to bring comfort, joy, compassion and love. Dad’s, wheels and meals! Even conversations are reduced to, well, hand gestures.


The outstretched hand is a symbol for “Car keys now!” Then there is the outstretched hand with the forlorn look which signifies “Money for food!” While the outstretched hand in conjunction with the hound dog expression is for the infamous “Car keys and money” combo.


Gone are the shared passions of watching another Giants comeback fall short in the ninth inning or a familiar Arrested Development episode that still brings a laugh or two. Left behind is the Sunday morning breakfast tradition of pancakes and foamy orange juice.




But in the end, it’s good to keep it all in perspective. I should be grateful I’m still the one holding the keys and the wallet. It won’t be long before they won’t have a need to come to meet at all. Unless, that is, they are looking for someone to play catch with or a tickle-machine!

Here’s the daily calendar of a man without.


Here’s the daily calendar of a man with.


Here’s a man without’s prize possession.


Here’s a man with’s prize possession.






This Fall, my wife and I are preparing for the rare parental double-double. Well, I’m preparing while my spouse is sad about the upcoming prospect. As far as I’m concerned, this is the highly coveted and rarely achieved parental twofer! My guess is this is how the parents of twins feel.


You see our last two sons are preparing to head off to college in the fall. One son spent two years studying at a junior college while the youngest is graduating from high school. By September of this year our house will include myself, my wife and our dog. I think that bears repeating; by September of this year our house will include myself, my wife and our dog. This is the culmination of our twenty-six year journey that began in our modest three bedroom home when our first of four sons was born. 




In their younger days

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to miss them in an inexplicable, confounding way. For all their inherent teen-ness, there will be a void in the house. But at least there will be two less rooms in the house I will need to avoid!


As I prepare for their impending departure, I have begun to compile a list of all that I will miss when they are off studying in some far distant county or state. To that end, here are the 10 reasons why I’m going to miss my teens:


  1. No one to blame for the gassy smell. Oh wait, I still have the dog. Scratch this one.
  2. Looking for the remote. Why is it in the kitchen cabinet?
  3. Always having the bathroom occupied when I need it.
  4. Cleaning up dishes scattered throughout the house. See #2.
  5. Taking a cold shower after the teens have showered for 20 minutes each. 
  6. Doors slamming and feet stomping at 2am.
  7. Hearing those heartening words, “Dad may I borrow your _______?” Fill in the blank: belt, car keys, socks, sweatshirt, credit card, raincoat, laptop, 401K…
  8. The overall teen odor. Seriously, what is that smell?
  9. That heartwarming response to the simple query, how was your day? “Fine.”
  10. The non-response to the text “Where are you?”
  11. I know I said ten, but this is not for me. Costco and Safeway will miss the teens not being at home anymore. Profits will plummet!




I am in the process of raising four sons, and let’s get this out of the way right up front, I am not complaining! While there are definitely some challenges that come with rearing four sons, there are innumerable rewards as well. None come to mind at the moment but give me a minute. Nope, still nothing.


Anyway, as entertaining as it can be at times, there are certain realities that come with the territory. As unique as each of my sons is, these realities can be attributed to all of them. It might be tied to the prefrontal cortex of the brain, or it could be a part of the teen credo that exists somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight. An American Tail. Anyone? Anyone? So, without further preamble, here are my 10 realities of living with your teen.




  1. You can ask them to empty the dishwasher, but you will probably lose two plates and your favorite mug from college.
  2. The living room, family room, kitchen, hallway, garage and bathrooms are all their domain. Consider yourself lucky to have any room at all.
  3. Your standards and their standards are very different.
  4. You can enlist their help in putting up the Christmas lights; just make sure your homeowners’ policy is up-to-date.
  5. Asking for their assistance in a household project will probably require some touchup on your part. Touchup can be defined as completely redoing their portion of the household project.
  6. Planning to watch the Warriors game after a long day at work? Better ensure you have reserved the TV, or you’ll be watching the same episode of The Office for the seventeenth time. “Wait, this is the part where Jim plays that prank on Dwight!”
  7. The teen always has the right-of-way in the hallways of your house. Always!
  8. Curfew is a concept. Time is all relative.
  9. The notion of chores alludes them. I often look in their bedroom and wonder how exactly they manage to get dressed in the morning amid all that chaos.
  10. Quiet is not a theory they have grasped yet. Closing a door, marching on the hardwood floors, grabbing a plate out of the cupboard, burping, talking, chewing, burping again. It is simply not in their vocabulary yet, along with listen and patience.




For every Tiger Woods, there are thousands of frustrated golfers on the links whose Dad put a putter in their hands at the tender age of three. For every Madison Bumgarner there are hundreds of struggling journeymen in the minors who wish they weren’t forced to pitch in the backyard with their fathers until their blisters bled.


Struggling musicians, frustrated artists, inaccurate quarterbacks, no-talent actors, depressed accountants, inedible chefs, fired up firefighters, all living out the dreams of their fathers. If you have dreams you did not pursue during your youth, for whatever reason, don’t force them on your kids. This is their life. Don’t try to fashion your dreams to fit around their lives.




My parents taught me that whatever career path you choose in life, make sure it is something you will enjoy. Even when they were probably panicking inside at my seemingly ill-advised choices, they let me live my own life, make my own mistakes and wander in my own direction (what cliff?). This left me with the satisfaction of knowing it is my own path, and they were always there with loving support and encouragement.


In my experience, I have witnessed many a miserable kid suffering through a Little League practice, and no it wasn’t because I was the coach. As my boys got older, I encountered college students struggling with their accounting classes because they really wanted to pursue architecture.


As they get older, even if your chosen path proves fruitful, there will always be the “what if” factor. What if I had; pursued that zoology major; taken a year off to work in Nome, Alaska; joined the Peace Corps; decided to become a professional cliff diver…


What are your what ifs? Did someone force you to go left rather than right? How does it make you feel, even now when you have a family of your own? Let’s allow our children to select their own path, who knows, they might surprise us!


Last week’s blog focused on the top ten joys of being a teen,  see link below. The information was based on my years of raising four sons, the youngest having just turned seventeen. Granted it was not a firsthand account from an actual teen, but a well-researched compendium culled from over twenty-six cumulative years of observation. I felt it was a thorough and genuinely sound record.


Well, my second son (the outdoors-man on the right) has apparently taken umbrage at my list because, even though he has always claimed to never read my blogs, he sent me an email yesterday offering a counter-list of his own. My first reaction was, someone read my blog! Then my wife suggested I am obligated to offer equal time to my son.


So, without further ado, here is a teen rebuttal. The 10 Worst Things About Being A Teen according to my twenty-four-year-old son. (Note: #4 I find especially painful.)


  1. Parents nagging
  2. No food in the fridge
  3. The internet is down
  4. Family outings and gatherings
  5. Curfews
  6. You forgot your headphones
  7. You have to take your brothers with you everywhere
  8. Your teacher calls on you when you didn’t even raise your hand
  9. Being asked the same three questions by every adult ever
  10. More Nagging!




The next time your eleven-year-old says they are sorry, treasure that moment because it is the last time you will hear it for nine years. The reason is simple. In their clouded, visually impaired, reality-skewed mind, they are never wrong.


It must be a joyous experience to be seventeen… it has been too long for me to properly recall. But imagine, the entire world is before you, dangling on a string. Unfortunately, your parents are the ones holding that damn string. If it weren’t for them the world, and all who inhabit it, would be so much better off.




Samuel Clemens circa 1907

Whenever I suffer from TMTT (too much teen time) I am reminded of my favorite quote of all time attributed to Mark Twain, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in 7 years.” 


I believe that is how every teen perceives the world. They view parents exactly the way the Disney Channel portrays us in every teenage sitcom; brain addled, befuddled, incapable of coherent thought and depending entirely on the knowledge and wisdom of our teenage children to survive. So, without any additional preamble, here are the top ten joys of being a teen.


  1. You are never wrong! You are profoundly confident in every assertion you make and believe wholeheartedly in your unequivocal infallibility.
  2. Life is perfect when you are with your friends, without any parental interaction.
  3. Protein Bars – an instant meal!
  4. School is an unnecessary hindrance on my way to my first million $ before I turn thirty.
  5. Earbuds – “I can’t hear you, I’ve got the earbuds in.”
  6. See #1.
  7. – if you don’t know what it is, you are in a worse situation than I am.
  8. Chores are for parents or people not as busy as I am. Yep, that would be parents.
  9. Magic – food magically appears in the refrigerator, my clothes are always washed and folded, there is always gas in the car, cable-Netflix-wi-fi are continuously up and running. If I knew who to thank for all this I would.
  10. You only remember the bad times with your parents (Remember when we ran out of gas on the way to Christmas Eve dinner?), never the good times!




If you have survived teething, the terrible twos, potty training, kindergarten, elementary school, high school and think nothing could be worse. Fasten your seat-belt! You are now about to put your $20K vehicle, with the pristine paint job, and a 120-horsepower engine in the hands of a sixteen-year-old who’s diaper you changed.


Teaching your teen to drive is akin to training orangutans to load the dishwasher. They might possess the dexterity and coordination for the task, but their lack of focus and reason will create a morass of broken dishes and bent silverware.




This voyage will be long and arduous and someone’s going to end up crying, even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t cry. It will test your sanity and the relationship you have with your teen and quite possibly your spouse. If at all possible, move out of state until they pass their driver’s license test. In lieu of that, here are my ten tips for teaching your teen to drive.


  1. If you have a choice, don’t. Honey, how about you teach him how to drive and I will do the laundry for the remainder of our marriage? Seems fair.
  2. Try to switch-pitch them and focus on the positives of mass transportation. No car insurance, car payments, lots of time to reflect, no parking issues, gas pumps or tune-ups.
  3. Warn neighbors, relatives and friends to stay off the road during your lessons. No witnesses!
  4. Borrow the oldest automobile you can from a colleague. No sense in denting the family car.
  5. Start slow, very slow. Like in an empty parking lot, in the middle of the night, with no driving impediments, dogs, cats, humans or other vehicles within two hundred yards.
  6. Take your BP medication as prescribed.
  7. Remember how much you care! You’ve been through a lot together, they’ve seen you through good times and bad, they’ve been your support when you needed it most. Besides it’s paid for. You also care about your teen.
  8. Focus! Do not check your text messages or answer that phone call. You need to pay attention every second they are learning to drive. Your teens average attention span teeters around fourteen seconds so you need to constantly remind them to focus on their driving.
  9. There will probably come a time when you will need to: a) grab the wheel or b) scream. Believe me, this will probably occur at least once during your tutelage and you will need to go with your instincts if the situation warrants.
  10. Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

    Try to be empathetic. There was a time you didn’t know how to drive. Of course, we learned on a stick shift, in the hilly streets of San Francisco, dodging tourists and cable cars, all while trying to parallel park your dad’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. They’ve got it easy!




When our older sons hit teendom, my wife and I decided we had two options. We quickly ruled out secretly moving to a new location. That left us with the second alternative, getting a dog. We determined that to survive this new challenge we needed to call in the cuddle cavalry.


Since we could not find any direwolves at our local pet store, we went with the next best possibility, a Saint Bernard. Meet Scout, see blog photos. One hundred and fifty pounds of love, Scout was just the cure for whatever they could throw at us. He was a gentle giant with a mammoth heart and slobber to spare.




Whenever tensions mounted and anxiety hit its apex, there was solace to be found in Scout’s incredibly soft fur and calming presence. Even though they weren’t meant for us, it could have been the pheromones, but regardless, just having Scout nearby guaranteed some much-needed respite.


Sadly, our bond was all-to-brief, as our Scoutie succumbed to lymphoma after only 4 ½ years, but his presence in the neighborhood and beyond is the stuff of legend. It was not unusual for cars to pull over while we were walking Scout and have the driver come over just to say hello to our Saint. Whenever a young child or older person approached us during a walk, our gentle soul would get down on all fours so as not to intimidate. No one told him to, he just instinctively knew this would help alleviate their fears. (Excuse me for one minute, something is in my eye.)


As I write, the vivid memories come flooding back: the tattoo-laden truck driver who parked in front of our house and snapped a photo of Scout; the plastic bat Scout would grab in his mouth and swing as if he was batting cleanup (he was able to connect on a few pitches I threw); the swish of that amazing tail of his that resembled a feather duster; cleaning slobber off the walls after a particularly intense shake; the earth-rattling “harrumph” as he laid down by my bed in the middle of the night; and the way he rested his hefty paw on top of my hand.




In a battle of teen versus adult, there was comfort in knowing that we always had Scout in our corner. Actually he was in his corner, but we could go over to him and get some much needed comfort and fur whenever we desired. The beauty was the teens took advantage of his warmth and solace as well, knowing he would not judge, but freely give his love to whomever was in need. He was like Mother Teresa on all fours (no disrespect intended).


In the end we all benefited from his presence in our lives. He brought joy (and epic amounts of fur) into our home. He became a part of our family in a more intense way than we expected. He cured one of our sons of his fear of dogs and converted us all to “big dog people” for the rest of our lives. We provided Scout with food and lodging and in return he bestowed upon us so much more.










Scout at 12 weeks.