My Name is Not But Dad
The child cries out in anguish. You offered cucumbers as a snack and not Cheetos. You suggested a book instead of a TV show. Or you suggested a TV show but they want a different TV show. And why does the sibling non grata get to hold the remote anyway when the original requestor of said show wants to hold the remote for all time now and forever? It doesn’t matter, because your initial response was already pre-destined for rejection. Eventually you sort it out and chalk it up as a parenting win—neither one of you got what you really wanted. Still, the initial cry continues to ring in your ears.
But Da—aaaaaad. But DAD, BUT Dad.
Say it with me. But Dad.
It seems to be my name most days as I try to navigate 4 kids through their days and obligations. I really don’t like it when my kids call me But Dad. It’s not about being challenged. It’s about turning two words into the opening salvo of an extended negotiation. It’s like I’m about to conference a bill on The West Wing. Oh, and it sounds like they are calling me Butt Dad. There is that.
Disagreement and negotiations are part of parenting, though. They are not going away, I am going to work with my kids on some acceptable substitutes that don’t grate on me quite so much.
Your children can help you feel like you are in a Shakespearean theatrical work (hopefully a comedy—the tragedies are not kind to fathers).
“Father, with what may I occupy yon available free time?”
“Why young child you may ready the table for our evening victuals.”
“Father, perchance might I do something fun and not most foul?”
“Nay, you may set the feasting table and then view a drama most excellent by the players of Disney Junior.”
“Most agreeable, good sir.”
See how civilized? How urbane. How almost whimsical it is?
I haven’t yet seen Hamilton, so I’m not going to pretend I have any skill in rapping, freestyling, or spoken word poetry slams. My hip hop career as Funkmaster J Jo has yet to take off. At least the “Yo” breaks up the use of “but” and sets up the conversation in a different way.
“Dad can I play video games?”
“You need to practice your piano and flute first.”
“Yo, dad. You know what’s up. Word.”
Although I don’t expect production values on par with the Glee TV series, couching your disagreement with flashy song and dance will at least get my attention.
Most children, however, will not be well armed with the entire Broadway cannon, so perhaps this is a tactic for me. Whenever I am encountered with a “But Dad” I can sing back a little ditty. Possible responses could include:
“No matter what you do/I’m on your side” (No Matter What from Beauty and the Beast)
“Is this the little girl I carried / Is this the little boy at play” (Sunrise Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof.)
“A boy like that who’ll kill your brother / so leave that boy and find another” (West Side Story. Maybe not this one but boy could be replaced with toy or any activity that has a potential fraternal risk.)
Will we get to a happy place? Will they stop saying “But Dad?”Perhaps, but it will take a while. Perhaps I should embrace it. It’s who I am—the withholder of hopes, crusher of dreams. I am the But Dad.