On her first day of first grade, I drew a picture and put it in Olivia’s lunch. It was a basic drawing of an apple with a face eating a tiny bag of Olivias. Little did I know, but my obsessive personality would follow that initial drawing up with another drawing…every day…for the entire year.
This isn’t a joke. This really happened. Every night, I would sit with a pen and paper to draw something I hoped would make her laugh. Most of them were huge hits. Even the ones that weren’t still caused a splash. She would pass them around and tell me how much her friends loved them.
They think you’re an artist.
I loved hearing that. For starters, I don’t consider myself an artist by any stretch. I like to copy cartoons from Google or freehand a crude character, but it was never something that impressed anyone. If art was singing, I’d be the guy who was rejected at the American Idol auditions but wasn’t so awful that he’d get mocked on the early episodes. To this six year old and her friends, though, I was an artist. That felt pretty good.
I was apprehensive of drawing them in the beginning because of this. My concern was that her friends would make fun of her for it. After all, I’m used to a world where pretty much everyone makes fun of pretty much everything. I explained this and told her how happy I was that they all liked them. She looked me in the eye and offered this inspiring statement.
My friends aren’t haters.
That always stuck with me. As an adult, I can’t always say that about my friends. Heck, I can’t always say that about myself. Olivia, though, for an entire year, was able to pass around my daily sketches without one kid going, “Your corny dad’s a dipstick, jerky.”
I worried at first because it felt like there was a high probability that my little doodles would be viewed as dipstickery. I soon realized that wouldn’t be the case, but not because they weren’t somewhat corny. They were. It was something else. I started to piece the puzzle together and that’s when I learned that, as a dad, I was given pretty much free rein to be as dorky as I wanted.
It’s like a secret perk to fatherhood and I’ve leaned into that fact for years. For example, whenever we walk to school I like to insist that I’m going to follow her inside and fall asleep on her teacher’s desk. The back and forth goes on while we walk.
So I should just follow you in? I’ll just push all of her stuff onto the floor and crawl into a ball on her desk until she gets there?
She won’t even mind. I’ll just be like, “I’m Olivia’s Daddy! I will sleep here if I darn well please! Who the freak are you?!”
Daddy, you’re not doing that. Stop.
By now, she’s walking ahead of me and will usually finish off with:
You’re not funny.
To which I always say, “Yes I am. I’m the funniest person you know.”
Keep in mind, I know this is all corny as I’m saying it. I can’t speak for all dads, but I am more than self aware of my corniness. It’s kind of the point. She’s not at the age where I can tell her 90% of the real jokes I know yet. So, I have to make due with what I have.
…Like offering to throw her backpack onto the roof of the school right before we go in, charging her $17 for a glass of water when she gets home, making up names of kids and pretending they’re in her class, creating terrible puns, and tons more. Another favorite – knock knock jokes that go like this:
Then I laugh like crazy and she firmly tells me it’s not funny, which, truth be told, it’s not. But when you follow it up with three more ending in door knob, dog food, and knock knock it gets a little funny, but only in an annoying way. The more I laugh at them, the more I break down her wall. It also helps if I tell her she’s not allowed to smile because they’re serious jokes and start yelling like a lunatic if she does.
I guess I default to this dumb humor and act so ridiculous around my daughter because I know I’m allowed to. It’s the one time you’re really able to get ridiculous and not get ridiculed or locked up for of it. She and her friends aren’t haters, remember? I do. I’ve taken advantage of that fact since 1st grade. Everyone expects us dads to be embarrassing and then, when we are, it’s accepted.
That doesn’t work anywhere else. You can’t do it at work, school, or family reunions. Try telling dad jokes to anyone besides your kids and you wind up being banished to the corn field by confused town folk. This is your only chance. You have to embrace it.
The best part? It’s never going to end. Eventually my children will be old enough to appreciate deeper comedic subject matter. But you know what? Even when that day comes, I’m still going to offer to take a nap on their boss’s desk and tell knock knock jokes about chocolate milk. I’m a dad. It’s what I get to do…and I’m riding this cornball train as long as possible.