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World's Okayest Dad

Let me tell you about the time I accidentally unveiled 75% of my bare butt to 100% of a capacity crowd at the Erb Park pool.

The waning moon in question occurred in mid-June of the summer that’s just now ending. I was playing with my sons in the kids area, and a particularly inspired game of “Let’s Tackle Daddy” required that I project myself and my sons above the waterline, not unlike a dolphin or Aquaman might. But as I crested majestically toward the heavens above, and with a small child across each shoulder, I could feel the elastic of my trunks deciding to call it a day. Snap decision time: do I drop a child (or two) to snag my sagging shorts? Surely not. So, dunking back under the water and with a catlike suddenness, I caught my fleeing swimwear at my belly button. I saved myself the ultimate embarrassment, but not before a few families got a story free of charge.

As I recounted the tale to my not-shocked wife, two lessons immediately came through. One, from that moment onward until my “Let’s Tackle Daddy” retirement, I will wear some form of undergarment beneath my swimwear. (For that, consider yourselves welcome.) And two, I understand now why it seemed like the pants of so many dads in my youth always hung a few inches too low. Whether you’re doing manual handiwork or roughhousing with your kids, you can’t always drop what you’re doing to pull your pants up, you know? The entire “plumber crack” motif might just mean that some folks have bigger things to worry about than the success or failure of a belt.

For many years, I wasn’t in the target demographic for this sort of slow-dawning realization. I spent much of my youth and young adulthood quietly snickering at men just like myself, who had probably once been very fashionable but who were now proudly and loudly fuddy-duddy. The agreed-upon dad uniform - a rotating cast of cargo shorts, sensible sneakers and neutral-colored polo shirts - was not something I would entertain. Not me, boy.

Except…I think I kind of have? Sure, I can clean up when I want to, but that’s just it: do I really want to? If I have a couple of worthwhile outfits that I like, do I really need to waste a whole Saturday finding another? Like generations of dads before me and many more to come, the answer to that question is, “Maybe after I rest my eyes for a few minutes.”

In certain ways, it seems like my five years as a dad have been full of eureka moments such as this. Like, I get it now. I get why most dads fit a certain physical profile, and why they largely greet what’s cool or fashionable with total disinterest. It’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that we care about certain other things a lot more.

Right after my first son was born, I received a gift from one of my brothers of a shirt that says, “World’s Okayest Dad.” For a time, I took this as his suggestion that my ceiling as a quality dad was somewhat low. But five years on, I actually see this as aspirational.

The world’s okayest dad isn’t terribly concerned with standing out all that much. The world’s okayest dad might be more concerned with fallably relating to his sons than projecting the perfection that comes with being the very best. The world’s okayest dad makes mistakes, but he also forgives mistakes.

And the world’s okayest dad, it must be said, loses track of the back of his pants from time to time.

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