Stuff Happens On Dad's Watch

Call me either sexist or a keen observer, but I have a notion to blurt: When men are solo supervisors of kids, dust is more likely fly off the first aid kit.

This is neither good nor bad. There isn’t enough room here to share all evidence of this Fiasco Theory. But here’s an anecdotal glimpse, from my life, of what tends to happen when manhood goes eye to eye with childhood.

The History

My grandparents raised six children during the Great Depression. Grandma was full of pep. I always gathered, from stories, she needed frequent escape hatches. Botanical garden visits. Part-time work. Perhaps a walk around the block for a private scream. According to legend, when grandpa took over, there would be frequent kid-related debacles. Grandma was known to say, “Things happen when dads are in charge.” Like a family heirloom, my mother has handed down this line to me. It’s quilted with subtext. Namely, the word “things” smells like an ace bandage.

The Beach

I grew up near the ocean. When I was 7, my father and uncle took me and my two brothers to the beach. My older brother and I were building a sand castle when we noticed a gathering of agitated adults. Our 3-year-old brother was missing! The lifeguard instructed us that lost kids usually walk with their backs to the sun. (Take note on that golden info nugget.) A search posse exploded across the shore. What seemed like a lifetime later, somebody found my brother. To this day, I can never relax when I sit on sand, yet my kids are grown.

The 3 a.m. Call.

“He broke his leg.”

No mother wants to hear this about her teen, especially crackling through a phone line in the middle of the night. My husband took our boys on a little ski trip–their first one. The disaster happened on a more “advanced” slope of a rather bunny-ish place. It seemed the weather had turned the “snow” into an ice-coated crash course. Long story short, it was a bad break. Mom wasn’t there. Dad was.


My sons have had blisters, tick bites, bad sunburns on the edges of their ears and the worst junk food ever to pass their lips. Never on my watch. Then there’s poison ivy. It’s everywhere, even in our own yard. I frequently point it out. It remains untouched. But let me tell you: A kid might get a decent urushiol rash on his face while floating on a body of water. It turns out a father/son canoe can slide under a fallen log that happens to have dangling leaves of three. Who knew?

What All of This Means

There are two sides to every band aid…the smooth and the sticky. I’m generalizing here, but what I’m saying is moms tend to visualize, in HDTV clarity, the worst physical outcomes. We anticipate danger, whereas the fathers I know see adventure. Perhaps when men are with children, they want to show kids how to LIVE WITH CONFIDENCE, how to barrel ahead and explore. They want to show youngsters what ice packs are for. Men help strike a perfect balance on how to approach the world.

Things happen when dads are in charge, indeed. And (most of the time) these things are magical. Happy Father’s Day.