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by: Max Burbank

I know, I know. You're a member of our target audience, a young male in college or recently graduated and sponging off your folks. You don't have any kids, as far as you know. But you probably will, and a lot sooner than you mean to! I'm forty-three, and I'm here to tell you that children, like bad knees, deteriorating eye sight and wages that lag behind the cost of living lime that horrible eighty year old living corpse that finishes the Boston marathon last every year, are just about inevitable. So put down the Cheetos, pause 'Girls Gone Wild From Near Lethal Blood Alcohol Levels During Spring Break' and pay attention.

There's a certain pride in knowing your seed is strong, always assuming it is your seed, but trust me, after that first three minutes spent planting, the farm goes straight to hell. Think of your wife getting larger and larger as a metaphorical preview of the way your wants, needs and drives will shrink to total insignificance the instant your first child is born. You'll still feel like you're a whole person worthy of recognition, but that's pretty much phantom limb pain.

Back in your Dad's day it was a lot easier to take no guff, especially after he went out for cigarettes right before your eighth birthday party and never returned. Today's society demands a lot more of Fathers, so it's best to make it known your 'bullshit meter' is always 'on' right away. I recommend sternly advising your newborn to 'button that lip!' the instant their head breeches the birth canal. Anyone who hears you over your wife's self indulgent screaming will assume you're just excited. Remember, when you boarded the S.S. Fatherhood, a tidal wave of guff a minimum of eighteen years tall started rolling straight for you! If you expect to survive as a distinct entity it's never too early to say no to guff.

Similar to 'taking no guff' but proactive instead of reactive, whatever the hell that means. It's best to start right away. It will never mean a damn thing to your kids, but before they start talking, it at least creates the illusion you're in charge of something. It doesn't matter at all what you put your foot down about. No pacifiers, no thumb sucking, toilet training at five months, whatever, you're going to fail anyway. The bluster and bravado of shouting "This is where I draw the line!" and "When I say _________ I mean it!" isn't about obedience. It lets the family know you're still alive and discourages them from sitting in your favorite chair when you're in it.

Think back. What did your Dad give you? Not hot meals and the roof over your head, these days you have to do that just to stay out of jail. I mean the kind of lasting stuff that wouldn't have even blipped on your radar if you hadn't had hot meals and a roof over your head. Did he play catch with you once or twice? Teach you to ride a bike? Whup you for sassing? Well you're going to be expected to do a whole hell of a lot more. Wake up, this is the Two Thousands! The only thing you're getting out of is breast feeding, and don't think woman scientists aren't working on that one behind our backs right now! You've been born into a time when if you miss a school pageant, express an insufficient amount of sympathy when their gerbil dies or leave the baby on the roof of the car even once, it's called 'neglect'. The best time to make iron clad agreements about what jobs you'll handle and what jobs are the wife's province is right after the delivery. Sure it's cruel, but it's best to bargain from a position of strength. If you're not stronger than a drugged up woman in severe pain who just pushed a squirming package the size and temperament of a Woodchuck out her lower body, you have no business having kids in the first place.

Pop Quiz! What's more important to your status as a father?
A.) Changing a lot of diapers.
B.) Playing with your child
C.) Telling people you change a lot of diapers.

If you answered 'A', you might as well chop your Johnson off and hand it over right now. The only time any kid recalls who diapered them, it's all mixed up with a recovered memory and it can land you in jail. So if it doesn't matter to the kid, who the hell are you doing it for, your wife? What are you, a pussy? The answer is C. Tell anyone who'll listen you changed your kid every chance you got and that it strengthened the bond between you in ways you never imagined. When your wife contradicts you she's bound to be pretty shrill. Wink over her shoulder and mouth the words 'post partum depression'. People will think you're super-dad! Oh, and if you answered C chances are you never met a baby. Play with them? Hell, they don't even opened their eyes for the first six months, it's not like they even know you're there!

Kids get sick all the time, and if you don't keep your distance, you will too. Here's a quick primer.

Perpetual. If your child stops secreting thick, gluey substances from every opening on its face for more than two days, then you can worry.

Want to see the laws of physics defied? I read somewhere a child weighing eighteen pounds can projectile vomit with enough force to tear a mans arm clean off.

Sad but true, and pretty much puts to rest the whole argument over 'intelligent design'.

Modern vaccination programs have taken this irritating disease we all experienced off the map of early childhood. Which means those inflamed red spots all over your kid are something much, much scarier.

It's still not known exactly what causes Colic, but most pediatricians agree if your baby is diagnosed with it, you should put a gun to your own head and blow your brain out right away. I shit you not.

There's nothing more important in your child's life than school. Without it, they'd be home all the time, or worse yet follow you to work and find out just how low you sit on the company totem pole. This being the case, a good father encourages a love of learning. If your child says they don't like school, gently remind them that when you were a kid you walked seven miles uphill to get there and on arrival were beaten soundly by Nuns with five o'clock shadow. Get involved with the PTO! As the only guy there, your 'Dad Stock' will be grossly overrated, and besides, it's a swell place to meet disgruntled, lonely Mothers! If the kid asks you to come to Career Day, try to see it as an opportunity. Young children don't know the difference between truth and horse crap. Tell them you're a lion tamer.

If your child is a girl, it's best to make sure all her friends think you're great. Inside each one of them rests the potential to become that awesome balance of low self-esteem and hotness portrayed in "American Beauty" and both versions of "Lolita". Even the fat one with the overbite.

If your child is a boy, don't bother even learning his friend's names. They might grow up to think you're the coolest dad in the neighborhood, but it won't make them any less likely to siphon the gas out of your tank or beat you unconscious for drug money.

If your child is a girl, this has nothing to do with you. Let her Mom figure it out. The less you know the better. Besides, anything you told her could be wrong. If you knew as little about your car as you do about women's bodies, you'd never open the hood for fear of destroying it. If your child is a boy, relax. You used to be one. Remember how easy it was filching porno mags from Dad's stash? Well, they invented the Internet. Your son doesn't need even the passive connection you got stealing stroke books off your old man. Plus, he can pick whatever kink he likes from a wide selection. Don't you wish you'd had that chance? Maybe you'd be into something less demeaning.

If there's one thing I can teach you, it's this. Any time you spend with your kids is quality time. So when they start whining about how you never read to them, remind them there are kids in India who's Dads are Indians, and tell them to stop trying to make you divorce their Mom. Then turn the sound up and make them get you something you're perfectly capable of getting yourself. Remember, if you love something, set it free. Over and over, as often as possible. Otherwise it will wind up thirty, marginally employed and living in your basement.

I'm just kidding.

Who's to blame for your fear of commitment, your lack of ambition, your inability to perform even two of the Twelve Steps and your miserable, lackluster, infrequent performance in bed? Your parents, that's who. If you're a decent person, you'll do your damndest to make sure you do a better job of parenting than your folks did, and it won't make the least little bit of difference. Your children will blame you for every disappointment and every horrible thing they do because as a parent that's the most solid service you provide them. You know what this means to you? Carte Blanche, baby! Look, they're going to see a therapist sooner or later. It's up to you to make it worth every penny their insurance company covers. Why should they have to make shit up when they could be talking about all the crazy ass stuff you could be getting up to RIGHT NOW! It's true that the days of you being the star of your own movie ended the moment your kids took their first breath, but that doesn't mean the picture is over! You're the character actor now! The whacky neighbor, the unrepentant, alcoholic best friend, the innocent retarded guy who delivers the unexpected pearl of wisdom! From wearing suit socks and sandals at the beach to showing their prom date the Mexican Tattoo that can't be seen in it's entirety without exposing a few pubes and an unexplained scar, the world is your oyster, Dad!

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