The day we brought home our daughter from the hospital was one of the more terrifying moments of my life.
I was certain without proper guidance and instructions from nurses, doctors, and family and friends I would do something foolish to permanently ruin her life.
But then common sense kicked in and I instinctively knew what I was supposed to do.
Dad 101, as it turns out, is in our DNA.
At least, for some of us.
One father in Detroit is still waiting for his parenting skills to appear.
This early Father of the Year candidate took his young son (I'm guessing 7 years old) to an advanced screening of the horror remake Evil Dead. This violent gore fest has five 20-somethings trapped by a vengeful demon in an isolated cabin in the woods. The demon wants to devour their souls. To prevent it, the hapless humans hack off body parts. Nothing says dad-son bonding like self-mutilation.
This whole ill-fated, ill-conceived outing, of course, should have been prevented when Dad saw the film's title. Evil Dead: How is it anyone can read that and think "family friendly?"
But if he did, that's why the Motion Picture Association of America, in its infinite wisdom, put in place the film-rating system. It was created for those of us — and I'm not naming names, Detroit Dad — who cannot apply common sense to whether a film is appropriate for a child or teenager.
Evil Dead is rated R, meaning it's "restricted" to those younger than 17, unless accompanied by a "parent or adult guardian." The guardian exception is the MPAA's acknowledgment that there are those R-rated films that merit judgment calls by parents based on artistic or historic significance. Schindler's List would be such a film. I know that my 6-year-old daughter isn't ready for a Holocaust movie, and I'm certain she won't be ready for Evil Dead next year. That's where common sense comes in.
Of course, Detroit Dad could counter that his son shouldn't have to wait until he's 17 to see Evil Dead, that he's ready now. By the same logic, however, Detroit Dad might as well hand Young Son the keys to a car, and open a credit card in his name — after all, he's ready, isn't he?
Or perhaps the father, who is so incredibly busy he can't be bothered to read a film's title and its rating, showed up utterly oblivious to what he and his son were going to see.
I thought this to be the case since, shortly after the horror in the horror film arrived, dad and son left the auditorium. "OK," I thought, "I totally misjudged the dad. He was a boob for bringing his son, but he did the right thing and left." Five minutes later they returned from an apparent potty break and never left their seats again. Through all the blood, violence, and mutilations, they never moved. Adults were cringing — not father and son.
A movie about a soul-sucking demon terrorizing five friends or the dad who takes his young son to see it — which is the real horror story? In reflection, I think this son wanted to see Evil Dead and Dad said, "OK." That's how it goes these days; parents would rather be the "cool friend" to their kids and go along with whatever their child wants than, say, actually be a parent and say no.
"Dad, I would love to snack on treats all day." Yes.
"Dad, I want to stay up as late as I want." Yes.
"Dad, I want to see Evil Dead." Yes.
Being a "yes-dad" is easy and probably pretty fun, but the most basic of fathering skills tell us that "no" is an important part of growing up.
Believe it or not, Detroit Dad, your son needs structure, boundaries, and rules. He needs to hear no. And by not denying his request to see an R-rated blood bath, you were in direct violation of all good parenting axioms and common sense. Trust me and the school counselors you will probably hear from years from now.
Just something for you to think about, Detroit Dad, come June 16, our annual celebration of what it means to be a good father — a day you've certainly earned.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.