Come on over here, sonny boy.
[pats the couch]
Now, you know how much Daddy hates talking. Talking is stupid and you kids never end up listening to what he has to say anyway. I always have a big, cool Dad Speech in my holster, richly furnished with Dad Facts and other assorted nuggets of Dad Wisdom. Real Jason Seaver shit. But I’ve found over the years that no one is as moved by a Dad Speech than a dad. Certainly not your mother. Besides, talking wears me out. I don’t care for it. What has talking ever really accomplished? Why even bother dispensing all this rich wisdom I have accumulated through my years of driving while eating a meatball sub and untangling nests of Christmas lights if none of you are going to even listen?
Which is why, instead, I’d rather show you my compassion than put it into a monologue format. And here is how I will do so.
[pats the top of your thigh]
You feel that? That was a Dad Pat. When you guys were little, I would pat the top of your head to let you know Hey, there you are! Then you got a little bigger and I started patting your shoulder instead. Wasn't that nice? But now… now you are truly grown up, and that slightly terrifies me. Which means the foremost expression of my love for you now is a Dad Pat to the thigh. I might do two quick pats. Or, and this a bit more fraught, I might do one pat, wiggle my hand a little on your leg after that, and then quickly take my hand off of you.
Why do I do this? Because I love you, of course! And because hugs are reserved for life-threatening emergencies or minor sports victories. But also, the Dad Pat says so many things that my sputtering dad mouth cannot. It says I am here for you. Or, hey man, keep your chin up with that one thing you’re going through. Or wow, you’re big and strong now, don't test me! Or wasn’t that a great bowl of dip we just had? Or if you’re ever in trouble, Dad has money. Really, there’s nothing the Dad Pat CAN’T convey. It’s the perfect, utterly generic form of paternal communication, and it lets you know that I am pleased. This way, I can perform all the emotional labor of parenting without having to open myself up to feelings, which neither you nor I want. If I were NOT pleased, then you’d get a Dad Grunt. Something along the lines of grggghhgnf. That’s when something nice breaks, or when Daddy gets a surprise bill in the mail, or when Dad is on the can, or when Mommy thinks Dad ate too much chicken but I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE FOR MY LOVE OF CHICKEN. Things of that nature.
But now is not the time for Dad Grunting. Now all is well, and I’d like to relay that to you the best way I know how.
See? We just had a truly meaningful moment. No, that is all you get for now. Love ya, boy. Now go clean up all of your shit.