So, if, in the midst of all this agita, one of my children happens to bump you in the street, or if I seem nervous about their preschool or orthodontia or whatever laughably "breeder" thing I might be doing at any given moment, well, why don't you CTFD. Or just KMA. Or GFY. And I'll let you figure out what those stand for.
Gross: When I came home from work the other night, it was late, and the kids were already asleep. The older one, my wife, Jean, informed me, was sick: Sasha had complained of a headache at her preschool, and was running a slight fever. For a split second, I wondered if this meant she'd hit her head hard, or had contracted some fatal bacterium. But then that split-second passed, and I did what any responsible parent would do: I went to sleep.
Perhaps this was because it was after midnight, and I'd spent the last six hours at a rather, um, indulgent work party in the wilds of Brooklyn. But it was also because, in the four and a half years since Sasha was born, I've managed to completely internalize the CTFD philosophy. Kid fall down, go boom? Eh. Kid too shy to take the Gifted and Talented test? Whatever--we'll try next year. Kid throwing a tantrum in the restaurant/playground/subway/country club/volcano rim? Just ignore her--it'll end faster that way.
As CTFD makes the rounds as the latest liberal parenting philosophy, however, I can't help but notice that it bears conspicuous similarity to another, older, far-from-liberal parenting approach--that of the Distant Old-School Father.
This is how fathering was done way back when, right? Dad, in a prior incarnation, always stood back from the action, allowing disasters to unspool however they might. Knees were skinned, heads bonked, taunts delivered, and where was Dad? Involved in something else more pressing, like, I don't know, fixing a carburetor or consuming his third Scotch and soda of the morning. To Distant Old-School Father, the accidents and failures of his children were challenges they needed to overcome all on their own, without his having to helicopter in and help out--or, ideally, without his having to know about them at all.
Did Old-School Dad really have it right? Or rather, was his standoffish attitude worth the later-in-life wails of millions of Baby Boomers who were injured by his distance and inability to express emotions?
Well, maybe. Which is where we parents of today have an advantage: The trick now is to maintain Old-School Dad's nonchalance while simultaneously showing our progeny that we're ignoring them because we care, and not just because, Jesus Christ, can't you see I'm busy refreshing the new Digg RSS reader, hoping it will one day update as fast as the old Google one?
In fact, the more I accept this new-old philosophy, the manlier I feel. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder why I'm even spending so much time discussing the subject, when there are so many more important things I could be doing in the other room, like mixing a Manhattan or simply grunting. CTFD is a fine way to parent, but honestly, if I'm going to adhere to it properly, I have to say I don't give a damn how you parent. And besides, the game is on. We'll talk about this later.