Fatherhood and Tommy Boy

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

(Note: The good people at Mormon Mommy Blogs wanted a few prominent male LDS bloggers to provide their perspective on fatherhood as we approach Father's Day. Unfortunately, the "prominent" male bloggers were unavailable so they asked me to contribute, which is how this post started. Click here to read this post at Mormon Mommy Blogs.)

Thomas R. Callahan III, I know how you feel.

Those of you who have seen Tommy Boy probably remember the moment when Tommy is forced to quickly grow up after his father unexpectedly passes away. In the blink of an eye, Tommy has to give up cow tippin’ and Darth Vader impersonations for a life centered on drumming up enough sales to make payroll for his family-owned business.

For many men, our “Tommy Boy Moment” happens the day our first child is born. Responsibility increases. Decisions become more complicated. Priorities shift. And as we experience the highs and lows, joys and pains,happiness and frustration of fatherhood, sometimes we can only sit back, take it all in, and exclaim:

Holy schnike!

In the spirit of the “Tommy Boy Moment” I will use some of my favorite quotes from the movie to guide my thoughts about being a dad.

“Fat guy in a little coat”

One of my favorite moments is when Tommy (Chris Farley) stuffs his massively chunky body into Richard’s (David Spade) tiny suit coat. The coat is so restrictive that Tommy cannot bend his arms, like an older, fatter version of Randy on A Christmas Story.

Just like a fat guy in a little coat, fatherhood is restrictive. This is particularly challenging for males as many of us have a biological urge to leave society behind and live in the mountains eating only what we kill with our bare hands. Like Survivorman. Or Quentin Tarantino.

Being a responsible father often means your free time and energy are no longer yours, but your family’s. Instead of coming home to relax after a stressful day at work, many of us go straight to little league practices, FHE, dance rehearsals, or Scouts.

Now don’t get me wrong. The restrictive nature of fatherhood is a good thing. The Savior teaches us that, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” My belief is that making sacrifices as fathers is in harmony with this doctrine. Though restrictive, the responsibilities of fatherhood can make men more selfless and generous. Fatherhood has helped me to find joy by looking beyond myself and overcoming selfish tendencies. While my free time may be limited, I would not trade anything for little league games, dance recitals, first steps, and good-night kisses.

Sure, you can call me a fat guy in a little coat during this stage of my life. But hey, I’m a happy fat guy.

(Tommy’s date, Michelle, has had enough from a group of rude boys…)
Michelle: “Listen up, you little spazoids! I know where you live and I've seen where you sleep. I swear to everything holy that your mothers will cry when they see what I've done to you!"

The average man’s veins are full of three important liquids – blood, testosterone, and Taco Bell mild sauce. While I appreciate the life-sustaining properties of both blood and taco sauce, it’s that dang testosterone that gets men in trouble. You see, when men encounter difficult people our testosterone-influenced brains give us five options:

1. Punch him.
2. Kick him.
3. Atomic elbow him.
4. Calmly reach an agreeable solution with him.
5. Even if #4 works, punch him anyway.

Children can be difficult, and fatherhood teaches restraint. Appropriately disciplining my children has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. It is almost impossible sometimes to correct unacceptable behavior without being completely unreasonable and overbearing with my kids.

As a father, I am learning to discipline my children in love. There are times when I am more successful at this than others. During my parental journey I have come to better appreciate the forgiving nature of my Heavenly Father and his eternal patience with me. After all, I am an adult, I hold the Melchizedek priesthood and made temple covenants, but I still make daily mistakes. Yet my Heavenly Father showers me with blessings despite these imperfections. In a strange way, my own visible shortcomings as a father have strengthened my testimony of God’s love for me.

I just need to do a better job at emulating Him and not Michelle sometimes.

(After Tommy spills M&M’s all over the interior of Richard’s car…)
Richard: “Great. Melted chocolate the size of dice melted on the dashboard. That really ups the resale value.”

Children break things. And by “things” I mean “everything.” Fatherhood reminds men that stuff is just stuff and to not overreact when it gets destroyed. Or scratched. Or stained. Or lost. Or eaten. Or lit on fire.

The Normal Mormon Wife and I bought a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe for our daughter’s first birthday a couple of weeks ago. A well-intentioned member of our family decided to give our daughter a ride inside the house, which has hardwood floors. A few days ago the sunlight reflected just right off the hardwood and the NMW said, “Look at the scratches all over the floor.” Whoever pushed the car around left some pretty nice doughnut-shaped permanent gouges in the hardwood.

Neither of us got angry. We just looked at each other and said, “Well, we’ll have to buff that out when we sell the house someday.” We have not talked about it since. No big deal. Fatherhood has helped me relax when unforeseen problems arise, because they happen all the time in a young, growing family.

I am grateful to be a father and to experience the ups and downs of parenthood with a loving, supportive, understanding wife. My children bring more happiness and purpose into my life than I ever imagined possible. Sure, there are frustrating and challenging moments, but they pale in comparison to the blessings.

One day when my kids are grown I will probably look back on my experiences as a young father and, quoting from Tommy Boy, say in quiet reflection:

“I swear I've seen a lot of stuff in my life, but that... was... *awesome*.”

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Homer and Queen said...

Great movie oh wise one! You sound like a great dad. Copy this and let the kids read it when they are teenagers and hate you, then re-send it to them when they are parents and love you again!

6:41 PM
Angela said...

Beautiful post, even though I never saw Tommy Boy. (I know, I know. I'm a philistine.)

8:58 PM

Fantastic post! Tommy boy rocks. So do you, oh mighty NMH!

7:23 AM
mandy_moo said...

That is an excellent metaphor!! I'll have to make sure my hubby reads this, we are expecting our first in January.

9:58 AM
Ethan said...

Hey... I'm commenting! Nice, post. AS a twelve year old kid with a 2 year old brother, it's really hard to imagine that parenthood is as "awesome" as everyone says. All I know is that when I have to stop playing video games to play with my little bro.... I'M MAD.

Nice posts oh, blogging one. I read them all.

12:29 PM
NMW said...

Tommy likey.

Thanks for being such a great dad to our kids. And for making me laugh.

8:14 PM
Megan B said...

Happy Father's Day NMH. LOVE love Tommy Boy and adored your comparisons...you know something my NMH can relate to. Thanks.

10:23 PM
kpickles said...

Awesome post. Now if only you could find the movie to define motherhood.

4:49 AM