Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Dad Handbook: Are We Sabotaging Our Families?

Kids these days have no idea how real the struggle used to be.

Recently while surfing the internet, er rather while (cough, cough) "working" quite vigorously doing "research" for my job, I came across a fascinating manual. It was a World War II manual developed in 1944 by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services -- the precursor to the CIA. The manual is a guide for Allied spies and members of resistance groups on how to sabotage the Axis war effort from within.

It's an intriguing read and I found page 28 particularly interesting. It's a section titled "General Interference with Organizations and Production" and outlines basically how workers friendly to the Allied war effort can ensure that nothing gets done at Axis plants and manufacturing facilities producing materials for the war effort.

There's a number of articles out in the cybersphere on how page 28 of the "General Interference with Organizations and Production" speaks quite accurately to problems encountered in the workplace with employees who are expert at making sure nothing gets done. After studying page 28 closely, I came to a rather sobering revelation.

I'm nothing more than a member of the resistance -- a spy as it were! -- who is effectively limiting the effectiveness of the well-oiled Sabo Family machine. I assure you it is unintentional. I also assure you that I am not alone in the world of Dadness in adhering unwittingly to insurrectionist behavior. Let's inspect page 28 of the manual on a point-by-point basis as proof.

1) "Insist on doing everything through `channels.' Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions."

--I pronounce myself guilty. Let me give you an example. Take lawn mowing. Every self-respecting Dad lawn mowing expert knows that it's not just a job. It's an art form of the highest calling. There are procedures, there are lists, there are unwritten rules of lawn mowing. There are NO shortcuts in lawn mowing. The air pressure of each tire must be expertly calibrated, oil level gauged, gas checked, blade inspected for sharpness and the lawn physically walked and inspected almost on a blade by blade level to ensure there are no foreign objects, toys, rodent-like creatures such as squirrels and even small children in the way that could obstruct the precision lawn mowing effort. And under no circumstances can the lawn mowing lines be anything but perfectly straight.

So what happens when I turn over the lawn mowing to a teenage son, a literal "passing of the key" ceremony that is akin to lighting the torch at the Olympics? Why, he hops on the riding mower and mows the lawn 37 minutes and 48.3 seconds faster than my personal record. Did he check the gas, tire pressure, oil level, blade thickness and sharpness and walk the lawn looking for impediments like squirrels, small children and the like? No! He just got on the lawn mower and started mowing! It's utter insanity! What is the world coming to?

2) "Make `speeches,'  talk as frequently as possible and at great length, illustrate your `points' by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate 'patriotic' comments.

--The older I get, the more my kids hear the ol' "You have it so easy these days, I mean back when I was a kid" speech. It's true though! When I was a kid I really did have to walk 5 miles uphill through a cemetery in driving snowstorms just to get to school. Not only that, if I wanted to communicate with my friends, I couldn't just text, or Snapchat, or Facebook message, or Tweet, or whatever. I either had to actually remember his phone number or look it up in a "phone book" and physically dial his number on a rotary dial phone, or send a smoke signal, or physically get on my bike and physically ride it uphill for 5 miles through a blizzard to his house and wait out the snowstorm playing Space Invaders or watching Star Wars on a VCR. That's the American way I tell you! Things were so much better back then! This country -- can we pause for a moment and all sing "God Bless America" right now? -- was built on the backs of kids who knew their friends' phone numbers and have calluses on their fingers from dialing rotary dial phones and rode their bikes through blizzards to see them. And know the words to "God Bless America."

3) "When possible, refer all matters to committees, for `further study and consideration.' Attempt to make the committees as large as possible -- never less than five."

--Let me break this down quite simply for you. Say one my 20 14 kids asks me if they can do something like go hang out with a friend or see a movie. My default answer is, "Let me think about it." Which basically means that they can kiss that idea goodbye because when a thought enters my brain, there's a very high probability it will "get lost in the shuffle" and will be stranded somewhere in my gray matter for the rest of my life. And there's no getting that thought back. That baby is gone, gone, gone. The other default answer is, "Let me talk to Mama about it." That's also the kiss of death because it would require me not only to remember the request, but to actually have an actual conversation with my wife about it, which would require me to speak in complete sentences and be able to voice intelligent, coherent arguments of why I think this particular request may be a bad idea even though there's very likely absolutely nothing wrong with it and it's something as simple as, "Dad, can I play video games?" At a last resort, I can go with #2 and start in on the "You have it so easy these days, I mean back when I was a kid" speech.

4) "Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible."

--I have mastered this. It's an art form. I can totally be "Mr. Irrelevant." Wait a minute, that didn't come out right. I meant to write, I can totally be "Mr. Irrelevant Information." That sounds better. I think. Anyway, what I mean to say -- hold on, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a cell phone charger that's still plugged in and is drawing juice even though there is no cell phone attached to it and I need to get to the bottom of this crime against humanity before our electrical bill spikes and I have to take a second job and an entire iceberg in Antarctica melts because we're using so much power that's generated by a coal-fired plant -- is that all dads know that being a "Dad" carries with it a great burden and requires a sharpness of mind and acuity of dexterous task completion that's bordering on complete and utter impossibility. Basically it's a miracle us Dads get anything done. Wait a minute, that didn't come out right. I meant to say -- sorry, just a minute, but someone left the jar of crunchy peanut butter on the counter and I need to interrogate every kid in this house and possibly waterboard some of them in the bathtub to find out who committed this atrocity -- that it's a miracle Dads are able to accomplish so much. (That sounds so much better!) They get it done despite all the chaos around them -- like jars of crunchy peanut butter that were left unattended on the counter and a cell phone charging cord left plugged in with no cell phone attached to it. Don't kids know these days that seal levels are rising because they are leaving cell phone cords plugged in for no apparent reason? It's outrageous!

Coming tomorrow: Breaking down the final 4 points of page 28 of the  "General Interference with Organizations and Production" manual.

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