The Exterminator

I was raised by my mother.  The summer before I started first grade, my father passed away after a lengthy illness.  I really don't remember my father at all, so over the years, I  have had to try to figure out what the role of the father is in a family.  This is my take on it.

A child starts out as just a twinkle in his daddy's eye.  After that...the REAL fun begins.  The "modern dad" is a more engaged, hands-on participant in child rearing.  He assists in the rocking, feeding, bathing and changing of diapers; although I will agree that 90% of the time these tasks fall to the mother.  So, if I would consider the mother to be the "caretaker" of the children within the family unit, I suppose the father would be the "provider".  Provider means more than just a monetary provider.  A father, (from my observations) is a provider of security, advice, entertainment...and of course finances too.  From what I have witnessed, I can also attest to the fact that raising boys, as opposed to girls, is QUITE different.  THANKFULLY, we only had one girl!

Robby and I have always been very conscience about making things fair and even regarding our children.  Treating them equally has always been important to us.  So, when Caitlin was born, Robby was determined to treat her "exactly like the boys".  Well, he soon realized that girls ARE different.  Although he has remained true to his word about equality in fairness of time, monetary items and speaking openly with all of the children, there was one thing in particular where Caitlin was definitely NOT treated equally...BOYS!  Robby adopted a very "old school" attitude concerning boys.  This was not a bad thing and he actually garnered a great deal of respect (if not fear) from many people.  Caitlin was not allowed to have a boyfriend in junior high school or attend any junior high school dances...with the exception of her 8th grade Christmas dance, which she attended with 3 of her girlfriends.  When she became a freshman in high school, actual dates were allowed.

I can still remember Caitlin's 9th grade Homecoming dance like it was yesterday.  The first rule was that she could only go out with a boy who was one year younger or older than she was.  Next, the boy who wanted to take her out, had to come "visit" with Robby.  By "visit", I mean that he was required to come to our house PRIOR to the eve of the event (it was CLEAR that coming the day before was a bad choice), sit down and talk to Robby.  The humorous thing regarding that freshman year, was the fact that no one was able to drive yet.  That did NOT change the requirement.  The date AND his dad had to come "visit" with Robby.  Caitlin and I were in her bedroom, peeking through the window blinds as we watched father and son make their trek up our driveway.  We learned after they left that the "visit" consisted of informing the prospective date of his duties.  He would be responsible for Caitlin at all cost AND would also be held accountable if she got into any trouble or if anything happened to her.  Then, turning to the boy's father, Robby stated, "And I will hold YOU responsible for your son's actions."  ALRIGHTY THEN...This first encounter set the tone for all others that would follow.  Caitlin was SURE that she would NEVER be asked out again.  Although that was not to be the case, she actually began to enjoy the role her father played.  He became viewed somewhat as an "exterminator"; he had the ability to get rid of unwanted pests.

As high school continued, so did the numerous dances Caitlin would in turn attend.  And EVERY (yes...EVERY) prospective date had to "visit" with the "exterminator", where he continued his traditional instructions concerning the responsibilities related to taking his daughter to an event.  On one such occasion, Robby's mother stopped by our house to inform us that there was young man pacing back and forth in our driveway.  Nonplussed, I stated that it must be Caitlin's Homecoming date.  Indeed it was and EVENTUALLY he got his nerve up to come to the door.  Nervously walking over to the "exterminator", he stuck his hand out to shake it.  Upon taking his hand, the "exterminator" very calmly looked at his watch and stated matter of factly, "It's a good thing that I'm not the President of the United States."  A bit confused, the boy gave him a questioning look.  The "exterminator" explained, "You seem to have a problem with time.  I think you were supposed to meet me here at 4 O'clock."  I heard the boy offer a nervous laugh in reply.  Piddling around in the kitchen, I smirked.  I hoped that this boy would not try to be a "funny man"; things would not go well for him if he chose that route.  Thankfully, he didn't.  However, he did explain that he had been with some of his friends discussing this upcoming "visit"...they had wished him luck and stated that they were glad it wasn't them because he a was a BIG, intimidating guy.  This was the perfect opening for the "exterminator".  Seated adjacent to the boy, he asked, "Tell me...who are some of your friends?"  After gaining this information, the "exterminator" simply informed the prospective date that he should consider himself fortunate because most of them would not find themselves even sitting where he was that day.  The conversation then turned to more important will NOT take my daughter to any wild "after parties", if you think you need to drink, only do so AFTER dropping my daughter off...and if you find yourself having any problems at all, call me and I will pick my daughter up.  These conditions were agreed to...what could the boy say?  I suppose he could have jumped up and run out of the house!

With all of this this being said, I will have to say that it worked...the "exterminator" landed himself a reputation with young men (and their parents) around town...sort of like an urban legend!  One would think that things with Caitlin (who is about to now turn 21), would have waned a little...ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Men, now desiring to date the "exterminator's" daughter are still required to pay him a "visit".  Some may be astounded that this routine continues to exist.  The "exterminator's" reply..."This method is more necessary now than ever.  To the man who THINKS he wants to marry my daughter...he better make sure he KNOWS what he is getting into.  For when I become too old to watch over him and hold him accountable for his actions...I've got 3 sons (mini-exterminators) who will be glad to take the torch I pass to them."

My take on fatherhood?  It is a strange and wonderful role.  For all of the toughness involved in the role, there is also obviously a tremendous amount of love and caring involved.  Because, wouldn't it be easier to just not put forth the effort?  To let a child "find their own way"?  Yes, it WOULD be easier...but who said that being a father (or parent ) was supposed to be easy?  It is one of the most important jobs a person will ever have.  It is one's chance to impact a life and instill values that will potentially be passed down  for generations to come.

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