Mr. Secretary-General, Mrs. Secretary-General, all the little Secretary-Generals: good morning.
I stand before you today, resplendent in gabardine, wearing this pith helmet at a jaunty angle just so, in order to speak for the fathers of the world, a position I find myself privileged to be in due to my first-hand knowledge of the subject and having craftily snuck past security, which is surprisingly lax given the venue.
Fatherhood in 2013, I regret to say, is in a plate of mayonnaise. Sorry, that can’t be right… can’t read my own writing… oh, here we go: Fatherhood in 2013 is in a state of malaise. “Is fatherhood still relevant?” they ask. “Do we need fathers at all?” they postulate. “Have you fixed that windowsill yet?” they badger. Much in the way that I am viciously slapping around this goggle-eyed sock puppet on my left hand, contemporary fatherhood is under attack. But like this sock puppet, fatherhood is resilient and professionally trained to take the occasional punch to the head.
[Sound of applause]
But why is fatherhood under attack? And would anyone like to claim the sock, which I snagged from the UN lost-and-found? Anybody? No? Then returning to the first question, fatherhood has become hobbled because it no longer brings anything unique to the table. For a while there, fatherhood was bringing tasty Southeast Asian take-out to the table but those days are long gone. (The name of that take-out joint, by the way, was “State of Malaysia.” Funny coincidence…)
For millennia, fathers fulfilled their role by drawing upon brute strength in order to protect their children, give them the occasional whuppin’ or, if the mood was right, juggle them high in the air like kittens. But in today’s enlightened, over-nurturing, sock-coddling world, the role of father as strongman and discipliner is seen as archaic and barbaric. In many ways, fathers have become mothers, except not quite as good at it and with different shaving techniques.
So other than strength and an ability to reach high shelves, what else have fathers traditionally had going for them?
Wisdom. For generations, fathers offered practical wisdom on the nuts and bolts of life, everything from identifying animals (“See them cows over there…?”) to home repair (“This is a butter knife; it has a hundred household uses…”) to sex (“See them cows over there…?”). This is what fathers could offer their children.
Sadly, like this 1995 Boutros Boutros-Ghali swimsuit calendar that I picked up at the UN gift shop, paternal wisdom has become obsolete. Today, all know-how can be acquired via the Internet.
Curse you, Google!
[Sound of booing, texting]
But I say to you, my fellow fathers, we do have something to offer, something mothers, the Internet and modern education cannot provide. While practical wisdom may no longer be our exclusive domain, we are veritable fonts, a teeming sock drawer, I say, of impractical wisdom!
Does the Internet instruct our children on how the laugh track in Hanna-Barbera cartoons further detracts from an already intrinsically sub-par product? No, it Scooby-Don’t!
Is it only a father who can adequately demonstrate to his children (with appropriate audio extracts) that there may someday be another Aretha Franklin but that there will never be another Chrissie Hynde and that there will always be too many Ke$ha’s? Ye$!
Will the Internet casually point out that a pork tenderloin resembles an extraterrestrial embryo smuggled out of Area 51? An alien concept!
Will the Internet teach our children how to skip stones on a lake or turn a blade of grass into a reed whistle? Possibly, but would they even consider acquiring that knowledge if we hadn’t brought it up while walking down a dusty road, hand-in-hand, some quiet Sunday afternoon? No! Only a father would think to make a child’s world that much more wonderful in such a deeply meaningless way.
[Cries of “Hear! Hear!” and “Pull my finger!”]
We are teachers of the trivial, masters of the minor, keepers of knowledge that no problem is too big or overwhelming to ignore. We rejoice in the joyously inconsequential. This, like the stereo hutch that wobbles because we failed to properly read the instructions, is our legacy!
And so, as I can see you are only half listening as you check the sports scores on your smartphones, I shall use my pith helmet to shield myself from the security guards bearing down on me and say to you: “It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a dad to dazzle them with details.”