In the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln went to visit the defenses that ringed Washington DC. As he inspected the front lines, a Confederate sniper took a shot at him—and thankfully missed. A soldier nearby shouted at Lincoln, “Get down, you damn fool!”
It was a pretty remarkable moment in presidential history, Gerald Ford observed, and not just because of how very nearly a country came to losing its head of state in battle. What was remarkable was that someone called the President of the United States a fool to his face. As Ford said, “Few people, with the possible exception of his wife, will ever tell the president he is a fool.” This was particularly dangerous, he said, because the office has the effect of increasing one’s sense of self-importance.
One of the great things about being a dad—if you do it right—is that it’s very humbling. No one knows how to cut you down to size quite like your kids. They don’t care how rich, how important, how respected you are. To them, you’re a goober. You’re someone they can make fun of. In fact, you’re who they practice their sense of humor on. They also don’t care much for the things you care about. They’re not impressed with how much you paid for the hotel room—they want to know if it has a swimming pool. They don’t care how trendy a restaurant is—they hate that it doesn’t have chicken fingers. They don’t want you to drop them off in front of school, and they don’t think you’re clever. They suspect you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.
“No man is a hero to his valet” is the old expression. Plenty of dads are heroes to their kids, of course, but no man is exempt from their children’s uncanny ability to size them up and cut them down from time to time. And that’s a good thing.
It keeps you from being a bigger fool than you already are.
P.S. This was originally sent on Oct 3 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”